You would go a long way to find a more versatile passenger vehicle than the Toyota Avensis, a seven-seat people-mover that drives more like a car than a van or SUV.
When launched in December 2001 Toyota told us it hoped the Avensis would appeal to the many people using 4WD vehicles around the suburbs. That appeal was a failure, Toyota apparently not realising that drivers like to be seen in rough ’n’ tough SUVs and 4WDs and consider vehicles like Avensis to be rather sissy.
However, those who are smart enough to make their own decisions on people movers will benefit from the low prices of Toyota Avensis on the used car market.
Though its full title is Avensis Verso the Verso bit is usually dropped from the name.
Avensis has four conventional side doors, a high-lift tailgate and three rows of seats in a two / three / two configuration. All seven seats can cope with adults, though the second-row centre seat is probably best left to a child. Access to the third-row seats isn’t too difficult, though they are better left to those who are still on the young and supple side.
There’s surprisingly good legroom and headroom.
The middle seat slides backwards and forwards and – like the third row – folds to form a flat cargo floor. The two rear rows can be folded to form a makeshift bed, while the middle row, when folded, can creates picnic tables.
When both rear seats are down, cargo items up to 1.95 metres long can be carried.
Despite its capacious interior, Avensis has a length of 4.6 metres, making it slightly shorter than a Toyota Camry sedan of its time.
There’s a 132-litre storage area under the boot floor, the space-saver wheel is located under the chassis.
Ride comfort is good, though as the Avensis is aimed at the European market it may prove slightly firm for some Australian tastes. It comes with good steering feel and its handling is not a long way short of that in a sedan or wagon.
Power initially came from a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine. As part of a major facelift of the Avensis engine sized was increased to 2.4 litres, with added torque, this is the one to aim for if you’re carrying big loads, especially in hilly areas.
Transmission is by manual or automatic, with the latter being the choice of a large majority of buyers, as a result the auto was dropped as part of the November 2003 makeover.
Toyota has been number one seller in Australia for more years than its competitors care to mention. The Japanese giant has outlets spread across the country. With many in remote areas due to the huge popularity of Toyota LandCruisers in the bush.
Spare parts may not be readily available out Back ‘o Bourke, but can usually be shipped out within a couple of working days.
Keep in mind the Avensis is getting on in years and it may be necessary to go to parts recyclers for some bits. Indeed, it makes sense to check for parts in your local area before deciding to buy an Avensis.
Servicing is reasonably simple and all but safety related items can be tackled by competent home handy people. Having a workshop manual in the Avensis at all times is a smart move.
Insurance costs are lower than average, reflecting the type of sensible buyer who buys vehicles in this class.
Toyota Avensis battled with little success against SUVs and 4WDs in the people mover market until late 2010 when it was pulled from the Australian market. Some of the last ones will have been first registered in early 2011, but should be regarded as ‘10s when it comes to resale and trade-in time.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Avensis are getting on in years so it’s smart to have a professional inspection no matter how good you feel you are on the car front.
Check the condition of the seats, carpet and trim carefully for signs of heavy-duty usage by bored kids.
Similarly have a good look at the boot. Lifting the carpets and checking for scars in the side panels.
The engine should start easily. Ideally do this test when it’s stone cold in the morning.
A puff of smoke from the exhaust when a cold engine first kicks over may indicate wear.
Wear may also show up as smoke from the exhaust when the engine is accelerated hard after it’s been idling for a while.
A manual gearbox should be precise and smooth in operation, with no crunching during fast downchanges. the third to second change is usually the first to suffer.
Automatics that are slow to go into Drive or Reverse from Neutral may be due for an overhaul. Similarly if an auto holds gears took long, or changes too often it may need serious, expensive, work.
CAR BUYING TIP
Sensible cars are usually bought and driven by sensible people who look after them. No promises, though…