The petrol engine line-up starts with a 1.6-litre petrol engine (known as a Valvematic) which is designed to be very efficient. For a modest size, it boasts an impressive 130bhp and a 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds, yet will return an average of 44mpg. Moving up there's an excellent 1.8-litre which boasts 145bhp and completes the 0-62mph dash in 9.7 seconds.
The 2.0-litre petrol is less popular, offering only a small performance advantage over the 1.8-litre. Toyota has admitted that the 2.0-litre petrol is included in the range mainly to offer a hierarchy for company car choice lists. People who want automatic transmission on the petrol versions can choose a continuously variable transmission, which has a sequential manual change facility.
The diesel line-up is more interesting with the entry-level 124bhp 2.0 D-4D (badged 130) bang on the 10-second barrier for the 0-62mph sprint, but also offering exceptional fuel economy and low CO2 emissions. There is a 2.2 D-4D 150 with 148bhp, offering livelier performance and available with an automatic transmission. Topping the range, as with the previous Avensis, is a 175bhp version of the 2.2-litre diesel, which is offered in more trim levels than before.
It feels quite brisk, with excellent mid-range performance making for safe overtaking.
The Avensis has never been the choice of those who enjoy spirited driving, but given the work these cars are typically expected to do, most owners would sacrifice a truly engaging drive for comfort and refinement. Toyota is well aware of this, and while the Avensis is well-mannered on the road, it doesn't set the pulse racing on twisty roads like the Ford Mondeo and Mazda6 do.
However, it feels secure and soaks up most bumps with the minimum of drama.
The Avensis has a neatly designed if rather sober interior, with the audio and ventilation controls clearly laid out and easy to use. Cars equipped with sat nav have a combination of large buttons either side of the display along with further touch-screen functions, leaving the dashboard uncluttered. Two-tone colours are used with lighter tones on the lower parts of the doors and dashboard, helping lend the interior an upmarket feel.
The driver has a good range of adjustment to achieve the best driving position and high-spec models have electrically adjustable seats and steering column.
The Avensis provides a top quality interior for the money and occupants feel isolated from the outside world. Wind noise and tyre noise are unobtrusive, and both petrol and diesel engines are barely audible. Air conditioning is standard across the range (which you'd expect on this type of car), while all models, with the exception of the entry grade T2, come with cruise control.
The interior is roomy enough for five adults to travel in comfort.