This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Toyota Avensis Saloon (09-18) review.

Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

The entry-level 1.8-litre petrol is fairly flexible and frugal. The 2.0-litre petrol engine while quicker, doesn't feel a great deal livelier on the road. From 2003 to 2005 the only diesel offered was a 114bhp 2.0 D-4D, which performs adequately but anyone initially choosing diesel couldn't select a higher performance option. In 2004 Toyota offered an ultra-clean version of the diesel in the saloon called D-CAT, but it was more expensive and didn't offer any fuel economy benefit over the standard engine.

In 2005, a 2.2 D-4D was also offered, with 136bhp, and was more competitive with other cars in its class. From summer 2006 the 2.0-litre diesel was upgraded to 124bhp, the 136bhp 2.2-litre engine continued, but a 175bhp version of the 2.2-litre was also available, called the T180. Doesn't feel as fast as you might expect - the gearbox seems to be set up for comfortable cruising rather than sprinting.

Auto-only 2.4-litre petrol engine was relatively short- lived. Very refined but there was low demand. 2.2-litre diesels come with a six-speed gearbox. Five-speed automatic offered as an option on petrol models.

The Avensis handles safely and predictably. While the rear suspension is derived from the sporty Toyota Celica, it drives far more like a family car than a coupe. The Avensis turns in confidently with good body control, but the steering has a rather artificial feel to it, and doesn't offer much feedback. Ride comfort is good though and the Avensis would make a comfortable long-distance car.