Some cars are designed to be jacks of all trades, but even though they’re rarely masters of any one, the reality is that most of us, especially company car drivers, need a car that does one particular thing better than any other.
Company car nirvana is fashioned by a combination of low CO2 emissions and levels of comfort that make cloud nine feel like a Victorian school chair. The bills have got to be low and the mile-eating talent has got to be high. Fleet managers want just the same as the people driving the cars.
Plenty of space for passengers and luggage is important, though. After all, most company cars are basically private cars at the weekend. But the key is for the car to be quiet, comfortable, stable and cheap to own.
With that in mind, here’s the new Toyota Avensis. While it’s not entirely new yet, it has a much prettier face and a host of improvements under the skin that, on the best selling diesel model, add up to a promise of the lowest running costs in its class. In fact, Toyota reckons that its three-year running costs are €2,000 cheaper than before.
The most popular 2.0-litre D-4D powerplant, accounting for two-thirds of the previous Avensis generation’s sales, has been heavily updated with a smaller, more efficient turbo.
It links with new engine mapping and improved cold start characteristics, allowing a faster warm-up process that wastes less energy than before in the name of better fuel efficiency. The bottom line is 119g/km of CO2, down from 139g/km in the old model, and a claimed 62.8mpg with a gentle mix of driving.
Soundproofing in the cabin has been improved, with acoustic dampening material extended into new areas in an attempt to keep the new Avensis as quiet as possible.
It works, too, with road noise being very hushed even at 75mph or so, albeit on smooth French motorways. There’s a bit of wind noise around the wing mirrors and A-pillars, but it’s probably only noticeable because the car is so quiet a cruiser otherwise.
The 124bhp diesel can get a bit noisy under power though, and the test car’s engine still felt tight with only 500 miles under its wheels from new, but it’s clear that its power and torque delivery are both more linear than in the old model, as per Toyota’s intent.
A slick six-speed manual gearbox is standard on this engine, and an automatic is only available with the much thirstier, more polluting 2.2-litre D-CAT diesel. Company car drivers would be financially better off with the manual, but if maximum space is your wish then the Tourer (estate) version of the 2.0 D-4D model is in the same road tax band as the saloon, pushing out 120g/km of CO2.
Efficiency figures like these qualify the new car for cheap running costs relative to the other 2.0-litre diesel company car options out there for similar money. Another nod in its favour is the outstanding standard kit list, which features a lot more than you might expect.
On all but the ultra-basic T2 spec level, Toyota’s amusingly-named Touch & Go touch-screen satellite navigation system is standard. It’s a good system, even if it does struggle to pronounce some street names, and it should be a huge pull for county-crossing company drivers.
The same goes for a rear-view camera, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, cruise control, electric driver’s seat lumbar adjustment and a bundle of other convenient extras. It’s all standard on TR spec and above. It makes for a convincing turn of value, with the key 2.0-litre D-4D TR model carrying a similar price tag to the old, less well-equipped one. A slightly quickened steering rack is, however, a welcome change that should mean less wheel-twirling in tight corners.
The point of the new Avensis is to be a better company car than ever. That’s where Toyota hopes to find the bulk of its sales, and why many of the techy touches, like access to Google local search, are directed particularly at high-mileage business drivers. The spacious rear passenger area and obvious high build quality make it a great family car as well.
It’s a better cruiser than before and it’s significantly cheaper to run than its older self. It succeeds exactly where it needs to, with excellent cruising comfort and a first-rate list of standard gadgets, so despite it being a master of one trade above all others, it makes perfect sense to the right people.