While Northern Ireland’s car making efforts have long since passed into history – remember the ill-fated De Lorean – it might come as a surprise to learn that the UK still has a massive and thriving motor industry – it’s just that the ownership has now passed into nearly exclusively foreign hands, with most of the home-grown manufacturers having long since committed suicide, thanks to bland, boring, unreliable product.
However, courtesy of massive inbound investment from the likes of Honda, Peugeot-Citroen, Tata – with its acquisition of Land Rover and Jaguar – plus Volkswagen and BMW, now respectively owners of the Bentley and Rolls Royce brands but firmly committed to continuing to build those prestigious cars in the UK, the phrase ‘Made in Britain’ is slowly regaining the kudos it once commanded.
Proud to bear that once honoured UK hallmark, the third incarnation of Toyota’s European flagship, the re-styled and re-engineered Avensis, is right now pouring off the production line at a state of art factory at Burnaston, in Derbyshire.
This exclusively UK-built vehicle – available in both saloon and tourer body styles – takes advantage of a new design language that is influencing a whole new generation of Toyota models, with sharp lines and a stronger, ground-hugging stance.
Inside are new trim features, soft-touch surfaces and quality upholstery, plus a clear and simple instrument and control layout, improved sound insulation and front seats re-designed for better support.
Ride and handling have been upgraded to give improved comfort and sharper vehicle response.
The Toyota Optimal Drive powertrains, established as some of the best in their class for combined fuel efficiency and low emissions, are carried over from the previous model.
Where the best-selling unit – the 124bhp (93kW) 2.0 D-4D diesel – is concerned, performance has been made even stronger thanks to a thorough revision that has brought emissions down to a tax-friendly 119g/km and improved average fuel economy to 62.8-mpg. The implications of these changes are particularly profitable for company car drivers, who can reap the benefit of a significantly lower Benefit-in-Kind tax rating.
This model reaches 62-mph in just over 10 seconds and will top out at a brisk 124-mph.
Four trim grades are now on offer and the core Icon model I tested comes complete with such goodies as dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and machine-faced 17-inch alloy wheels.
Toyota’s Touch & Go system provides customers with a full map navigation system that is considerably less expensive than traditional multimedia packages. It includes all the most popular navigation functions, such as advanced traffic coverage, and speed and safety camera warnings.
Operation is via a 6.1-inch full-colour touchscreen. This also gives centralised control of various vehicle functions, including the audio system, as well as Bluetooth connection to external devices such as mobile phones and portable music players.
Prices for the 39 version strong Avensis range run from £17,495 to £29,905, dependent on spec.