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Used car review Toyota Avensis Verso

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    Like all Toyotas the Avensis Verso was competent at everything without being brilliant at anything.

Finding suitable transport for a family can be difficult, particularly when it's a large family.

Small families of two or three kids aren't a problem, the choices are many, but once the brood grows beyond that the choices rapidly diminish.  There are a few wagons that will accommodate seven, but it's really a squeeze. They might be acceptable if you only need to carry seven on occasion, but if you need to do it regularly, like most families do, you're left looking at peoplemovers.

When they first began to appear on the market 30 or so years ago peoplemovers were effectively crudely converted commercial vans. They weren't very safe, they certainly weren't very comfortable, and they made their occupants feel like second-class citizens.  Those days are long gone thankfully and today's peoplemovers, like the Toyota Avensis Verso, are much more civilised.

MODEL WATCH

Unlike most of its van-derived predecessors the front-wheel drive Toyota Avensis Verso was based on a car, the mid-sized Avensis sold in Europe.  Given the baggage of history it was forced to carry the Avensis Verso was something of a revelation; it really wasn't that bad to drive.

Compared to its primitive forebears it was easy to drive and had quite respectable road manners.  There was some body roll, but it wasn't too bad; it understeered, but that too wasn't unacceptable. Overall it followed the driver's instructions reasonably faithfully and did its job quite well.

Initially there was a 2.0-litre engine, but that was replaced in 2003 with a 2.4-litre unit.  The 110 kW 2.0-litre unit struggled with the mass of the Avensis Verso, particularly when loaded to the gunnels with kids and their gear. 

With 115 kW at 5700 revs and 211 Nm at 4000 revs the extra grunt of the later 2.4-litre double overhead camshaft engine was a better choice.  The transmission choices were a smooth-shifting five-speed manual or a four-speed auto.

It's inside that the Avensis Verso came into its own, with a clever seating arrangement that allowed seats to be moved around to suit the need to carry people or cargo.  The centre seat was fine for two, but a little squeezy for three, and the use of a lap belt in the centre position wasn't ideal.

At the back the third seat was a little cramped for adults, but would do the job for three kids.  If not needed for people the second and third seats could be folded flat to open up the area to carry cargo, or sports gear, or whatever might be needed.

The interior was well finished and durable, important when you carting kids around, and it was well equipped with cup holders, bottle bins, hooks for grocery bags, cubby holes and other handy little touches for everyday convenience.

Toyota offered two models, the GLX and the Ultima.  The GLX came standard with dual air-conditioning, remote central locking, power windows and mirrors, and a six-speaker CD sound system.

A step up the Ultima was rewarded with alloy wheels, fog lamps, leather-trimmed steering wheel, roof racks and a rear spoiler.  A facelift in 2003 brought new headlamps and a new grille, new bumpers and new rear lights. The 2.4-litre engine replaced the 2.0- litre unit.

ON THE LOT

Pick up an early 2.0-litre Avensis Verso GLX for $12,000-$15,000, add $500 and you'll enjoy the Ultima.  For a later 2.4-litre you'll pay $17,000-$30,000 for a GLX, or $18,000-$35,000 for an Ultima.

IN THE SHOP

Toyota might not make the most exciting cars to drive, but if it's reliability that gets you excited then it's the brand for you.  The company has an enviable reputation for build quality and reliability, but it's a well-earned one, and the Avensis Verso is living up to expectations.Little is being reported from the field, the things that are spoken of are to be expected through simple wear and tear, like brakes, tyres, wipers etc.  The good news is that there's a chain driving the camshaft to there's no need for servicing as there is on other makes.

Sound engineering and decent build quality can't make up for a lack of maintenance, so check for a service record to ensure your chosen car has been regularly serviced.

ON THE ROAD

Like all Toyotas the Avensis Verso was competent at everything without being brilliant at anything.  It rode comfortably, steered well, handled predictably, braked securely, and performed with enough gusto not to be an embarrassment.  And like all Toyotas it was well built and nicely finished, two attributes that underpin the brand's popularity.

IN A CRASH

While the dynamics of the Avensis Verso were quite good for a peoplemover, they were still a compromise when compared to a regular passenger sedan.

It wasn't particularly responsive or agile when put to the test in an emergency, but standard ABS anti-lock brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution aided active safety.

On the passive safety front there were dual front airbags and seat belt pretensioners on all models, while the Ultima also boasted side front airbags.

AT THE PUMP

Physical size and mass work against a car like the Avensis when it comes to fuel consumption.  Road testers reported the average fuel consumption at 12.0-12.5 L/100 km.

OWNER'S SAY

Don Taylor and his family bought their 2001 Avensis in 2002, having previously driven a Mazda 1300, two Golfs, a Nissan Prairie, a Mitsubishi Nimbus and two Toyota Taragos.  They have since driven over 200,000 km in the Avensis and apart from tyres, a battery and a windscreen, the only things they have replaced or repaired are the tailgate struts.

The versatility of the seating/load carrying arrangements, from one seat to seven, with every number in between is particularly appealing to them.  With only two people in the car, there is a huge, flat-floored cargo space. The storage area under the floor holds a great deal and has proved very useful.

They also appreciate the way the middle seat can be slid into a position that makes it possible to carry seven adults in reasonable comfort.  Many of the other peoplemovers that they have looked at over the years have not really been designed to put adults or even teenagers in the third row.

Despite the impressive people/cargo capacity, the Avensis is not a particularly large car to drive, unlike some of the other peoplemovers available.  They have found it economical, reporting 10 L/100 km around town and 8 L/100 km on the highway. On a recent trip they averaged 7.5 L/100 km over a distance of 4000 km, which Don says was "very pleasing."

LOOK FOR

. Overall competence.
. Modest performance.
. Smooth ride.
. Predictable handling.
. Flexible interior.
. Good build quality.

ALSO CHECK THESE

. Honda Odyssey - 2000-2008

Regularly rated the best in its class the Odyssey transformed the peoplemover market when it was first introduced and has continued to set the benchmark for family transporters. Pay $14,000-$34,000.

. VW Multivan - 2005-2008

The largest and most spacious in the class. If the big VW looks like a van, that's because of its close relationship to the Transporter. But it's smooth, comfortable, refined, well equipped and a pleasure to drive. On the downside it is a large vehicle, which can make it awkward to drive and park. The option of a diesel makes it economical. Pay $30,000-$40,000.

. VW Caddy Life - 2006-2008

Compact peoplemover based on the Golf offers car-like chassis dynamics, diesel economy, with space for seven at a pinch. If you've got a small family the Golf makes a compelling case. Pay $16,000- $25,000.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Highly rated peoplemover is a well-built, reliable and solid performer for the family.

RATING

75/100

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 5 comments

  • We love our Avensis we have a 02 GLX model because great on fuel heaps of power around town & on the highway. Seating is great for 7 and found the seating adjustments give enough leg room. Like most vans like the Avensis getting in & out of the back row a bit of a drag but common. Air Conditioning is good with the split vents to keep area cool too! Easy to lay seats flat to go shopping etc. Good brakes & easy to drive not too big easy to park with good mirrors to help.

    Ian Wall of Central Coast NSW Australia Posted on 14 January 2013 7:08pm
  • We owned this car since 4 yrs ago but it is Japanese version - named Toyota Ipsum (also called Toyota Picnic in some markets). Really good to move my family (2 adult & 5 kids) as we're always travelling to our hometown located 500km away. The Japanese version is really fully loaded with powerful 2.4L engine, 4-speed shiftronic gearbox, in-dash DVD touch screen, rear & front camera for safety & easy parking, remote sensor & many more ... really satisfying.

    zas zachary of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Posted on 23 August 2011 6:37pm
  • I am from the UK and have jus purchased an Avensis Verso 2.0 d4d diesel engine and my god it is economical around town. I can get up to 55 mpg and careful motorway driving I can push nearly 70 mpg, just got to be light with your right foot, and also treated it to bg244 diesel engine cleaner, now sweet as anything. I have the GLS model which I believe is the Ultima in your country ... awesome car!

    ash Posted on 19 June 2011 8:31am
  • We have just purchased an Avensis 07 after weeks and weeks of looking. I had never heard of them and just stumbled over it in car yard, absolutely love it.

    Sharon Henderson of Jimboomba Queensland Posted on 04 June 2011 6:34pm
  • My Avensis Verso is almost 4 years old. Just over 70K. Still can't understand why this this car is so underrated. Only pity Toyota never looked at importing the diesel version. Fabulous on the run to Sydney and back. Cheap to service, but hardly promoted by Toyota over the last few years, even though some new are still available. We looked at the Odyssey which was way too fussy. Can't believe the writer is comparing to either of the VW variants. The Grandis was more in this class, but had awkward seating options. In a crash @ 70km/h with a 'roo the car coped as well as could be expected and crumpled where it should. Surprisingly we had the car back with 2 weeks despite $8K damage. We love our Avensis, and whole heartedly recommend it as a viable large family option. It proves that you don't have to go 4WD!

    Lisa Pearson of South Coast Posted on 22 May 2010 9:23pm
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