TOYOTA is staying true to form and has come up with another rock solid all-rounder with the all new Avensis.
Available as both a saloon or an estate the Avensis is Toyota's European flagship and built in Britain at the company's factory at Burnaston near Derby.
The new Avensis looks very different than before and now includes two BMW diesels in the line up as well as a 1.8-litre petrol engine also produced in the UK at the Toyota engine plant on Deeside.
The petrol models are priced from £17,765 - only a few pounds more than the outgoing car - with the diesels costing from £18,850. The estates kick off at £18,945 for the petrol and £20,030 for a 1.6-litre diesel in entry level Active trim.
The bigger 2.0-litre diesel is reserved for the higher grade versions costing from £22,995.
With the bulk of the models aimed at the company car driver Toyota knows the Avensis has to impress when it comes to equipment and emissions and the diesels come in much cleaner than before at 108 and 119g/km which is in the same zone as alternatives such as the new Ford Mondeo and the VW Passat.
All models come with air conditioning, Bluetooth and cruise control as well as emergency braking and pre-crash safety systems while the mid-range Business Edition cars come with sat nav, lane departure warning and automatic lights and wipers which are must-haves in the fleet world.
Service intervals are up to 12,500 miles and the cars come with a five year/100,000 mile warranty and it fares well when it comes to operational costs.
Inside, the new Avensis has moved up a notch. Toyota interiors are now thoroughly modern with the grey plastic trims of old long gone.
Inserts in the dash, alcantara and leather upholstery and a full-colour display screen are all available on the new Avensis as is a colour TFT data display in the instrument panel.
Unusually, there is only a single cup holder aft of the gear lever with a second inside the centre console which has a lid that both slides and tilts - and when slid back it impacts on the leg room for the rear centre passenger, although with four on board that is not an issue.
What impresses about the new Avensis is its refinement on the road. It feels much more sturdy than the previous model and noise levels have been reduced significantly.
The driving experience has also been helped by a new look steering wheel which is nice and chunky to the touch, finished in leather with fine stitching and features well-placed controls for the onboard systems.
We tried the new estate - or Touring Sports as Toyota prefers to call it - and sampled both diesels and although nothing special on the performance front they lack little.
Fuel economy is up with the best. Toyota claims 67.3mpg for the 1.6 and 61.4 for the 2.0-litre with six speed manual gearboxes - there is no auto option on the diesels only on the petrol model.
On the road the 2.0-litre returned an average of 50 to the gallon and the 1.6 engine was even more frugal showing a creditable 66mpg over similar routes which took in a fair amount of motorway work as well as some mountain roads in the Swiss Alps.
When it came to cruising the 1.6 engine was even more impressive and at one point was averaging a sustained 7.16mpg according to the trip computer making it ideal for long distance work.
Both engines have to be worked through the gears to get any real performance and the higher gears are quite long legged.
With a 13 gallon tank the realistic range is close on 800 miles and while the 2.0-litre looks the better bet on paper there is little between the two diesels when it comes to everyday use although the bigger engine - it develops 140 as opposed to 110bhp - is going to be more handy when the vehicle is laden.
Top speed is 124mph for the 2.0-litre and 115mph for the 1.6 with 0 to 60 times of 9.5 and 11.4 seconds respectively.
The BMW engines replace Toyota's own 2.2 and 2.0-litre blocks used in the previous Avensis which resulted in higher emissions although performed adequately.
As estates go the Touring Sports is good and practical with cargo space ranging from 543 to 1,609 litres with the rear seats down and the load bed is wide and flat with additional underfloor space. The saloon has a generous 509 litre boot which will appeal to families.
Overall the new Avensis is typically Toyota, strong in every department, built to be functional and reliable but now with added appeal inside and out.