2002 Toyota Avensis GLS VVTI 2.0 petrol from UK and Ireland
Unexciting, but seems largely durable
Engine light has been pretty much on constantly since purchase. I read the codes off every so often and get the same ones - P0420 and P0430 (catalytic converter efficiency). Reset the light and it will be back on within 20 miles. All four oxygen sensors replaced, but I think it's the twin cats in the exhaust manifold. No real loss of performance or economy though, and it passes the emissions test for the MOT.
A metal air conditioning pipe was fractured and needed to be replaced for the A/C to work - only available from Toyota themselves, and required 3 hours of garage labour to fit... ouch!
Clutch just now beginning to slip under hard acceleration in the upper gears (3rd/4th/5th).
Electronic Traffic Avoidance function for the built-in satnav no longer works - probably a function of a persistent (and irritating) leak of water into the boot.
Lacquer peeling in small spots here and there - mainly on the roof (probably from stone chips - 2-3mm across), but also (oddly) in certain spots on the offside doors.
Once my Peugeot 405TD reached 200,000 miles and 17 years of age, I decided it was time to gracefully retire it and look for something newer.
With about £1,500 to spend, I wanted something that would be economical, comfortable and above all, reliable, and in estate format for extra practicality.
Being a fan of Japanese manufacturers, I looked at the Mazda 626, Nissan Primera and the Avensis, coming down in favour of the latter as it was perceived to be the most reliable (without the rust problems of the Mazda and the camchain issues of the Nissan). Seeing that VVT-I engined cars were in budget (but D4D diesels were not), I decided to focus on the 2-litre model to avoid the issues of oil burning and gearbox failure that seem to afflict the 1.8.
Between us, my wife and I have put on 25,000 miles in a year. Overall, the car has been reliable insofar as it's never failed to start or broken down on us, but the nagging engine light is a bit of a downer. There appears to be a Toyota Technical Service Bulletin on it, but the proposed solution - two new cats and a new ECU - just ain't viable at a cost of £1,200. Even aftermarket cats are around the £240 mark before fitting, so I'll keep a wary eye on the new (2012) MOT regs with regard to the engine light.
Oddly, the engine light being on has no effect on driveability (apart from the odd small stumble on part-throttle) or economy - and this is a seriously economical car for a 2-litre petrol-engined large estate. We average 35mpg in mixed conditions, and I've had 44mpg on long motorway trips.
Fairly easy to work on, too - decent room in the engine bay for most service tasks, although it's a bit of a faff to take off the undertray and o/s wheelarch liner to change the oil filter. The camshaft is driven by a chain, rather than a belt - combined with the high-pressure fuel pump, this makes for a fairly noisy engine at idle. Service parts are reasonably priced, apart from the spark plugs, which are iridium. I've changed the oil (using a genuine filter) every 5,000 miles.
Two things strike me about the interior - equipment and space. The GLS is well-equipped, with climate control (rotary rather than digital controls), built-in satnav (comically antiquated by 2011 standards, but does the job nonetheless), tinted rear side windows, CD player and full complement of electric assists. All it really lacks is cruise control. Plus there's lots of legroom front and rear. The loadspace of the estate is also pretty good, albeit with a fair amount of suspension intrusion.
To drive, it won't set your heart on fire. The steering is too light and the suspension too underdamped and softly sprung to be any fun in the corners. You feel like you're sitting too high and there's a fair amount of inertia to overcome on turn-in. The engine goes well, mind, particularly above 3000 revs. Can give the boy racer crowd something to chew on.
Overall, it's a car to admire rather than be fond of, and with some niggles aside (like the catalytic converter issue - another "known fault" like the oil usage on the 1.6/1.8) the build quality seems pretty good, with no rust to be seen anywhere. We'll keep it until it falls apart, so I hope it will get to 200,000 miles with minimal expense (impending clutch replacement aside).
If it's as dependable and cheap to run (from a maintenance/repair perspective) as our other car, a 2000 Honda Accord 1.8 auto which has 160,000 miles on it (and has been in the family since 3 years old and 18,000 miles), I'll be quite pleased.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 14th May, 2011