Pretty soon after buying the car, I found that on a cold start the car would be quite jerky if I just feather the throttle slightly, e.g. cruising at 35mph. Once the car has done 1/2 a mile or so, it's fine. The dealer couldn't find anything from with it, so I've tried swapping the spark plugs and coolant temp sensor myself, which helped things a bit.
There seems to be a leak at the back of the car, as the rear wheel wells regularly fill with water. The fact that Toyota have conveniently provided rubber bungs there suggests Mr T is almost expecting this to happen.
Gear changes can be poor, sometimes it's difficult to get the car into 3rd or 2nd gear, as the clutch sometimes judders, although not consistently. Again, Toyota dealer says it's fine...
The idle speed is too low. It should be 700rpm +/- 50rpm. Mine hangs around 600rpm when it's warmed up, making the car very lumpy when idling. Can you guess what the Toyota dealer said... yep, it's fine...
I bought this car because I wanted a sensible family car that should be reliable and cheap to run. It's only partly met that criteria. Although it hasn't broken down, there are more niggles than I would have expected with a Toyota (see above). It is comfortable though, and has plenty of interior space, without having a large footprint on the road. You might not guess it, but the Avensis is exactly the same width as the smaller Auris.
When Toyota designed this car, they clearly took a Kiss It Simple Stupid approach. There are no fancy gimmicks with the electronics, although it does still have good equipment levels with rain sensors, auto-dim mirrors, climate, power fold mirrors etc. But compared to other cars of this era, there is nothing clever about the implementation, e.g. no remote window opening/closing, mirrors only fold with dash button press, no auto-locking etc etc. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The engine bay is refreshing simple and spacious, making home maintenance not at all a daunting prospect.
The car is pretty economical for its size; 45mpg is perfectly possible on long motorway cruises, with mid to high 30s in regular driving. This is a useful compromise over high-tech diesels that can turn in 5-10mpg better economy, but only when burdened with unreliable features like DPFs, DMFs, high pressure fuel pumps, and the like. No such worries on this car!
However, this is tempered by the many annoyances. The rear hatch design is such that if you open it when it's wet, water literally pours straight into the boot. Very poor indeed. The washer jets freeze up in sub-zero temperatures, even with neat high quality screen wash, which was fine in our other car. Even after blasting the jets and pipes with a hair-dryer and then going for a two hour drive, I still couldn't get the jets defrosted. In the end, I had to wait until the weather improved, which was nearly two weeks without washer jets in very dirty road conditions. Not good at all!
And maybe because the boot is always full of water and leaks when I open it, the car suffers from condensation, which requires the air-con to run all the time to clear it. This is fine until temperatures drop to below 4 degrees, and the air-con no longer works. Then the car steams up and nothing will clear it. At this point, if it goes cold enough, the *inside* of the windscreen freezes. Terrible!
I am also surprised because so many of the car magazines described the Avensis has having decent handling, nearly as good as the Ford Mondeo. Yet, in my experience it's rubbish. Take it into a roundabout with only a little gusto and the understeer is tragic, similarly when traveling through fast S-bends, well within the speed limits. Thankfully the standard ESP brings things back under control quickly enough, but to be honest, I've never had a car that was so easy to lose grip from the front end, especially with relatively little power like this one.
Which brings me onto the engine, for a moderately powered 1.8 petrol, it does perform reasonably well and refinement is OK. Don't expect too much from it, it has no guts low down the revs, and higher revs ruin the fuel economy, but it's acceptable, and this comes from someone used to owning much more powerful cars than this.
BTW, this is our second Toyota, we once had an MR2 Roadster, which we loved and were very sorry to see go, I doubt I will say the same about this car.