Freshly face-lifted and boasting oodles of passenger and cargo space, the Toyota Avanza is an affordable MPV for all
Because one size doesn’t fit all, Toyota offers a range of multipurpose vehicles, with the Avanza the nameplate of choice for those after an affordable carryall that boasts a compact footprint.
Since its 2011 launch, it has forged a solid reputation, rewarding owners with its dependability and affordability – with the added advantage of access to Toyota’s 200-strong dealer network.
Late in 2015, Toyota increased the Avanza’s value proposition further, improving the seating versatility and user-friendliness, and refreshing the exterior design, bringing it in line with the brand’s corporate look. This is thanks primarily to the enlarged radiator grille – which is a focal point – and, at the rear, revised light clusters and an enlarged tailgate garnish.
Aesthetic changes to the interior echo the outward changes, with a trendier look and feel for various surfaces and materials. Hard-wearing material and a heel pad built into the driver’s foot area are two details that point to the Avanza’s durable design. The driver is treated to a new instrument cluster with improved night-time illumination. There’s added convenience too, in the form of electric controls for the driver’s window and a new console tray, which is positioned in front, close to the 12V power outlet, creating a convenient storage space for loose items, within easy reach of driver and passenger.
But the key changes are all about pure versatility. The adjustable second and third rows of seating make it possible for owners to configure the interior layout to suit their exact requirements, offering various combinations of cargo vs passenger space. A new split back-row seat allows passengers to independently adjust their seating. Both the second and third rows fold and tumble, so with the last row completely removed (a relatively simple matter of taking a spanner to eight bolts), ample interior volume is available. The cabin rethink suddenly makes the Avanza a real MPV (multipurpose vehicle), albeit a budget-friendly one.
But it still has an eye on safety. ISOFIX restraint points and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), as well as driver and passenger airbags, are standard. An antitheft system with alarm and immobiliser completes the safety specification.
Tested in 77 kW 1.5l TX guise, the Avanza proved to be perky yet frugal, the new Eco indicator a firm reminder as to driving style and how it impacts on fuel economy. There’s a 70 kW 1.3 on offer too, but it is better suited to those at sea level, where engines achieve their rated power. Another advantage of the larger power plant is that it can be specified with a four-speed auto, as an alternative to the five-speed manual.
The test car sported 15” alloys. Like the SX models, it also has colour-coded mirrors, but a rear spoiler sets it apart. Both have air conditioning, but the TX gets additional fan controls and air vents for rear passengers. It also boasts in-car entertainment via a four-speaker audio system, with USB input for added ease.
All in all, the Avanza is an honest and unpretentious mini-MPV, highly capable of carrying seven occupants, and now with an even more usable space behind the front seats, enabling it to do a decent van impression. It is a great starter car for families wanting to get into the MPV market or – in more affordable SX trim – for use in the hospitality industry, when a rugged and more reliable people-mover is required.
TOYOTA AVANZA 1.5 TX
Engine 1 496 cc, normally aspirated petrol
Cylinders four, in-line, longitudinal
Power 77 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque 137 Nm @ 4 400 rpm
Drivetrain five-speed manual, RWD
Top speed 165 km/h
Overall fuel consumption 6.3 l/100 km
CO₂ emissions 150 g/km
Driving aids ABS, EBD
Warranty three-year / 100 000 km
Maintenance plan four-year / 60 000 km
Service intervals 15 000 km
(This article was first published in the autumn 2016 issue of AA traveller magazine)