Toyota Avanza 1.5 TX (2012) Driving Impression

5 TX

Affordability, practicality and no-nonsense simplicity may not be the sexiest marketing terms these days, but they still carry a lot of weight with the public. Just look at the first-generation Toyota Avanza, a van-derived seven-seater that went on to sell in the thousands.

Cynical folks will point to the Toyota badge and say that the Japanese marque can sell anything in South Africa, no matter how good (or otherwise) it may be, but speak to an Avanza owner and you’ll quickly realise that there’s much more to this vehicle than a badge. Now the second-generation model has arrived. Is it destined for even greater success?

(Slightly) more handsome looks

Developed by Daihatsu for developing Asian markets, and with a panel van derivative being part of the planning from the start, the Toyota Avanza was never going to be a beauty queen. Still, there have been some improvements compared with the rather utilitarian design of the previous model. At the front the lower airdam stretches wider, adding some aggression to the face. The heavily sculpted headlamps flow into the flanks, and at the rear there is a rather comical tailgate spoiler. But the biggest visual change is the quite prominent sculpting on the door panels and tailgate that add some definition and flair to the flanks of the vehicle, especially when compared with the slab-sided approach of its predecessor. Rounding off the slightly more attractive overall design are neat 15-inch alloy wheels and privacy glass. Interestingly, some onlookers commented on the high ground clearance (200 mm), asking whether the vehicle featured four-wheel drive…

The answer to that question is of course “no”, but the correct response is nevertheless going to cause some raised eyebrows. You see, the Toyota Avanza is a rear-wheel drive vehicle, while most will expect it to be front-driven. There are some positives around this of course, but also theoretically some negatives, the biggest of which will concern interior packaging (transmission tunnel). Thankfully, however, Daihatsu’s designers have managed to avoid any such issues, and the Toyota Avanza offers a very practical, spacious cabin within its relatively compact 4 140 mm body.

The middle row of seats offers a sliding (and recline) function, which allows occupants to tailor either their own amount of legroom, or alternatively to cater for those seated in the rearmost seats. Both the second- and third-row seats are split 50/50. Most passengers are unlikely to complain about space but as ever the two rear seats are not that comfortable for longer trips. And, of course, when they are occupied there is almost no boot space. Still, if you only occasionally need seven seats, but more often will use the Avanza’s five-seater configuration, boot space is excellent. Nice touches include overhead ventilation controls in the rear of the vehicle, and the fact that large cup holders are accessible from any of the seats.

More stylish design, practical features

Toyota changed the trim of the previous Avanza from a beige colour to a more practical darker hue late in that model’s life cycle, but with the new model there are no such concerns. Darker colours are used throughout and should not show hard use as quickly as before. Besides improving the practicality of the cabin, the revised trim also endows the Toyota Avanza with a slightly more upmarket ambience. The facia itself is also more attractive, with simple but attractive control and instrumentation layouts that follow the design of some newer Daihatsu models. It’s still plasticky, but the design is better and more appealing.

Standard features on this Toyota Avanza 1.5 TX model includes; air-conditioning, front fog-lamps, electric mirror adjustment, power steering, electric windows, radio/CD player, central locking, two airbags and ABS. Impressively, remote audio controls are fitted to the steering wheel and there’s even an auxiliary port.

Willing, loud engine

The Toyota Avanza 1.5 TX is powered by a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that has slightly lower outputs than before. Keep in mind, however, that the new Avanza is also lighter than before, and tips the scales at an almost unbelievable 1 128 kg. Power goes to the rear wheels via a very robust, mechanical-feeling five-speed manual transmission. Progress is surprisingly swift around town, with much of the 136 Nm of torque seemingly available from low down. A nippy 0-100 km/h time of just over 11 seconds is claimed. Even better, the fuel economy is good, too, with a consumption figure of 7.2 L/100 km perhaps being too optimistic, but a more realistic 8.5 L/100 km is still rating as impressive given the vehicle’s likely usage patterns.

At highway speeds, however, the Toyota Avanza is less impressive. The lack of weight means it is pushed around quite easily by winds. It is also clear that much of the weight saving has to do with the fact that there isn’t much in the way noise insulation. The buzzy engine sounds strained at the national limit, so long-distance family drives will perhaps be quite frustrating. It needs, perhaps, a sixth gear for cruising.

Toyota Avanza 1.5 TX - Verdict

Toyota has done well by improving the design appeal of the Toyota Avanza. It’s less van-like in its aesthetics than before, and the cabin in particular shows good attention to detail. But while it’s a nippy little town-based people mover, it’s less impressive as a long-haul family car due to its buzzy engine and less than secure-feeling on the road (as a result of its very light weight). Understand its limitations, and the Toyota Avanza will however serve you well, just like the previous version has done for thousands of others.

We like:

  • Improved interior design
  • Cabin space and versatility
  • Value for money
  • Compact dimensions
We don’t like:
  • Noisy at cruising speeds
  • Feels lightweight

Toyota Avanza 1.5 TX fast facts

Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 76 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 136 Nm @ 4 400 rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual
Wheels: 15-inch alloy
Top speed: 165 km/h
0-100 km/h: 11.9 seconds
Fuel economy: 7.2 L/100 km

Also consider:

Nissan Grand Livina 1.6 Acenta:

Quietly, this Nissan has carved itself a sizeable niche in the South African market. It looks a bit more upmarket than the Toyota, and packs more power, too. Feels more MPV than van (Avanza).

Mahindra Xylo 2.5 CRDe e8 8-seater:

Slightly more expensive, which is a problem given its badge, but then it does offer eight seats, more features and a torquey diesel engine. Also has two airbags and ABS.