The Toyota Avensis was introduced in 1997, to create a more modern name when compared with the reliable, but dull Toyota Carina E/Toyota Corona. Like its predecessor the Avensis was reliable, and proved a sales success for Toyota Europe. Over the years, the Toyota Avensis has advanced in size, technology, power, and economy to challenge the its established European rivals, the Vauxhall Vectra, Ford Mondeo and Peugeot 407.
Toyota introduced the Avensis nameplate on its new model, essentially an extensive revamp of the previous generation Carina E, which was launched at the end of 1997. Like its predecessor, the Avensis was based on the non-European Corona model and built at the Burnaston factory in Derby. At the same time, production of the five-door Toyota Corolla also started at this British plant.
The original Avensis had the option of four engines (1.6, 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre turbodiesel) and three body styles (saloon, hatchback and estate). The station wagon was essentially the Japanese-market second generation Toyota Caldina. All of the range gave solid build quality, excellent reliability, a spacious comfortable interior, generous equipment, smooth ride quality and good refinement, but very little in the way of excitement. A facelift in the summer of 2000 (which saw the engines fitted with variable valve timing) made little difference to this, although a sporty Avensis 2.0L SR with bodykit and tuned suspension did become available.