So, after I planted my beloved Rover 25 into the back of a Range Rover, I needed a new car fairly quickly. I was looking at cars within roughly a 25 mile radius and for a maximum of about £700. I spent days searching, and every nice car I saw either already had a deposit on it or was no longer available. To top it off, a lot of the cars that I was interested in were being sold by idiots who did nothing but waste my time. In the end, my options were narrowed down to a 2001 Hyundai Elantra, a 2004 Rover 75 Estate and this, a 2003 Toyota Avensis. The Elantra was being sold by an idiot (based off interactions), the Rover was being sold by someone who did nothing but waste my time and the Avensis was being sold by somebody who, for some reason, consistently did not return my calls for like 5 days straight (even when they said they would, having already spoken to me on the phone). As you can tell, this made matters somewhat difficult. However, out of the blue, I received a text from the Avensis dude who gave me a decently valid reason as to why he was having difficulties returning my calls. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I ended up going to see the car with every intention of buying it, provided it was ok.
Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuun
So I get there, and right away it looks like a depressing shitbox… but I reassure myself that it’s just a cheap runabout and that it only has to last for a few months. I have a look around it, it’s filthy both inside & out and it’s got quite a few marks and dents, with the bonnet being the worst affected area. However, none of that really matters to me, because as I say it’s only a cheap car and it only has to last me a short while. So, what’s it like mechanically, I wonder?
I open the bonnet: “Yup, definitely an engine ther- hang on, where the fuck’s the radiator cap?” I am then informed by the seller, who is merely a friend of the car’s actual owner, that the owner of the vehicle never looks under the bonnet and would probably never have noticed that the cap had gone missing.
And so, the Toyota expert @adamd was phoned. After what was probably a solid 30 minutes of diagnosis, we came to the conclusion that it was probably still ok, with the headgasket still almost certainly intact. The advertised price was £695, but the seller understood my fear about driving it home with no radiator cap, and so we settled on £550. With that sorted, it was time to begin the 30 mile trip home… which the car managed to do flawlessly, despite the aforementioned issue (as it should, because it’s a fucking Toyota diesel).
Fast forward just under a month later to the present day, I’ve just finished washing it while the weather’s nice, and it’s looking good!
The car has been dead reliable so far, and it’s proven to be a good workhorse, thanks to that huge liftback boot and the torquey, efficient diesel engine up front. I’ve done a bit over 1000 miles in it, with that being a mixture of both motorway and around-town driving. In terms of MPGs (UK), it tends to average mid 40s around town and mid 50s on the motorway, though I’m sure the motorway efficiency could be improved by me not driving like a dumbass. The seats and the suspension setup result in this car being extremely comfortable over long distances. The engine in this thing is almost silent, and even on the worst of the UK’s motorways the noise you hear inside the cabin is very minimal, which is a stark contrast to my previous car where you had to shout to the person sitting in the passenger seat at motorway speeds.
In terms of specs, the trim level is T3-S, which is basically poverty spec with the addition of built in sat-nav (which still works, pretty fancy stuff for a 2003 car). The engine in this is the 2.0 Litre 1CD-FTV which produces 114hp/85KW & 184lb-ft/250Nm and is paired with a 5-Speed manual gearbox. Supposedly, it will do 0-60 in 11.2 seconds but I haven’t really tried and I don’t have any immediate intention to, as most of my driving is around town. The front suspension is MacPherson strut, and the rear is double wishbone. Impressively, the car manages to stay extremely comfortable whilst offering surprisingly good handling with direct and responsive steering.
I originally only wanted to buy another car as a cheap runabout, but with how good this car is both around town and on the motorway, I think I’ll be keeping it for a long time (as long as I don’t run into any Range Rovers). Currently, the odometer sits at 142,262 miles… but after all, it’s a Toyota, so it’s barely even broken in!