Motor manufacturers are enduring their toughest period in a generation with the main problem being that customers are frightened of making a commitment to buying a car and, even if they wanted to, then they cannot get the money to do so.

Had this been the 1970s, then the recession would not have mattered so much to the likes of Ford and Vauxhall. After all, the old Escorts and Vivas would last four years at best before falling to bits. So fleet managers would have had no choice, thanks to the ‘built-in obsolescence’ of the cars.

Now, however, the situation is different. Where company cars would have been changed every two years, the reliability and quality of most vehicles means that can safely be extended to three, four or even five years.

Much of this is down to Japanese manufacturing methods which have revolutionised the industry, making it far more efficient and creating a product that will stand the test of time.

Toyota is a fine example of this, continually featuring high in reliability surveys and building its reputation accordingly. Unfortunately for its management, the cars also last for ages and hold their value well.

But eventually the tide will turn, and for companies that lease their fleets, changing cars regularly is less of a challenge and it is perhaps here where cars such as the new Toyota Avensis will score well.

The Avensis is not the sort of car that would automatically appeal to the private buyer. On the face of it, it is a big saloon designed to chew up vast numbers of motorway miles in relative comfort with few distinguishing features.

But as a company car for the middle manager it is ideal for the same reasons and quite a few more.

The first impression of the latest generation of the Avensis is that it is a big car with imposing, modern looks exemplified by a huge, sculpted front and rear ends.

It is a car with a presence that is pleasing to the driver.

Inside there are design tweaks but, ultimately, there is a functional dashboard with masses of grey plastic surrounding it. It is designed to do a job and stand up to wear and tear with few frills.

The seats on the test car were cloth and I found them oddly uncomfortable at first, although after a long journey they improved considerably, which I would say is a good thing.

Significantly, after a teenager managed to deposit mud on the rear bench, I managed to remove it with a quick wipe of a damp cloth, reinforcing the durability image.

But while the Avensis is a capable workhorse, it is also a very modern car. Toyota has invested millions in its Optimal Drive technology programme designed to cut carbon emissions and boost performance and economy.

The results can be seen in a comprehensive engine range offering a selction of petrols and diesels, with the oil burners in particular offering surprisingly good figures.

The test car was fitted with a 1.8 litre petrol power unit mated to a variable transmission automatic gearbox. This combination delivered plenty of power when it was needed and, on a long journey, provided 35mpg in mixed driving conditions, which is significantly lower than the figures suggest but still respectable and better than some diesels I have driven over the same distance.

So it is thrifty and packs a punch, which should suit both the company car driver and the fleet manager.

The TR model tested also comes with automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers, along with a six-speaker stereo and bluetooth telephone system which were appreciated, although the optional navigation system only seemed to work when it was not needed, and I never fathomed why.

As its size would suggest, there is plenty of room for the occasional family day out and the car has a huge boot, which happily swallowed a family’s weekend paraphernalia with room to spare.

Ultimately the new Avensis can best be described as highly efficient. It is not exciting, some might say it is dull.

But it will do a job and offer the assurance of being able to carry on doing it for years, if necessary.

And for many business drivers, you cannot say fairer than that.