The first Toyota Auris was inoffensive but bland, so it’s no surprise the latest model carries over few of its styling cues. Toyota is clearly trying to attract a younger audience with this new model. It has a much lower stance (its roof is 55mm closer to the ground), reduced ride height and significantly sharper lines. Many of these features benefit not only its looks, but also contribute to it using less fuel to cut through the air at high speeds. It instantly ages the older model, but isn’t as cohesive as the Kia Cee’d, or desirable as the SEAT Leon or Volkswagen Golf.
Interior layout and quality have both significantly improved, with less brittle and scratchy plastics in the upper cabin (you can still find them in the lower console). There is a greater homogeneity to the blue cabin lighting and graphics and top trim levels cover the dashboard in leather, with a horizontal band of stitching. But, there’s still little to get excited about, with no surprise and delight features like the ‘jet’ air vents in the Audi A3, 3D graphics used for the Leon’s infotainment system or sheer tactile delight of the Golf. You’ll have to look to the options list to add visual flair, and we’d recommend the panoramic sunroof, which is one of the largest in class and bathes the cabin in natural light.
The Auris now has a 360-litre boot regardless of trim level – an increase of up to 30 per cent. The Hybrid version’s battery pack has been relocated under the rear seats, so it no longer impedes on boot space. It comprehensively beats the 316-litre boot of the Focus, and is roughly on a par with the Golf and Leon (both with 380-litres).
Ride and handling
Weight saving measures have trimmed the mass of the Auris, so it’s 50kg lighter on average. The Auris has also been made lower, keeping its centre of gravity closer to the road. Both these features have improved handling, the Toyota feeling generally lighter on its feet and more agile as a result. Toyota has also been able to make these gains while reducing the stiffness of the suspension, so it now rides more comfortably than before. The steering is accurate, but incredibly light and free of feel, so you never feel a part of the driving process, as you do in the class-leading Ford Focus. Essentially the Auris is quiet, comfortable and fuss free, but those who enjoy driving for driving’s sake will want to look elsewhere.
Petrol engines include a 1.33-litre with 98bhp and a 1.6-litre with 130bhp, which can reach 62mph in 12.6 and 10 seconds respectively. There’s just one diesel, a 1.4-litre with 89bhp and the full hybrid version with petrol and electric motors. The larger petrol comes with the option of a CVT automatic gearbox, which is standard if you choose the hybrid. It’s the latter powertrain which suits the Auris best, complementing its easy driving characteristics and allowing silent motoring at speeds below 31mph. These are all economical choices, but there’s currently nothing offering equivalent performance to the excellent 150bhp or 184bhp 2.0 TDI engine or 180bhp petrol engine offered in the Leon and Golf, or Fords more powerful Focus engines.
While the Auris might not have much poke, it mostly makes up for it at the pumps. Both the diesel and hybrid manage 74.3mpg (with 15-inch wheels), with the diesel emitting 90g/km of CO2 and the hybrid 87g/km. Both are well under the threshold for free road tax while being London Congestion Charge exempt. Around three quarters of hybrid models are expected to find homes as company cars, thanks in part to their low cost per mile. The 1.33 and 1.6-litre petrol engines summon 52.3 and 49.6mpg.
The previous Auris has proved reliable and Toyota is renowned for its focus on quality. There was, however, one major recall for the previous model, to correct an accelerator pedal which could fail to return to idle. The manufacturer currently sits third in Warranty Direct’s Reliablity Index. It is built at Toyota’s UK plant in Derbyshire and comes with a five-year and 100,000-mile warranty for additional peace of mind.
The Auris was designed to achieve a five-star score in Euro NCAP crash tests, and it duly did so, achieving an overall score of 92%. In the tests, it scored very well across the board, although it was penalised slightly because the rear driver’s door opened during the side impact test. It’s fitted with a full complement of seven airbags as standard, as well as Vehicle Stability Control and Hill-start Assist Control.
With Auris, Toyota is launching a new set of trim levels called: Active, Icon, Sport and Excel. Active has air-con, USB and Aux connections, electric door mirrors and electric front windows. Icon adds alloy wheels, DAB radio, Toyota Touch infotainment system, Bluetooth, rear-view camera, leather interior highlights and front fog lamps. Sport models get 17-inch alloys, sports front seats, sports grille and rear bumper, privacy glass and a chrome tailpipe. Excel models have velour and leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, park assist with front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto headlights and wipers and heated front seats.
The Auris now has a far sharper design inside and out and majors on easy and economical motoring. Sadly, we don’t think its current crop of engines are going to make the Auris as appealing to younger buyers as Toyota is hoping.