The Toyota Auris family hatchback keeps improving in a bid to attract your attention. Could this be Britain's most unfairly overlooked car? Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Toyota Auris has evolved into something wholly desirable. The problem is, UK buyers haven't twigged just yet. This revised version might well help the penny drop, with the brand's impressive 'Safety Sense' package now standard on nearly all models. As before, buyers also get efficient engines and the usual British-built Toyota integrity.
What do Toyota have to do to get you interested in buying an Auris? Make it better to drive? They did that in 2012, at the same time making it better looking, better value for money, better built and more efficient. That ought to have been enough to propel Toyota's Focus rival from also-ran to there or thereabouts and, objectively speaking, the Auris was an impressive all-rounder. Thing is, nobody here really took it that seriously, despite it being built right here in Britain at Toyota's award-winning Burnaston facility.
Undeterred, Toyota has set about improving the Auris still further, revealing a revised line-up that aims to ensure that slowly but surely, this car will get its due.
The key news engine-wise is that the powertrain choice has been reduced to just two units, both petrol-powered. One of them is Toyota's revvy 1.2T direct injection turbocharged unit, which develops 115PS and is available with either a six-speed manual or continuously variable auto transmission. Almost three-quarters of Auris customers though, opt for the 1.8-litre petrol/electric hybrid engine. In recent times, the driver appeal of this variant has been increased with powertrain retuning that delivers an improved, natural driving experience with no compromise in the highly efficient performance. The brand's engineers have secured a closer alignment between the increase in engine and vehicle speeds, creating a more linear acceleration feel as the driver applies the throttle.
This hybrid engine has long been one of the smoothest in its class and with the addition of the electric motor, it's also reasonably brisk. Working only via auto transmission, it'll make 62mph in 10.9 seconds on the way to 112mph. The Auris hybrid's suspension has been softened in recent times, but that's only because the chassis is reasonably stiff and the suspension components pretty light. This combination means that you'll get a decent ride, with handling that'll also probably be a little better than you'd expect. If your experience of this car is limited to the first generation pre-2012 version, you'll probably also probably notice that the steering is rather more feelsome than it used to be too.
When operating its switchable all-electric EV mode, the Auris Hybrid generates zero CO2, NOx and particulates for distances up to 1.2 miles at speeds up to about 31mph, according to the level of battery charge and driving conditions.
Design and Build
Toyota really gave the Auris a bit of attitude with the Mk2 car that appeared in 2012 and this current version builds on that by featuring the lower and broader frontal treatment now common to many of the company's latest products. There's a splash of chrome on the grille, plus LED headlamp clusters which include LED daytime running lights. In profile the front and rear styling generates pronounced overhangs, while the rear end features a sleek lower bumper assembly and LED rear lights.
The cabin benefits from high quality materials and a low profile dashboard, with clean-looking dials and a consistent use of grains, illumination and typefaces across the fascia. There's a twin-clock binnacle with a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information screen. Many details, such as the air vents, doorhandles and gear lever surround, have been designed to give a crisper, high-quality appearance. There's also a Touring Sports estate version on offer if you need a bit more hauling space.
Market and Model
Because Toyota has now dropped the previously available entry-level 'Active' trim grade, Auris pricing stats a little higher than it did before. The entry-level spec is now 'Icon', which starts from around £22,500 for the five-door hatch model. As before, there's an alternative 'Touring Sports' estate bodystyle available for an £1,100 premium. Plusher trim levels further up the range include 'Icon Tech', 'Design' and 'Excel'.
Even base 'Icon' variants are very well equipped, featuring 16-inch alloys, a reversing camera, front fog lights, power windows, six-speaker audio with DAB, automatic air conditioning and a shark fin antenna, all as standard. The Toyota Safety Sense package provides a Pre-Collision System, Automatic High Beam, Lane Departure Alert and Road Sign Assist. 'Icon Tech' models match this specification and add cruise control and Toyota Touch 2 with Go, adding navigation and connectivity functions to the multimedia system. The 'Design' grade increases the style factor with 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, black side sills, Alcantara upholstery, sports front seats and rear privacy glass, together with cruise control. It also increases the convenience factor with the addition of front and rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto-folding door mirrors, dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
Cost of Ownership
This Auris has been given a good once-over in the efficiency department in recent years. The 1.2T model benefits from fuel consumption of 60.1mpg and 109g/km CO2 emissions when fitted with a manual gearbox. Go for the Multidrive S transmission and those numbers improve to 61.4mpg and 106g/km.
As for running costs of the hybrid variant, well the CO2 emissions and fuel returns vary a little with the trim level chosen. Base versions of the hatch model return 82g/km - or a fraction more in the Touring Sports estate. Combined cycle consumption is around 80mpg. If you go for a plusher version with bigger wheels, those figures will rise slightly. Even here though, this car returns a strong showing on the balance sheet. The bottom line is that overall, even a top Auris Hybrid model will cost less for a company to offer on its fleet than a more modestly specified, mid-grade diesel Focus, Astra or Golf. For the company car driver, the personal savings are considerable too. More than £2,000 compared to a Focus with similar power output and more than £1,500 compared to a Golf over three years and 60,000 miles.
As for depreciation, well the Auris might not have been a big hit for new car buyers but it's long been a bit of a sleeper hit on the used market amongst buyers who want the reliability of a new car but not the price tag. There's no reason why this car won't be just the same, so couple strong residuals with low emissions, a reasonable asking price and insurance groupings that are a group or two below the class average and you have a strong contender.
Some cars are an instant hit, others are a bit of a slow burn and then there's the Toyota Auris. It's a car whose appeal is, to many, so hard to fathom that it never really challenges the top contenders in the sales charts. The reason? It's struggled to shake off the stigma of being a bit, well, boring. But here's the thing. This current car isn't bland at all. It's a family hatchback that's been designed with care, built with diligence and which is better looking than most rivals in its class. You just know it'll be incredibly reliable and there's no shortage of customer choice.
Toyota perhaps needs to inject a bit of attitude into the Auris range with a really potent sports model. It might not make too many sales but it'll have a real halo effect over the rest of the range. Overall, what we've learnt here is that the Auris is a good car, encumbered by an out of date reputation. It's time to leave the old attitudes behind.