Toyota Auris Touring Sports review

The Toyota Auris Touring Sports is the estate version of Toyota's practical family hatchback. Like all Auris models, it's been much improved of late. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.

Ten Second Review

With their rejuvenated Auris Touring Sports model, Toyota aims to bring us a compact yet very spacious estate that's a cut or two above the class norm. This version boasts a fresh look, an upgraded interior and a much more competitive range of engines. And it's still very practical, with a decent 530-litre boot that extends to 1,658-litres with the seats folded. It's a car that's been rehabilitated.

Background

You might well think of the Toyota Auris as a rather sensible but broadly uninteresting thing. If so, you're a little behind the curve. These were sentiments reasonably applicable to the first generation version, but in 2012, Toyota brought us a MK2 design with quite a bit more attitude. Then, just to emphasise the point, they followed this up a year later by launching the estate bodystyle the original design had never offered. And not just any estate. The unconventional name - the Auris Touring Sports - was a clue that this car was trying for a younger, more fashionable audience. People who wanted more from their transport than sense and sensibility. It was a worthy effort, but one slightly hobbled by a rather dull interior and unremarkable driving dynamics. Outside if the top petrol/electric hybrid variant that few could afford, the engine range was a little behind the curve too. So Toyota has had another go. This improved Touring Sports model gets an even sharper look, but the important stuff lies inside and beneath the bonnet in a package that still manages to be one of the most practical choices in its class. Let's check it all out.

Driving Experience

It's all changed beneath the bonnet, with the main news being the introduction of two completely fresh engines, a 1.2-litre turbo petrol unit and a 1.6-litre turbodiesel. These, along with the 1.6-litre Valvematic petrol and 1.8-litre petrol/electric hybrid powerplants the brand has carried over from before, are mated to a more sophisticated double wishbone rear suspension system. Opt for the two feebler carry-over powerplants - the 1.33-litre petrol unit or the 1.4-litre D-4D diesel - and you get a simpler torsion bar suspension set-up. The 1.4-litre D4-D turbodiesel has been heavily revised to make it the cleanest diesel engine in the 90PS class but we'd focus on the two freshly introduced units. The direct injection turbocharged 1.2T petrol engine develops 115PS and a surprising amount of pulling power, something you can improve upon still further with the 111PS 1.6 turbodiesel. Both powerplants are being optionally offered with a Multidrive S automatic CVT transmission delivering two modes - fully automatic, or a sequential, stepped seven-speed Sport setting drivers can control either by the gear lever or shift paddles mounted on the steering column. On the move, existing Auris owners should notice a significantly quieter cabin - and the steering now offers more feedback, building in weight as speed rises.

Design and Build

In the reasonably unlikely event that you happen to be familiar with the way the original version of this car looked, you might notice the updates made to this version. These include a splash more chrome on the grille, plus LEDs for the headlamp clusters and daytime running lights. Otherwise, things are much as before - which means that this remains one of the better looking compact estates. Some of these look a little awkward with the kind of finished shape that brings to mind a hatchback being squired by a uPVC conservatory. There's nothing like that here. In profile, the 'Touring Sports' model shares its hatchback stabemate's steeply raked windscreen, which flows into an extended roofline with aluminium roof rails and an integral rear spoiler. Does such a fashionable approach mean that this car wants for space inside? Not really. The Touring Sports has the same 2,600mm wheelbase and 10.4m turning circle as the Auris hatch, but is 285mm longer overall - all of that extra length dedicated to the extended load space. With the rear seats in place, the load area is 1,115mm long and 1,452mm wide, giving a capacity of 530-litres. With the rear seats folded, the length increases to 2,047mm; with load space height up to 890mm, the maximum capacity is a very class-competitive 1,658-litres. As well as being more capacious than most of its rivals, the Touring Sports offers strong functionality too. There's the one-touch Easy-Flat folding rear seat system, a dual-level load space floor and a two-way tonneau cover (standard on most trim levels). At the wheel, the cabin's of much higher quality these days - much more Golf like, with smarter instruments and a slick 4.2-inch TFT colour touchscreen.

Market and Model

With this improved model, the trim structure has been refined to put a bit more emphasis on the hybrid model that sells well in Europe but less so in the UK. Perhaps that'll change now. Pricing is much as before, with this estate variant commanding a premium of around £1,000 over the hatchback version. Expect to be paying from around £16,000 for the least expensive version. Across the range, equipment levels are strong with features like automatic air conditioning, a four-speaker CD audio system with USB and AUX connection, electrically adjustable, heated, body-coloured door mirrors and electric front windows. Plus there are some interesting options like the Skyview panoramic roof. Measuring 1,553 by 960mm, it is one of the largest in its class and increases the sense of light and space in the new interior. As for safety, well all models get seven airbags, a follow-me-home lighting system, Hill-start Assist Control, Vehicle Stability Control and LED daytime running lights. Optional is Toyota's Safety Sense pack. This comprises a Pre-Collision System, a Lane Departure feature, Automatic High Beam and Road Sign Assist, functions which process information provide by a laser and camera unit mounted on the top of the windscreen.

Cost of Ownership

If the Auris Touring Sports has piqued your interest with its engineering, you're certainly going to like the news when it comes to running costs. Toyota has made a concerted effort to benchmark the best in class here and in the case of the hybrid model, it has a car that emits just 79g/km and delivers 80.7mpg on the combined cycle. Did you ever think you'd get that from green pump motoring? The 1.6-litre diesel can't match that - its figures are 68.9mpg and 104g/km. the revised 1.4-litre D-4D diesel unit can though, delivering 83.1mpg and 89g/km. If you're looking at a conventional petrol variant, then as we've been saying, the one to have is the 114bhp 1.2T Turbo unit. This delivers 52.3mpg on the combined cycle and 109g/km, though you can improve on that further by opting for Multidrive S CVT automatic transmission: do that and the figures are upgraded to 61.4mpg and 106g/km. Against these kinds of returns, the figures delivered by the older petrol engines look very unremarkable. The 1.33-litre unit manages 52.3mpg and 125g/km, while the 1.6-litre Valvematic petrol variant manages only 47.9mpg and 138g/km.

Summary

These days, Toyota works to a philosophy called 'Genchi Genbutsu' which, roughly translated from Japanese, means 'go see for yourself'. In other words, in developing its new era models, the Tokyo brand has, more than ever, taken the trouble to speak to owners in order to see how they use their cars in real life. You can see the fruit of that approach in this model. It's a design with a stronger focus on desirability and real-world utility. In short, this Touring Sports variant has something about it. Okay, so it's not going to have the enthusiast press getting all excited, but here is a car many people would be delighted to have on their drive. Nothing about it suggests you've settled for a life of suburban mediocrity. Sometimes practical is good. And sometimes Toyota Aurises are good. Welcome to a surprising new world.