A 114bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine may just have rejuvenated Toyota's Auris family hatch. The experts at Car & Driving check it out...
Ten Second Review
If you're thinking of buying a Focus-sized family hatch, then the chances are that you're not thinking of buying a Toyota Auris. If what you want is an affordable, economical, responsive petrol engine beneath the bonnet though, this Japanese contender now has a claim to make on your affections in this form of the 1.2T model we look at here.
Toyota's Auris has never quite replicated the sales success of its Corolla predecessor, even in more dynamic-looking second generation guise. The Japanese brand keeps trying though and in recent times, has substantially revised this MK2 model, adding into the range the perky little 1.2-litre petrol turbo engine we're going to look at here. Ride and handling improvements are also welcome, as are equipment upgrades and a smarter cabin. Ultimately though, what's important about this 1.2T derivative is that it now gives you a really good reason to buy an Auris that doesn't have either a diesel or a hybrid engine beneath the bonnet. Time to check it out....
The 1.2 Turbo engine on offer here may be small in capacity but it makes up for this with typical turbo torque that develops some very reasonable numbers for such a small motor. Compare it with, say, a rival 1.2 TSI Volkswagen Golf and you'll be blessed with significantly more acceleration and pulling power. Compared to other direct rivals, the Auris is very similar in terms of performance. The rest to 62mph sprint takes 10.1 en route to 124mph. One of the engineering benefits of using a small, turbocharged unit is the weight loss over the front axle. Though hardly sporty, the 1.2T Auris feels lighter at the front compared to other similarly powered models, making it a little more fun to corner in, though body roll is a little excessive to be truly fun. In revised MK2 model guise, the Auris' suspension has been revised. Lesser models get a simple torsion bar set-up, but pokier variants like this 1.2T feature a more sophisticated double wishbone system. Toyota has also reduced noise levels in the cabin and re-tuned the electric power steering to further build steering weight as vehicle speed rises, giving better feedback between 35 and 50mph.
Design and Build
Toyota really gave the Auris a bit of attitude with the Mk2 car that appeared in 2012 and this improved 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 more chrome on the grille, plus LED headlamp clusters which include LED daytime running lights. In profile the revised front and rear styling generates longer overhangs, while the rear end features a sleeker lower bumper assembly and LED rear lights. The cabin benefits from better quality materials and a lower profile dashboard, with cleaner-looking dials and a more 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 redesigned 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
If the petrol-powered Auris model you were considering is the base 99bhp 1.33 Dual VVT-i model, then you'll have to accept a bit of a price premium if you're to consider this 114bhp 1.2T variant. Whereas 1.33-model prices start at just over £15,000, 1.2T prices start at well over £18,000. Find another £1,000 and there's also the option of a 'Touring Sports' estate model. Still, equipment levels are strong and the safety side's well provided for. The Auris already has a five-star Euro NCAP safety score tucked under its wing and the latest car also benefits from an optional Toyota 'Safety Sense' pack. This comprises a Pre-Collision System, a 'Lane Departure Alter' system, 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
By using this small capacity, turbocharged engine, Toyota has made this car very competitive if specified correctly. The engine provides just enough power and torque in the right place not be slow and uses very little fuel in the process. Some rivals offer a little more power but for the price, the Auris 1.2T looks attractive. Road tax is £30 for a year thanks to the 1.2T only producing 112g/km and, with a 58.9mpg combined cycle showing, trips to the petrol station should be relatively few and far between. It's also worth pointing out that the 1.2T is also far more likely to achieve its claimed fuel figures than the lesser 1.33-litre petrol variant as its engine gives a lot of the power very low down. The feebler model has to be revved harder for the same effect, which of course is detrimental to fuel economy. Insurance should be fairly cheap too, with the grouping being 14-15 depending on trim.
Overall, the Auris 1.2T looks a very reasonable buy. You get a perky engine and a decent balance of performance economy. True, the prices being asked represent quite a jump up from those of the base 1.33-litre petrol model but compare with rivals and this Toyota's value proposition seems reasonably sound. The brand's challenge is really to get people behind the wheel of this car. If they can manage to do that, then the smarter cabin and responsive driving manners are likely to impress. You can only wonder at what might have happened if, back in 2012, the second generation Auris had been launched with this engine as part of its range repertoire. Now that Toyota dealers have it though, this car's buying proposition has been considerably improved.