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 cleaner styling inside and out, more 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. With a broader range, sharper styling and fresh engines being introduced, that day could be nearer than you think.
With the original version of this second generation model, Toyota already offered a wide selection of engines, including diesel, petrol and hybrid options, but things are getting a bit more interesting again with the introduction of a 1.2-litre turbo petrol unit and a 1.6-litre turbodiesel. The 1.33-litre and 1.6-litre petrol powerplants continue, as does the 1.4-litre D4-D turbodiesel, the latter being heavily revised to make it the cleanest diesel engine in the 90PS class. Revised cylinders, fuel injection, catalyst and cylinder head cover all feature, with the peak 205Nm torque figure now being reached at just 1,400rpm, where before it was 1,800rpm. The sprint to 62mph takes 12.5 seconds en route to 112mph. That's not bad for an entry-level diesel. The freshly-developed 1.2T direct injection turbocharged unit develops 115PS, while the 1.6 turbodiesel is good for 111PS. Go for that 1.2T variant and you get the option of Toyota's 'Multidrive S' CVT auto transmission. This package features various modes - fully automatic, seamless shifting or a sequential, stepped seven-speed Sport setting controlled by the gear lever or shift paddles mounted on the steering column. The Auris' suspension has been revised, with a choice of two rear ends. For the slightly faster models, there's a double wishbone system offered on the 1.2T petrol variant, plus the 1.6 D-4D diesel and the 1.8 Hybrid). Less powerful versions though, get a simpler torsion bar set-up (used on the 1.3 VVT-I petrol variant and the feebler 1.4 D-4D diesel). 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
The trim structure with this improved Auris has been refined to bring the Hybrid version more in line with the rest of the range. In Europe, the Hybrid variant accounts for fully 50% of all Auris sales, whereas here in the UK, that version's always been a bit-part player. Given the huge success of Toyota's more familiar Prius hybrid, that's always been a bit of a head scratcher. Perhaps things will change now. The Auris has always had its work cut out competing with segment rivals such as the Ford Focus, the Volkswagen Golf and the Peugeot 308, not to mention up-and-comers like the Hyundai i30. It's not let down by its safety provision, that's for sure. It 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
This Auris has been given a good once-over in the efficiency department. 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. Many drivers will be drawn to the diesel engines and the 1.4 D-4D here returns combined cycle fuel consumption of 83.1mpg, while CO2 emissions have dropped sharply from 99 to 89g/km. The 1.6 D4-D diesel replaces the old 2.0-litre diesel that was previously sold into some European markets and its CO2 emissions are markedly lower, improving to 104g/km. Combined fuel consumption is 68.9mpg, while total cost of ownership figures are further reduced by longer service intervals. 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 latest 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.