Toyota invests new faith in Auris
First Drive:The arrival of a new Toyota Auris is timely for the Irish car market. As it faces the ravages of next week’s budget and the uncertainties of 2013, an updated model can be seen as something of a litmus test for Irish car-buying sentiment.
After all, if we will not buy a new Toyota hatchback, then we are unlikely to buy anything much at all.
Toyota, candidly, has admitted that it was unsatisfied with the outgoing Auris, noting particular buyer criticism of its underwhelming cabin and the fact that the hybrid version’s batteries consumed too much boot space.
That problem has been resolved, but what of the interior? Judging such things is highly subjective, but Toyota has done well here. Depending on specification, there’s a broad sweep of brushed aluminium across the dashboard; the dials are neat, attractive and clear; and the driving position and seat comfort are spot on, allowing the tall and short to get comfortable pretty quickly.
The 90bhp D4D diesel engine is about 20bhp down on most of its rivals, which you can tell as soon as you put your foot down. Performance never quite descends into being sluggish, but neither does it have the effortless punch of, say, Ford’s 1.6 TDCi. Toyota, of course, has a grunty, efficient 2.0-litre diesel already in the Avensis. What hope of its being fitted to an Auris?
The 1.4 D4D is at least sweet natured and economical. Toyota claims 3.8 litres per 100km on the combined fuel cycle (about 74mpg), and that seems plausible, as we were gettting close to 4.0 litres per 100km when driving mostly around town; carbon-dixoide emissions of 99g/km (as long as you go for the basic 15in wheels) should keep you in the lower two of the proposed four-way-split band-A tax ratings.
It settles quickly from idle into a distant thrum, fitting in with the Auris’s refined nature. Cabin noise is low, whether you’re thinking about engine, wind or road noise, and the ride, especially around town, is exceptional.
Refined and comfortable
It all adds up to make the Auris one of the most refined, comfortable cars in its class.
It is not much of a driver’s car, however. Off the back of the brilliant little GT86 coupé we had hoped some of that car’s DNA might seep through into the Auris and allow it to have a tilt at the sort of pin-sharp driver appeal displayed by the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. Alas, no.
The Auris’s verges on overlight, and it leaves you feeling distanced from the car. That is a shame, as beneath the mush the chassis feels well balanced and controlled.
Such considerations are compensated for by the facts that the cabin is spacious, bright and airy; the boot is a decent size and shape (although the bottom of the boot is made of the most unpleasantly cheap flooring material we’ve yet seen); and, of course, the famed Toyota quality seems to be present and correct.
It is also rather handsome. Possibly less so at the back, where it descends into generic hatchbackness, but up front the beaky new nose, with its scowling lights, LEDs and aggressive trapezoidal grille, is rather striking by Toyota’s standards.
Prices start at €18,995 for the 1.33-litre 99bhp petrol in Terra trim (which notably does without such items as air conditioning and Bluetooth phone). Our bells-and-whistles 1.4 D4D Luna comes in at a competitive €23,995 and includes climate control, Bluetooth, reversing camera and more.
Although Toyota has not gone the final mile in making the new Auris as appealing to keen drivers as some of its rivals, it has certainly done a great job in terms of comfort, styling and economy.
Who knows? It may even be enough to tempt reluctant car buyers out to play come January.
Hot hatch: Comfort, styling and economy
Toyota, while launching the new Auris, also took the opportunity to introduce the new Yaris hybrid to the Irish market. Toyota says that its carbon-dioxide emissions figure of 79g/km will make it the only non-wholly-electric car that will fall into the lowest of the proposed motor-tax bands. Toyota is also claiming a remarkable fuel economy of 3.5 litres per 100km for the Yaris – better than 80mpg – while its starting price of €18,950 means that it is the most affordable hybrid car yet launched here.