Time Well Spent: Toyota Auris Hybrid

Mike Humble:

The UK built Toyota Auris Hybrid 5 door.
The UK built Toyota Auris Hybrid 5 door.

The hybrid Auris is the second UK manufactured Toyota we have tested in the past year. AUTOBRITANNIA.NET has also tasted the sports touring version with the CVT gearbox and found it to be a decent, if not, class leading car. This 5 door hybrid is the technological flagship of the Auris range and has benefited with plenty of TV advertising in recent months. The current range has also seen a raft of design tweaks, nips and tucks and is the second generation of Auris to be assembled at the Burnaston plant in Derby.

As tested in Excel trim, the 5 door Hybrid Auris is on offer (excluding options) at £22,890 on the road though the test car came supplied with their optional “Touch and Go” navigation system and metallic paint. Styling wise, the Auris looks sleek and premium to the eye with decent panel fit and a good paint finish – everything you would expect of a Toyota in all fairness. The paintwork on both metal and plastic parts is pretty much flawless as was the quality of finish on the 17″ alloy wheels. As mentioned, the Auris has a nice pleasant premium feel about it – of which it needs to competing in the toughest sector of the market alongside Astra / Civic / Focus and so on.

Exterior-wise the car looks pretty good but on the inside its a slightly different story. The current trend of 50 shades of grey not only covers reading material. The cabin is a little gloomy with differing shades of black, grey and some token silver. The Toyota is not the only culprit though as this extends to most of the current class vehicles, it’s just that on the inside Auris lacks the same design flair they have demonstrated on the exterior. The fascia is tall, flat and very plain looking with very out of date looking eyeball air vents at either end of the panel. Fans of 1980`s Japanese mini-cabs will enjoy the digital clock that lights up at night in a bright blue glow – it’s very old fashioned indeed.

Its a real shame the interior isn't as smart and sharp as the outside. One or two ergonomic items could be better and the dash assembly is slab-like and boring. Digital clock is woefully old fashioned but the comfort levels and general refinement are very good.
Its a real shame the interior isn’t as smart and sharp as the outside. One or two ergonomic items could be better like the awkward, non illuminated cruise control switch and the dash assembly is slab-like and boring. Digital clock is woefully old fashioned but the comfort levels and general refinement are very good.

Ergonomically speaking, we found the climate controls a fair old stretch away and the rotary knobs a little loose in feel but this was the only real quality related gripe we could find. Other fixtures and fittings such as buttons and switches are well placed, well illuminated and feel substantial enough to go the distance. There is a distinct feeling with the Auris that it’s more like a Japanese car assembled in the UK rather than some of its rivals like the Civic or Qashqai. It’s quite difficult to explain but it can be felt in the textures of the plastics and the general way the interior is presented – other Asian owned UK manufacturers have a better grip on making the cars feel a bit more European… if this makes sense?

But it’s very well equipped and the car comes with dual zone climate, cruise, park assist, part leather trim. rear privacy glass, power folding mirrors and a very comprehensive trip computer. In true hybrid style, the transmission is via an electric CVT motor gearbox and a 1.8 VVT-i petrol engine. Regenerative braking comes into effect when coasting or braking which supplies charge back into the battery pack. There is a “B-Mode” operation which increases re-gen, this cancels out the cruise control function but is a true double productive use of kinetic energy when coasting down long banks or hills. Main dials consist of a speedo, a power dial (as opposed to a rev counter)fuel gauge and central consumption meter / computer.

A comprehensive display reads energy consumption and shows regenerative braking status. Its all very easy to read and use.
A comprehensive display reads energy consumption and shows regenerative braking status. Its all very easy to read and use.

Out on the road especially around town, the Hybrid is a jolly nice car to pootle around in. It will run for almost 2 miles on pure electric (EV mode) the ride is well damped and the refinement is pretty good. Sharp brakes and keen handling keep the sporty driver entertained while spirited performance can get you out of trouble with a prod on the loud pedal – but it does get a little loud from time to time. The nature of CVT transmissions mean the revs soar with speed following behind, if you really spank the Auris the side effect is a little more engine noise than you would like. Motorway refinement brings no complaints, just meander up to your desired speed, set the cruise control and the Auris just runs and runs.

The front seats offer all the comfort and support required, they’re heated too but don’t select the highest heat setting – No1 is just fine… trust me on this. In fact there is nothing whatsoever to point and shout at so far as comfort matters, the Auris is a very comfortable car for both driver and passenger. So long as you are cruising along, everything is calm and serene, there’s not even so much as a squeak or rattle from any of the internal fixtures. Spirited driving brings no trauma from the handling and the extra weight of the battery pack and electric motor unit makes the car feel planted and secure on the road. Only the electric power steering with its over-lightness and lifeless feedback through the rim blots the handling copybook.

The boot space is very good. Even with the seats up there is 360 litres of space - more than the Golf or the Focus and more than enough for a load of fresh Christmas Turkeys!
The boot space is very good. Even with the seats up there is 360 litres of space – more than the Golf or the Focus and more than enough for a load of fresh Christmas Turkeys!

Again, no problems with the brakes in normal or heavy driving. The traction motor re-gen takes some braking load off the pads and discs so owners should see more life from the anchors as the miles pass by. Talking of servicing, the Auris is scheduled for annual or 10,000 mile service intervals which is a bit mean in the current world. However… the cracking warranty that covers the hybrid components for an impressive eight years and the remainder of the vehicle for five shows the confidence of the manufacturer. You should expect little fuss from the dealer network too, my own experience has told me they are decent fair dealing folk with maximum attention to customer care – something that other volume makers could learn a great deal from.

Power comes from the Toyota Synergy Drive System that uses a 1.8 petrol and electric CVT motor using a NM/H battery pack. Servicing intervals could be longer that 10.000 miles but being a Toyota... its bound to be utterly reliable.
Power comes from the Toyota Synergy Drive System that uses a 1.8 petrol and electric CVT motor using a NM/H battery pack. Servicing intervals could be longer than the required 10.000 miles but being a Toyota… its bound to be utterly reliable.

All in all, the Auris Hybrid makes a good case for itself if you find yourself driving around locally or in City traffic. The stop-start and EV mode both work flawlessly with only minimal sensation when the engine takes over, as mentioned, cruising refinement and comfort is really very good indeed but the nature of the CVT transmission makes the car feel hurried and pushed when some extra go is required. Plenty of room for people and clutter, decent build quality and useable tangible technology go in its favour but that drab and boring dashboard area is at odds with its snappy modern looking exterior. Does it stand out from the crowd leaders like Focus or Golf? Not really, but it’s a Toyota that you just know will keep on running and keep its owner happy.

AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING: 7/10

THE HUMBLE OPINION:

The Toyota Auris Hybrid once again shows how fast the march of technology has moved on in recent years. Nothing about it is hard to understand or operate in the real world. For those who pound the miles on the black top may struggle to reach the car’s potential, but drivers who operate a blend of urban and distance motoring will find the Auris very economical and soothing to drive. Plenty of room, equipment and cargo space score in its favour, as does the peaceful motorway refinement and decent overall feeling of quality.

Despite the smart looks, it’s just too plain inside to get exited about. The facia is particularly slab looking and at odds with the pleasant exterior. Current Toyota customers will love it to bits – it is a very nice car to drive and ownership is bound to be hassle free, it’s just lacking that certain pzazz this sector of the market needs to really stand out though it is very reasonably priced. Sort out that boring interior and I think Toyota could have a real winner on its hands.

MODEL TESTED: Toyota Auris Hybrid Excel

PRODUCED BY: Toyota Manufacturing G.B Burnaston Derbyshire

PRICE AS TESTED: £24.035.00

EQUIPMENT HIGHLIGHTS: EV pure electric mode – All round power windows – Electric folding mirrors – Alloy wheels – Front fog lamps – Part leather trim – Dual zone climate control – Cruise control – Parking assist – Auto wipers and lights – Eco drive monitor – Key-less entry.

Driveline: Hybrid synergy drive 1.8 petrol & electric
Power: Engine – 98bhp. Motor – 80bhp. Max Combined – 134bhp
Transmission: Electric CVT
Brakes: All round discs with regenerative braking. Lever park brake
Suspension: Front struts / Rear double wishbone
Luggage Capacity: 360 Litres up to 1200 litres
Emissions: 91G/Km
Fuel Consumption: 72.4mpg* (54.6mpg on test)
VED Band / Benefit in Kind: Band A & 10% BIK
Performance: 0-60 in 10.9 seconds* / Max speed 112mph*

Warranty: 5 years with 12 years on corrosion & 8years on hybrid components

*Manufacturer claimed figures

THE HIGHS: Smart looking – Well made – Cruising refinement – Well equipped – Agreeable pricing – Easy to drive – Superb front seat comfort over distances – Impressive simple to use technology – Huge boot space – Tidy handling – Bound to be reliable with good resale value – Good warranty and manufacturer back-up.

THE LOWS: Plain and dowdy interior – Ugly facia – Too keen to rev and gets noisy when a little extra go is required – Stingy service intervals – Poorly positioned cruise control switchgear – Brand image is a bit pedestrian – Lacks desire and aspiration to threaten the established rivals.

For more information on the Auris Hybrid CLICK HERE


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