22 Nov 2010 By
Toyota Auris HSD Road Test
Model/Engine size: 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid T Spirit? CVT
Fuel: Petrol-electric hybrid
Fuel economy combined: 70.6 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 9/10
The Toyota Auris HSD is an Auris with the petrol-electric hybrid powertrain from the Prius.
The Auris HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) is smaller than the Prius , and is noteworthy for being the first car in this class to get a full hybrid system, matching the 89 g/km CO2 of the Prius. A key difference is that the Auris is a normal small family hatchback – with the promise of more miles per gallon – rather than the Prius which is more of an eco-statement.
Although the Auris is smaller than the Prius, it’s no lighter . The shorter length, and in particular the shorter overhangs, improves the handling. But it also means that the Auris has less space, particularly in the boot department, which suffers further due to the battery pack (although it does have an extra, secret storage compartment underneath the boot floor).
To compensate for being smaller, the Auris is cheaper than the Prius . The Auris HSD T Spirit costs £20,882 compared to the similar-spec Prius which costs £23,398. That’s a saving of £2516 for having a smaller car.
The key thing about the Auris – or the Prius for that matter – is that it is a petrol-electric hybrid with a CVT (continuously variable transmission). Whilst this gearbox works well for Toyota’s hybrid engineers, it’s not for everyone. If you drive carefully then the system will be smooth, quiet and relaxed, and you will enjoy fuel economy that may well edge towards to the official 70.6 mpg (the identical figure to that of a Prius with alloy wheels). However, if you press on, it’s unlikely that you will get anywhere near this figure.
It’s worth noting that there are three Auris HSD models ; the entry-level model can manage 74.3 mpg and 89 g/km CO2. The other two models have 215 45 R 17 tyres and alloy wheels – these make the car look better, but result in the economy dropping to 70.6 mpg and the CO2 increasing to 93 g/km CO2 . Although this is 4 g/km higher, such CO2 levels are still excellent for this class of car.
In comparison, the one diesel engine in the Auris line-up, the 1.4 D-4D, only manages 58.9 mpg and 128 g/km CO2 – which is quite a way off the HSD.
Interestingly, the urban, extra urban and combined fuel economy figures of the Auris HSD are all identical at 70.6 mpg. Even the Prius can’t match this feat .
The driving experience of the Auris HSD is actually surprisingly pleasant. You’re greeted by a chunky steering wheel rim, which gives the expectation of a sporty drive, although the steering itself is actually light and doesn’t have a huge amount of feel.
With the Prius, you have no instruments in front of you, as they sit in the centre of the dash; although a head-up display is available showing your speed, you have to take your eyes away from the road ahead to check the main instrumentation.
The Auris has dials straight in front of you, which is a much better idea. Within the instruments you have the option to see what the powertrain is doing – ie. whether the petrol engine is working, or the battery, or both. And of course
you can monitor your miles per gallon
– very important in a car such as this. However you don’t get the large central screen that was present in the previous generation Prius – this was an excellent device to encourage improved eco-driving .
The Auris comes with a key that doesn’t need to be put in any ignition slot , and one slight grumble about the interior is that although the dashboard generally works well, with most controls within easy reach, there seems to be nowhere to put either the key, or anything else such as mobile phones. There is space under the gear selector, but it’s difficult both to access and to see this area. For coffee lovers you do get a cup holder on the right hand side of the steering wheel. We generally don’t make a big thing of complaining about lack of storage spaces, but with the Auris more storage compartments would definitely be useful.
If you need to get somewhere quickly, the CVT transmission tends to rev away without much improved forward progress. Trying to drive the car quickly also has a serious impact on fuel economy – and on the car’s theoretical range.
In fact, driving the Auris HSD in a way typical of most road users resulted in an average of 51.7 mpg . This is actually not bad when compared to other cars in this class, but obviously someway short of the official claim of 70 mpg. Driving very carefully results in higher figures, but in reality it’s actually difficult to maintain such an eco-driving style in today’s traffic.
Again, like the Prius, the Auris gives you the ability to select ‘Power’ mode . This certainly results in a noticeable improvement in responsiveness – but again the fuel economy will suffer. The Auris also has EV mode, where the vehicle can run on the battery alone, although the car will frequently inform you that this mode is not available.
The CVT gear selector has a neutral position, but it is virtually impossible to select this option; it’s much easier to just press the park button instead. In fact, unusually, the Auris HSD has both an electronic park button and a conventional handbrake.
Visually, compared to the rest of the Auris range, the HSD is attractively styled, with its minor body modifications and alloy wheels. However the wider wheels don’t seem to endow the car with any increased levels of grip; it doesn’t take much for the grip to exceed its limits if pushed hard through wet corners. Ride quality is good, and is in keeping with the refined character of the rest of the car.
With its low emissions, the Auris HSD falls into the lowest company car tax band, and is exempt from road tax. It will also be exempt from the new London Congestion Charge in January 2011.
Overall, the Toyota Auris HSD is a good car. If you drive it carefully, it is economical – and smoother and quieter than a diesel. It’s more compact than the Prius, resulting in less boot space, but sharper handling. You’ll just have to check that you can live with the CVT gearbox.
For many, as with automatic transmission, it will be the effortless option. For others, the revs climbing sky high under acceleration may become a little tedious, and a car with a more direct driving feel may be preferable.
Still, the Auris HSD gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10 ; with its clever technology, it has the ability to significantly move forward the fuel-efficiency of this class of car if driven carefully. If you like the Prius, but want a smaller version and one that doesn’t shout its eco-credentials quite as loudly, then the Auris HSD could be for you.
The view from the Energy Saving Trust
The new Toyota Auris HSD is for those drivers who want a hybrid that doesn’t
look like a hybrid. The conventional looks are likely to improve the
acceptance of hybrid technology.
The Auris paves the way for hybrid technology appearing in regular
hatchbacks and will set the bar for very low emission family cars. The
CVT gearbox is not to everyone’s taste and the high revving engine will
dent fuel consumption in the real world. However, the combined
petrol/electric drivetrain is certain to offer very competitive figures
and there is no doubt that this technology will become more and more
common in modern cars.
Energy Saving Trust
Fuel economy extra urban: 70.6 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 70.6 mpg
CO2 emissions: 93 g/km?
Green rating: VED band A – £0
Weight: 1380 Kg?
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 10%?
Price: £20,882 (From £14,906 to £20,882)?
Insurance group: 13E
Power: 98 bhp (petrol) 80 bhp (electric) system 134 bhp?
Max speed: 112 mph?
0-62 mph: 11.4 seconds