The new Toyota Auris is here and it still offers the only full hybrid option in the small family hatchback class, delivering 74.3mpg and emissions of just 87g/km CO2.
The new Auris descends from a long line of compact Toyotas, which includes many generations of Corollas (39 million Corollas have been sold to date). Toyota delivered 1.2 million hybrids worldwide in 2012, helping the company to be on course to sell 5 million hybrids at some point during 2013. The new Auris, including the hybrid model, is built in the UK.
The styling of the previous generation Toyota Auris was such that it looked tall and short. The new model is 55mm lower, with a 10mm reduction in ride height, so transforming the car from one of the tallest to one of the lowest in its class. The new design aims to create a lower, more sporty image, and it’s the first application of the new ‘face’ of Toyota. Whereas the front of the last Auris was quite rounded, the new model has a more purposeful, angular look. The new design also contributes to a reduced frontal area, resulting in less drag. It’s not only the exterior of the body that contributes to improved aerodynamics; Toyota has paid attention to the underside of the floorpan, which has ‘wings’, first introduced on the GT86, that improve directional stability at speed. The new Auris looks sportier than the last model, but elements of the side profile seem to be becoming quite familiar in the family hatchback class.
The new model is also lighter, by an average of 50kg, but this figure is 70kg in the case of the hybrid model. There’s also new packaging for the hybrid version; the battery is now under the rear seat. This allows the boot to enjoy the same 30% increase in capacity as the rest of the Auris range.
The interior also has an all-new design, which is more conventional than the Prius, and thankfully the Auris has dials in front of the driver rather than in the centre of the dash. While it’s not the most groundbreaking or creative of interior designs, there is some flair to it, along with some new, softer materials. The Hybrid has a slightly different interior to the rest of the range, including a CVT gear lever and buttons for three driving modes: EV, Eco and Power.
In terms of powertrain, the Auris hybrid has a very similar system to that in the Prius, comprised of a 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor. In theory it can be driven for just over a mile in electric-only mode at speeds of up to 30mph.
Akio Toyoda , President and CEO of Toyota, wants the brand’s cars to be “more engaging to drive and more rewarding to own”. We’d agree that the Toyota GT86 certainly achieves this, but, lower centre of gravity and reduced weight aside, it’s difficult to claim that the Auris shares the same genes. Toyota says that the steering has been improved, but it still feels light. The performance of the 1.6-litre petrol model – the most powerful of the two available petrol engines, which we also tested – isn’t going to set the world alight. The hybrid version, with the 1.8-litre engine from the Prius combined with its electric motor, feels more powerful than the 1.6 petrol, even though the official figures show that there’s not much difference between the two, and the hybrid is heavier by around 100kg. However the hybrid powertrain features Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which is the most efficient solution for Toyota’s system; although it works adequately under normal circumstances, it results in high revs and lots of noise if you need to accelerate vigorously.
Overall the Auris feels light, which may be good from an efficiency point of view, but it doesn’t feel as sturdy, planted and refined as rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf.
The Auris hybrid model emits just 87g/km CO2, equating to 74.3mpg, according to official figures. This is impressive for a family hatchback – especially one with a power output of 134hp. However you should be aware that these figures are for models with 15-inch wheels; for 17-inch wheels the economy falls to 72.4mpg, with higher emissions of 91g/km CO2 (still good figures).
The 1.4-litre diesel has the same economy of 74.3mpg, but a higher CO2 output of 99g/km. This is a substantial improvement of 15.4mpg, or 29g/km CO2, over the previous-generation diesel; a new Stop & Start system is a key reason for this. The 1.3-litre petrol, which has a Stop & Start system, emits 125g/km CO2, and the 1.6 petrol, which doesn’t have a Stop & Start system, emits 134g/km.
At launch the Auris is available with two petrol engines, a 1.3-litre and a 1.6-litre; a 1.4-litre diesel; and the hybrid. Toyota predicts that the sales mix will be around one-third petrol, one-third hybrid, and one-third diesel.
The new Auris comes with a new grade-naming structure, starting with ‘Active’ as the base trim, then ‘Icon’, which is expected to be the best-selling spec, followed by ‘Sport’, which is more about sporty design rather than any performance enhancements, with ‘Excel’, having a comfort and technology focus, being the top of the range.
Prices start from £14,495 and rise to £21,745 for the 1.8-litre Excel hybrid (which is £615 less than the outgoing equivalent hybrid model). The ‘Icon’ trim, which is expected to account for 50% of all sales, starts at £17,145. The hybrid is only available in Icon and Excel trim.
Toyota offers affordable monthly payments for the Auris from £189. The hybrid model, which is expected to enjoy 75% fleet sales, has an attractive benefit in kind rating for company car drivers of just 10%. Overall, the Auris is likely to have some of the lowest running costs in its class.
Key improvements for the new Auris are that it looks sleeker than the previous model, and it has a lower centre of gravity, which does result in it being better to drive. There’s a choice of petrol, diesel or hybrid powertrains, and there are four trim levels. So there should be something for everyone. The diesel is likely to provide the best economy on long runs, but the hybrid will be the cleanest when driving in cities such as London, and it offers low company car tax rates along with the promise of low running costs.
It all sounds good, but you have to factor in the Auris’s rivals – which, unfortunately for the Auris, are all very good – most notably the Volkswagen Golf. The Auris offers an ‘expected’ Toyota hybrid driving experience, which is quite different to the more ‘premium’ driving experience of a Volkswagen Golf. If you like the Toyota hybrid driving experience – which around 5 million people seemingly do – then you’ll probably like the new Auris. If you like the driving experience of a Golf then you’re unlikely to be swayed by the various good points of the new Toyota. For offering low emissions, but not quite offering the premium feel of the class-leaders, the Auris Hybrid gets a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.