The Toyota Auris Touring Sports is the first hybrid estate car, combining good levels of space and 70.6mpg economy – so are there any downsides?
Toyota stuck its neck out with the Prius hybrid. Lots of other manufacturers said it would never work, yet the Prius has been a runaway sales success around the world – and virtually all other manufacturers are now bringing hybrids to market. So is Toyota’s latest hybrid offering – an estate – a compelling sales proposition?
Under the skin, the Auris shares a similar hybrid powertrain to the Prius. This means a 1.8-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, which is powered by a nickel metal-hydride high voltage battery (located under the rear seats, so it doesn’t impact on boot space). When the car brakes, energy is captured by the battery, which can then be used to power the electric motor, providing zero emission driving for short distances at low speeds.
On the outside, the Auris Touring Sports is good-looking – more so than the hatchback. It looks long, low, sleek and modern – in fact its appearance could almost justify the name ‘Sports’ (even if the driving experience doesn’t – but more of that later).
The interior doesn’t quite live up to the exterior styling – the dashboard doesn’t exhibit much design flair. However there’s a decent amount of space for drivers and passengers, and the boot is a very good size for this class of car (530 litres, increasing to 1,658 litres with the rear seats folded).
The Auris driving experience feels efficient. The car feels light and the powertrain is quiet, giving the impression that little mechanical activity is going on, and so minimal emissions should be produced. The Auris also has a good ride, so overall it’s a refined, comfortable vehicle.
If you’re looking for a car that will deliver impressive economy if you drive it slowly, then you’ll get on well with the Auris. If you ever need to flatten the accelerator pedal to overtake a slow vehicle on a country road, with the expectation of an instant response, then the Auris – or any Toyota hybrid for that matter – will probably drive you mad. This is largely due to the CVT transmission – the system that makes the hybrid powertrain work so efficiently under gentle driving – but which also means that under hard acceleration the engine revs away to its maximum, with the associated noise, but with no corresponding increase in speed.
You’ll also find that your economy falls off a cliff under such driving. Perhaps not surprisingly, Toyota doesn’t provide you with a rev counter, as you’ll probably be scared to see the revs under acceleration, instead you get a dial showing if you’re in the zones of ‘charge’, ‘eco’ or ‘power’.
There are three driving modes – EV, Eco and Power. You can try and select EV mode but very often there won’t be sufficient charge in the battery to allow zero emission travel, as the battery actually doesn’t have a huge capacity. During driving, you’ll see the EV symbol lighting up on the dashboard on a regular basis, adding to the feeling that the car is super-efficient, but sometimes the battery capacity can’t even provide the required levels of support when at a standstill, and you can find yourself at traffic lights with the petrol engine running – a very un-hybrid like state of affairs.
The Auris’ gear selector is a short, stubby lever which needs to be moved into D to enable the car to move off. You need to exert a reasonable pressure on the footbrake to enable this to happen, and there are times when the pressure is not sufficient and you end up going nowhere – usually when you’re in a rush to move into a gap in traffic. There’s a useful electronic Park button next to the gear lever – you can just push this when you stop and the transmission automatically shifts out of drive.
The Toyota Auris Touring Sports is the leader in its class in terms of economy and emissions. Our test car (in Excel spec) has an official combined economy figure of 70.6mpg (with urban and extra-urban economy figures of 72.4mpg – no-one seems to understand why both these figures are higher than the combined figure), along with emissions of 92g/km CO2. This is impressive, however you can actually buy an Auris Touring Sports capable of 76.3mpg and 85g/km CO2 in lower-spec trim. Both models mean a very attractive benefit in kind tax rate of just 10% for company car drivers.
So how did it manage in real-life driving conditions? Over a week of mixed driving, we averaged 55mpg. This is around 15mpg short of the official combined figure, but is actually very similar to the results that we have achieved with other Toyota hybrids. The best we achieved was 57mpg, and the worst we achieved was 45mpg.
The Toyota Auris Touring Sports Excel Hybrid 1.8 CVT T&G (yes, that’s somewhat of a mouthful…) costs £22,845. Our test car had the options of Touch and Go (T&G) navigation (£650) and metallic paint (£495), taking the total cost to £23,990.
You can also buy an Auris Touring Sports with petrol or diesel engines. Both the Auris and the Auris Touring Sports are available in Active, Icon, Sport and Excel trims.
The Auris Touring Sports is built at Toyota’s factory near Derby in the UK.
The Toyota Auris Touring Sports is an efficient, practical package for people who aren’t looking for a driver’s car. The CVT transmission, along with the car’s light steering, makes the car easy to drive. But it’s the same engineering that rules out the Auris Hybrid for anyone who wants a car with sharp, rewarding responses.
It’s a similar story of two halves in terms of the Auris Hybrid’s suitability for your driving patterns. If you do a lot of driving that involves stopping and starting, then the hybrid system is ideal for delivering good economy and low emissions. If you spend lots of time on motorways then the Auris can provide a comfortable and still a reasonably efficient solution, but you won’t be making the most of the hybrid system, so why put up with its downsides?
So, for offering the only hybrid estate car choice, and for providing a generally well-rounded, refined, efficient and spacious package, the Toyota Auris Touring Sports is awarded a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10.