It’s surprising, but true, that despite being one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world Toyota has never managed to deliver a truly class-leading family hatchback. Toyota has made some major changes to the latest Auris which on paper look great. An Auris that is lower, lighter and with the same spirit as Toyota’s sports models sounds too good to be true. So has Toyota achieved its goals?
There are definitely steps in the right direction. The previous Auris hybrid felt like the poor relation of the hybrid range; with the system coming as an afterthought, boot space was heavily compromised due to the batteries, and the overall package felt overpriced given the lack of polish provided by the donor car.
With a blank piece of paper and the latest hybrid system, the smaller battery pack now fits under the rear seats providing the same boot space as conventional models. The exterior is also a step forward delivering a more dynamic look but it still lacks the panache of European rivals. However things begin to unravel inside with a dashboard that would have looked a bit old hat in the previous model and material quality that is an improvement but is below class standards.
On the road the Auris excels in one area – fuel economy; driven carefully it is highly efficient. However in terms of driving dynamics it still leaves us cold. The CVT gearbox plays a role here; it’s great when you’re ambling along, but pressing on it delivers plenty of unrefined engine noise whilst making spirited driving difficult. The lack of a semi-automatic option is a big omission here as it would make the system much more flexible and should be easy to integrate into the eCVT software.
The latest Auris is a step forward but unfortunately the whole market has moved forward too. As a result even at launch it remains off the class pace in too many areas. The hybrid system is very efficient which should be the Auris’s USP but it’s positioned very close to both the Prius and Lexus CT 200h, both of which do the job a little bit better.