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Click to view picture gallery“Toyota’s new Auris
  takes over from the
  world’s best-selling car
  — the Toyota Corolla.
  Offering value for
 
money, it’s an environ-
  mentally-friendly family
  hatchback and ticks
  all the right, politically-
  correct motoring
  boxes. But is that
  enough?”


AFTER LAST WEEK'S CYNICAL TAX GATHERING BUDGET, yet again hitting UK motorists — surprise, surprise! — Chancellor Gordon Brown has even managed to squeeze a few extra quid out of the new Toyota Auris. Even though the new Auris is pretty environmentally friendly, in petrol form it will bring an extra 15 — and in diesel 5 — into the Bank of Brown in terms of money-grabbing CO2 charges.

You may remember that a few weeks ago Brown was on his pre-Prime Minister election publicity drive at Toyota's UK production plant, seeing the first British-built Auris models off the line in time for their public
on-sale date. Five-door versions of Auris, around two-thirds of all pro-duction, are built at Toyota Manufacturing UK's factory at Burnaston, Derbyshire, alongside the Avensis range. Three-door variants are built at the Toyota Manufacturing plant in Turkey, which also builds the Verso models.

In theory the Auris (pronounced ow-ris) — the replacement model for the world's best-selling car, the Toyota Corolla — ticks all the right boxes for the politically correct. In Government-speak it meets the targets for users and environmentally-friendly motoring: it creates jobs for Britain; it is fuel efficient; Euro NCAP five-star safe; and it will not offend anyone nor make anyone envious.

Put even more plainly, although it does the job efficiently, is well made, drives pretty well and is a sound package overall; it is not very inspir-ing. Some motorists are still independent thinkers and, quite rightly,
like to decide for themselves what car they want to drive rather than having a 'buy a politically correct car' policy thrust at them via the taxation channels.

Those who loved the Corolla will love the Auris. It is a functional three- or five-door hatchback with two petrol and three diesel engine options — and being a Toyota you just know it will be totally reliable and go on forever.

With prices starting at 11,995 for the cheapest three-door model
and 12,495 for the least expensive five-door version, there is an
Auris model for everyone that will not break the bank.

There are four model grades to choose from, plus an extra value TR version with the option of 1.6 petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines in three or five door body styles. TR prices start at 12,495.

Toyota GB executives, speaking recently at the international media launch of the Auris range, said they aimed to build on the retail strength of the previous Corolla models. However, the new Auris does give them an opportunity to enter the fleet and business user-chooser sectors. Fleet sales are expected to increase from around 20 per cent with Corolla to 35 per cent of total Auris sales.

As the newcomer will remain predominately a retail car, 57 per cent
of customers will choose the new 1.6 VVT-I twin-variable timing petrol engine whilst 17 per cent of customers will choose the 2.0-litre D4-D 130 diesel unit. Overall, 68 per cent of customers will buy petrol models. Around 19 per cent of customers are likely to choose the MultiMode semi-auto transmission.

The new Auris is roomier that the outgoing Corolla, so in this area Toyota's policy of 'design from the inside out' has worked. The safety aspects are first-rate and the space between the front and rear seats is really the best in its class. The rear seats will accommodate three adults, so it is ideal for down-sizers. As always, the five-door body is much more useful and practical in real life conditions than the three-door hatch.

The Auris's shape is classic C-segment hatchback and Focus, Astra
or Golf in size. With its prominent pedestrian-friendly soft nose at the front and bulbous rounded rear end, the Auris's pronounced body curves give it a decidedly rounded shape. The large rear end maximises interior passenger space as well as providing a roomy boot, although the intruding wheel arches limit the overall width of the boot.

The unusual 'flying buttress' style centre consol is an acquired taste.
It is distinctive, even unusual, but it steals stowage space and places to store items are noticeably minimal. The facia design follows the sweeping curved and rounded style used in the Yaris. The design is fine; it is just that the finish is in rigid plastic, which can feel cheap and unwelcoming. Some of the controls and switchgear also feel rather downmarket.

The front seat squabs are small and offer little support, but having a higher seating position with MPV type headroom does make for excellent exterior visibility. The T Spirit specification is comprehensive and includes almost everything you really need, including front and rear power windows, radio-CD with MP3 player and six speakers, lockable 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, cruise control, rain-sensing lights and electrochromatic rearview mirror. The big omission is vehicle stability assist and traction control, for which you have to pay an extra 350 but which, I would say, is a 'must'.

As for driveability, it is good. But is it good enough? The Auris does most things acceptably well, although it's not class leading. During the initial media first drive event in Spain, I found the 1.6-litre VVT engine to be very quiet at tickover — so much so that you could forget the car was running — and it revved very freely when under way.

This unit delivers 108lb ft of torque at 5,200rpm, making it very flexible and able to run at low speed in high gears. However, for acceleration
in the mid-range the 122bhp output leaves the Auris wanting if you try to pass slow moving traffic. For the record, the 1.6-litre VVT petrol unit returned 39.8mpg. The trigger-type handbrake is poorly designed but the five-speed gearbox on this model is slick and the close-to-hand facia-mounted gear lever is nice and precise to use — if positioned a little too high.

Back in the UK, I have just finished a spell with the model that is most likely to appeal to high-mileage and company car users — the Auris 2.0-litre D-4D turbodiesel model with T Spirit specification that costs 16,495 on-the-road. With emissions at just 151g/km it falls into the Band D for vehicle excise duty: currently 140 per annum.

Power output from this multi-valve unit is 124bhp with maximum torque of 221lb ft available between 2,000 and 2,800rpm — which makes
this model, which comes with a smooth six-speed transmission, very responsive and flexible to drive. Despite the high torque output and because Toyota adopt high final drive gearing for most of their models, it does require constant gear changes between fourth and sixth on anything but open roads or motorways. That said, the big advantage with this gearing is fuel economy — the 52.3mpg combined cycle consumption figure was spot-on during my week of UK driving. As usual, this Toyota diesel engine was smooth and quiet.

The Auris's roadholding is reasonable but, in my opinion, it cannot match the Focus or Golf. The new electronic power steering is well weighted and gives good feedback to the driver.

Some will, I am sure, find the Auris dull and uninspiring. Well, you can't please everybody all of the time. But others — in particular all those who appreciated the Corolla — will equally favour the Auris for its owner-friendly core qualities: well made, excellent levels of interior space, solid, reliable, well equipped, good value for money and with high levels of safety. Just about everything real customers want, in fact. And making the new Auris an above-average car that the Chancellor himself can happily recommend for Mr and Mrs Average. — David Miles

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Toyota Auris 2.0 D-4D 130 T Spirit | 16,495
Maximum speed: 121mph | 0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 52.3mpg | Power: 124bhp | Torque: 221lb ft

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