Toyota Auris Hybrid first drive

Toyota Auris

Toyota AurisFrom September deliveries of the revised Toyota Auris range of C-segment five door Hatchbacks and Touring Sports estates began to UK customers

with prices for the Hatchbacks starting from £15,245 and Touring Sports from £16,345.

The Auris range for European markets is built in the UK by Toyota Manufacturing at its Burnaston plant near Derby and all models now carrying Toyota’s latest five years/100,000-mile warranty.

The Auris is Toyota’s second largest selling model range in the UK after the smaller Yaris supermini sized models. A total of 146,811 Auris vehicles have been sold here since it was launched in 2010 with Hybrid versions regularly accounting for 56% of annual sales. The Hatchback body shape is chosen by 72% of UK customers and 53% of sales for all versions go to fleet customers. I counted 72 different variants in the latest Auris Hatchback and Touring Sports UK range and all but two variants are VED road tax free for the First Year rate because of their low CO2 emission engine choices.

Almost uniquely in the non-premium brand sector the Auris range offers a choice of petrol, diesel and petrol/hybrid powertrains and the 1.8 VVT-i petrol/hybrid option is available on all levels of specification. Both body styles are available with Active, Icon, Design, Business Edition and Excel. Design and Business Edition are new additions to the line-up to extend the appeal to more retail and business customers.

In addition the range has been extended with TTS – Toyota Safety Sense versions with additional driving aids to help prevent or mitigate collisions. These include a pre-collision system, lane departure warning, automatic high beam headlights and road sign assistance. The TTS option is available on all spec levels except the base Active level and on all engine options except the small selling 1.33 VVT-i petrol unit. This engine is only available with the Active spec level for the Hatchback and not Touring Sports.

The engine options are now all EU6 compliant and consist of the 1.33-litre, 99hp petrol and the new addition 1.22T VVT-i turbo 116hp direct injection petrol unit which will become the second most popular choice. There is also an upgraded 1.4-litre D-4D 90hp turbodiesel for Business Edition versions and a new 1.6-litre D-4D 112hp turbodiesel unit sourced from BMW Group but fine-tuned by Toyota for their use. This engine replaces the previous 2.0-litre turbodiesel. The most popular single drivetrain is the Hybrid Synergy Drive which combines a 1.8-litre VVT-i petrol engine and electric motor to generate 136hp. This petrol/hybrid combination produces CO2 emissions as low as 79g/km and up to 80.7mpg depending on the body style and specification. Top speed is 112mnph and zero to 62mph takes 10.9-seconds.

Toyota AurisToyota AurisToyota AurisToyota AurisI have just had a ‘living-with’ driving spell in the latest Toyota Auris Hybrid TSS five door Hatchback with the 1.8-litre petrol plus electric motor drivetrain and CVT variable ratio auto gearbox. It is the same as used in Toyota’s quirky but iconic Prius Hybrid. This version is priced at £21,545 which is £1,200 more than the new 1.6-litre D-4D turbodiesel version. But the diesel is only available with a manual transmission and is £400 more than the new 1.2-litre petrol automatic. These are the only powertrain options available with the best selling Icon spec level and all are VED road tax free for the First Year and the petrol and diesel engines then have VED at £20 for Year Two onwards whilst the Hybrid remains free of charge. The Hybrid is also exempt from the London Congestion Charge. The petrol unit with the auto gearbox officially returns 61.4mpg in the Combined Cycle, the 1.6 diesel 67.3mpg and the 1.8 Hybrid 78.5mpg. When it comes to company car drivers and their Benefit-in-Kind tax costs the 1.2 petrol with 106g/km of CO2 is rated at 16%, the 1.6 diesel with 108g/km is 19% and the 1.8 Hybrid with 82g/km is 13%. All comparisons are with Icon specification.

For many would-be Auris customers which model to choose will be a puzzle but generally it will depend on budget, annual mileage or environmental concerns. High mileage company car drivers will go for the diesel models with the new 1.6 D-4D being the more popular choice over the 1.4 D-4D option. Those users that travel shorter distances with more commuting mileage and those that live in, or travel in and out of London, will go for the Hybrid. The new 1.2 turbocharged petrol engine is said by my media colleagues who have driven it, to offer the best combination in terms of engine refinement, performance and running costs.

Scratching my head for an answer on who really buys what; it was timely that a friend of my wife and her husband has just changed their Auris diesel for a Hybrid. Their decision-making was based on the recent publicised issues about diesel engine NOx and particulate emissions. They thought the Hybrid was a better and ‘greener’ choice as they are not high mileage motorists and don’t travel in London to gain benefit for the free of Congestion Charge costs. So far they are pleased with their choice and judging by the 56% take-up of the Hybrid models over petrol and diesel options by UK customers, that would appear to be the way it will continue for retail customers but all company car users will appreciate the lower Benefit-in-Kind tax cost.

In real-life use I found the 1.8-litre petrol Hybrid made most sense for shorter commuting trips and especially in town where using just the electric motor saved fuel even though it only provides a few miles of low speed travel. In urban driving conditions the CVT transmission coped well and travel was free of noise, but watch out for pedestrians who do not hear the Hybrid in electric mode. That type of driving returned 61.4mpg and longer runs in ECO mode using motorway cruising speeds together with stop-start town driving returned 56.7mpg. That was still good for a petrol unit but way below the official Combined Cycle figure of 78.5mpg.

Used on higher speed roads the Auris Hybrid was less enjoyable than commuter or country road driving. It needed to be pushed along to maintain speeds, it slowed noticeably going up slight hills and when accelerating to overtake slower traffic the CVT transmission got the engine revs rising sharply. The whole experience became noisy, not very responsive and tiresome. The CVT transmission appears to sap the engine’s power and torque and so overtaking slower traffic needs to be done with care. Top speed is 112mph and zero to 62mph takes 10.9-sreconds – but it felt more sluggish than that.

Long motorway trips are hard work both for the Hybrid unit and the driver. Probably the new 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine now offers the best combination of performance, usability and low running costs and it is cheaper to buy.

As for other changes to the latest Auris models? Outside there are restyled front and rear bumpers, new front grille flanked by sleek new headlights and LED daytime running lights. Icon spec includes 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and a roof spoiler. The interior has also been upgraded in quality and more use is made of soft-touch plastic trim but it remains rather drab although the new 7.0-inch Toyota Touch and Go navigation screen brightens the fascia layout. The Icon specification is good value and includes automatic air conditioning, power windows, leather trimmed gear knob and steering wheel DAB radio, Bluetooth, rear view camera and reclining and folding rear seats. The rear seat legroom remains tight in this class against the likes of the Ford Focus and VW Golf but there is a useful 435-litre boot which extends up to 1,199-litres with the rear seats folded down.

Changes have also been made to the suspension settings so it is more compliant resulting in better ride comfort. The steering feels better weighted and improves cornering feel and feedback.

Overall the latest Auris has been improved in most areas and so remains a reliable and painless choice. The main decision to be made is what powertrain option to choose. Each has its merits and perhaps the more expensive to buy Hybrid is no longer the most obvious choice now that we have new generation cleaner and more fuel efficient petrol and diesel engines in the line-up.

MILESTONES: Revised Toyota Auris Hybrid Icon, TSS, CVT auto, Touch and Go, 5-door. Price: As tested £23,890 (£21,545 without options). Powertrain: 1.8-litre 4-cylindr petrol engine plus electric motor with a total of 136hp, CVT variable ratio auto transmission. Performance: 112mph, 0-62mph 10.9-seconds, Combined Cycle 78.5mpg (56.7mpg on test), CO2 84g/km, VED road tax £0, BIK company car tax 13%. Insurance group: 12E. Warranty: 5-years/100,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,330mm, W 1,760mm, H 1,475mm, boot/load space 435 to 1,199-litres. For: Wide choice of models, Hybrid offers low running costs, minimum cost in taxes, no London Congestion Charge, higher equipment levels for all models, Hybrid has no driving range anxiety as with pure electric cars, additional TSS Safety Sense models, improved ride comfort and sharper steering, long warranty. Against: Hybrid drivetrain is more suited for short journeys and city driving, engine noise is very vocal under open road acceleration conditions, limited rear passenger legroom, lacks the latest electric plug-in hybrid facility to improve the electric power only driving range and to boost open road acceleration performance, fell well short of the official mpg figures. Miles Better News Agency

Written by