| First Drive | Barcelona, Spain | Toyota Auris |
Promising a more interesting drive, bringing sharper looks and a generous standard equipment list, the 2010 Toyota Auris is undoubtedly improved over its predecessor. However, with the competition tougher than ever in the hatchback market the Auris isn't likely to make a huge impact - at least until the hybrid arrives.
In the Metal
The Auris follows the makeover list to the letter, with new headlamps, an Avensis
-like front grille, some chrome trim on the boot, revised rear lights, bigger air intakes and some odd-looking recessed reflectors on the lower portion of the rear bumper. The overall effect is enough to make it look fresh, the changes reducing the rather bulky look of its predecessor
Inside it's a case of more subtle improvements. The centre console is less intrusive, the handbrake easier to operate and the instruments are now backlit in orange. The top of the dashboard and glovebox cover now feature soft-touch materials and there are aux-in and USB sockets in the glovebox for MP3 player connection.
What you get for your Money
There's more equipment as standard in the revised Auris. The entry-level models get air conditioning while TR and above get dual-zone automatic climate control, all-round electric windows, an MP3-compatible stereo and a trip computer. The engine range is cut back to three choices - 1.33- and 1.6-litre petrol units with 100- and 130bhp respectively, and a 1.4-litre turbodiesel with 89bhp. There's nothing bigger or more powerful, as from July Toyota will offer a 136bhp petrol-electric hybrid model that promises sub-99g/km.
Like-for-like the Auris makes a cost case for itself against mainstream rivals, but line it up against Kia's cee'd
or Hyundai's i30
and it looks less appealing for those after simple, inexpensive and fuss-free transport.
The Auris has never delivered the sort of driver appeal its European rivals dish up and despite Toyota's goal of improving the driving experience it remains some way off the likes of the benchmark VW Golf and Ford Focus. That's not to say it's a bad car; it's just unremarkable. Turn the steering wheel and it goes around corners, though there's no real feedback or incentive from the chassis to do so with any enthusiasm. On the plus side, the revised damper settings have improved the ride comfort, while the refreshed engines are reasonably hushed.
Those engines all need working pretty hard to produce anything resembling performance. The 1.6-litre petrol unit feels the quickest and its ten-second 0-62mph time highlights this, but the 1.33-litre is the more enjoyable, smoother engine of the petrol duo. The turbodiesel lacks that diesel low-range urgency, the 151lb.ft of torque it delivers not obvious at low engine speeds. That means bigger revs, which is sure to dent the official 60.1mpg combined consumption.
Other markets get bigger capacity engines, though these won't be available in Britain. Instead, Toyota UK is gambling on the HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) petrol-electric hybrid model filling the void, its 136bhp and sub-99g/km CO2
rating making it a sensible choice for company car drivers and London commuters alike - it being Congestion Charge free. Until it arrives in July the Auris range looks incomplete - the hybrid is anticipated to take around 50 percent of all Auris sales.
All the new Auris models feature Toyota's economy and emissions saving 'Optimal Drive' technology. In the 1.33-litre that means stop-start, Toyota claiming a world first with its system due to the permanently engaged gear mechanism, this improving start-up time and reducing vibration. Those wanting an auto can opt for the MultiMode transmission with the 1.4-litre turbodiesel and 1.6-litre petrol engines, the robotised gearbox offering fully automatic shifts or manual control via either the gear shifter or paddles mounted on the steering wheel.
The 2010 Toyota Auris is not exciting, but it's smarter, better equipped and more economical than the car it replaces. Toyota has done enough to appeal to its existing buyers, but it's unlikely that customers will be flocking in from rival manufacturers' showrooms. The Auris's position is made more difficult as Hyundai and Kia offer similarly sensible models for even less money and with warranties that will outlive some owners. There's little to get excited about in the Auris range as it currently exists, but that could all change in July when the hybrid HSD model