Price as tested: �23,995
+ Slick new styling, comfort, ride, refinement, quality, space, economy
� Steering still too detached, engine a bit underpowered
= We were hoping for GT86-like driver appeal, we actually got the quietest, comfiest car in the class
Toyota generally gets a lot of flack for being dull and middle of the road. Indeed, influential US website Jalopnik.com has made the words Toyota and Beige almost indivisible. But it�s an unfair rep, especially considering cars like the original Celica (and its subsequent versions), the Supra, the MR2, the brilliant new GT86, all those World Rally Championship victories and the amazing Le Mans racing cars. Beige Toyota ain�t, no matter what some snarky bloggers might say.
In fairness though, some of Toyota�s mainstream models have been a bit too quiet for their own good down through the years, and the last generation Auris was a case in point. Too subtle on the outside, with a cabin that even Toyota now admits wasn�t up to snuff means that while it always sold well, the Auris fell well behind the likes of the Ford Focus and VW Golf in critical terms.
But what�s this? A new Auris with a sharp-looking body (check out that beaky nose with the dramatic bottom grille and big cut-outs for the foglights)? Has Toyota finally injected some flair and drama into its mid-size hatch?
Well, you won�t find much drama in the engine room. The 90bhp D4D Diesel engine is about 20bhp down on most of its rivals, and you can tell that as soon as you put your foot down. Performance never quite descends into being sluggish, but neither does it have the effortless punch of, say, Ford’s 1.6 TDCI. Toyota, of course, has a grunty, efficient 2.0-litre diesel already in the Avensis. What hope of it being fitted to an Auris? In the meantime, the 1.4 D4D is at least a sweet-natured unit, and very economical. Toyota claims 3.8-litres per 100km on the combined fuel cycle (around 74mpg) and that seems entirely believable, as we were gettting close to 4.0-litres per 100km when driving mostly around town. 99g/km Co2 emissions (as long as you go for the basic 15″ wheels) should keep you in the lowest two of the proposed four-way-split Band A tax ratings.
It settles quickly from idle into a distant thrummy noise, and fitting in with the Auris’ generally refined nature. Cabin noise levels are very low, whether you’re thinking about engine, wind or road noise and the ride quality, especially around town, is truly exceptional. It all adds up to make the Auris one of the most refined, comfortable cars in its class.
It is not, however, much of a drivers’ car. Off the back of the brilliant little GT86 coupe, we had hoped that some of that car’s DNA might seep through into the Auris and allow it to have a tilt at the sort of pin-sharp driver appeal as displayed by the Focus and Golf. Alas, no. The Auris’ steering is light, verging on over-light (think of an early seventies Jaguar XJ6 steering and you’re getting there) and it leaves you feeling distanced and separated from the car. That’s a shame, as beneath the mush, the chassis feels well-balanced and controlled. There is, possibly, an engaging driving tool in there somewhere, but its light is being kept defiantly sub-bushel.
Such considerations are compensated for by the fact that the cabin is spacious, bright and airy, the boot a decent size and shape (although the boot floor is made of the most unpleasantly cheap flooring material we’ve yet seen) and of course, the fact that the famed Toyota quality seems to be present and correct.
It is also rather handsome. Possibly less so at the back, where it descends into generic hatchback-ness, but up front, the beaky new nose with its scowling lights, LEDs and aggressive trapezoidal grille looks rather striking, certainly by Toyota standards. It seems to owe no debt to any other Toyota (save perhaps a passing resemblance to the Avensis) and if so, hopefully it is the vanguard of a new family of sharper-looking Toyotas.
Prices start at �18,995 for the 1.33 99bhp petrol in Terra trim (which notably does without such items as air conditioning or Bluetooth phone). Our bells-and-whistles 1.4 D4D Luna comes in at a very competitive �23,995 and includes climate control, Bluetooth, reversing camera, touch-screen stereo and much more.
So while the Auris might be lacking in the final sheen of GT96-like driver appeal we were hoping for, its comfort, spaciousness and its likely reliability score very highly with us. The new found style is welcome, the rest are welcome returns. No drama then, but equally, no crisis.
Toyota Auris 1.4 D4D 90 Luna
Price as tested: �23,995
Price range: �18,995 to �27,990
Top speed: 170kmh
Economy: 3.8l-100km (74mpg)
CO2 emissions: 99g/km*
Road Tax Band: A. �160
Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested
*When fitted with 15� steel wheels
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