Motoring Review - Toyota Auris HSD

Toyota's acclaimed hybrid technology is more widely available thanks to the Auris Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD). Steve Walker reports

More than any other manufacturer, Toyota has gambled on the double act of internal combustion engine and electric motor being the driving force behind our cars in the short to medium term future. Before the Auris HSD, UK car buyers who wanted a Toyota hybrid had only the iconic Prius. There were models using the technology carrying Toyota’spremium Lexus badge but the Prius was the only petrol/electric Toyota.

The Auris HSD is Toyota’s industry leading Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain in a familiar package and a key part of the plan to take hybrid mainstream. In contrast to the Prius, a car defined by its hybrid mechanicals, the Auris HSD is another version of Toyota’s Auris family hatchback. Environmental and financial advantages are very much intact and it’s built locally at the Burnaston plant near Derby.

The Hybrid Synergy Drive is a fiendishly complex piece of kit compared to standard petrol or diesel engines available elsewhere in the Auris range and the wider family hatchback sector. It’s built around a 1.8-litre petrol engine with VVT-I variable valve timing and a 97bhp output. That unit is then complemented by an 81bhp electric motor, a high performance battery and an advanced power control unit that ensures the two power sources work effectively together.

The Auris HSD is a full hybrid that means the two power sources can work in tandem or in isolation. The car can run exclusively in Electric Vehicle EV mode for short periods but under normal circumstances, the electric motor assists the petrol engine under acceleration. When the car is coasting or braking, the electric motor acts as a generator, recapturing kinetic energy to charge the battery.

The total power output of the Auris HSD is 134bhp, a healthy figure for a family hatch, and it’s sent to the wheels via a CVT automatic gearbox. Detailed information is provided via the car’s multi-information display to keep drivers abreast of what the Hybrid Synergy Drive is up to as well as the fuel economy being achieved.

The Auris HSD looks ostensibly the same as any other Toyota Auris with styling that’s neat and tidy. It’s a far cry from the Prius which cases the same powertrain in bodywork that has come to shout ‘hybrid’ at anyone with a passing interest in cars. There are clues as to the technology that lies beneath the Auris HSD’s exterior. These include a reshaped grille and an extension of the wide air-intake below to improve air-flow and cooling efficiency. The ride height is 5mm lower too and special alloy wheels are fitted along with a rear spoiler. The modifications are chiefly made for aerodynamic reasons and they reduce the Auris HSD’s drag coefficient from 0.290 to 0.283, but the knock-on effect that they also make the car look a bit sportier may be of more interest to many buyers.

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The story doesn’t deviate much inside where the usual Auris cabin design gets a few tweaks. The instruments have been reconfigured to include a series of graphical representations showing the operation of the hybrid system and various measures of how efficient the Auris is being and has been. The starter button illuminates in blue and there are switches on the centre console to choose between the EV, ECO and Power driving modes.

Toyota has invested a lot of time, effort and cash into developing its Hybrid Synergy Drive technology and the Auris HSD is tasked with reaping the dividends. The Prius grew larger in its latest third generation guise, coming close to the larger Avensis in capacity, and the Auris slots in below it as a more affordable Toyota hybrid option. A key rival will be the Honda Insight hybrid but to really make it big, the petrol/electric Auris will need to persuade buyers away from green versions of mainstream family hatchbacks, the majority of which use conventional diesel engines. Volkswagen’s Golf BlueMotion and Ford’s Focus ECOnetic will be in its sights.

We’ve established that the Auris HSD is an extremely advanced family hatchback but to what end? The ultimate goal of all that technology is fuel efficiency and its resulting environmental and financial benefits. The car is being made available in two versions, one with 17-inch wheels that achieves 71mpg and CO2 emissions of 93g/km and another that, thanks to 15-inch wheels, improves matters to 74mpg and 89g/km. That makes the Auris HSD one of the most efficient cars on sale and sets the standard to which the rest of the family hatch class must aspire.

Toyota has made a huge investment in developing and refining hybrid engine technology and the Auris HSD is one of the models that must make it pay. It brings the Hybrid Synergy Drive to a more mainstream audience by installing it as little more than an engine option in the company’s sturdy family hatchback. Although it’s possible to get close in its most efficient diesel rivals, it’s hard to argue with economy and emissions figures that make this Auris one of the cleanest vehicles on sale.

Facts at a Glance                                                                            Car: Toyota Auris HSD                                                                   Prices: �18,950-�20,700 – on the road                                           Insurance Groups: 4-5 (est)                                                           CO2 Emissions: 89-93g/km                                                      Performance: Max Speed 112 mph / 0-60mph 11.4s                          Fuel Consumption: (combined) 70.6-74.3mpg                                Standard Safety Features: seven airbags / ABS with EBD and BA / MICS Minimal Intrusion Cabin System                                                         Will it fit in your garage? 4220mm long, 1760mm wide, 1515mm high

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