Motoring review: Toyota Auris’ new hybrid

Toyota's new petrol hybrid

Toyota's new petrol hybrid - Credit: Archant

People are likely to see petrol hybrids in a new light with emissions hitting the headlines. And getting the full benefits is likely to make you a more measured driver, says motoring editor Andy Russell

The curvy new fascia, with big, user-friendly dials and a colour touch-screen

The curvy new fascia, with big, user-friendly dials and a colour touch-screen - Credit: Archant

I think I may have found a simple answer to the problems of the diesel emissions scandal and aggressive driving in one package – the petrol hybrid. Rather simplistic I know, but Toyota and luxury arm Lexus have been banging on for years about how one day people will wake up to the dangers of nitrogen oxide and not just worry about carbon dioxide. Thanks to Volkwagen, that day is here. And with a self-charging hybrid, the smoother you drive the more your economy and the environment benefit.

It’s good news for Toyota, which has refreshed the Auris with more exterior presence, an upgraded interior, better road manners and refinement and safety features. And the hybrid – high on economy, low on CO2 emissions and with virtually no NOx or particulates – accounts for more than half of British-built Auris sales in western Europe where it’s the best-selling hybrid.

The new styling gives the hatchback and Touring Sports wagon a lift, making it appear broader and lower with tasteful chrome accents adding to the more energetic effect.

The new Toyota Auris

The new Toyota Auris - Credit: Archant

The big news is a new 114bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol and 110bhp 1.6-litre turbo diesel, alongside uprated 89bhp 1.4-litre turbo diesel, 98bhp 1.33-litre petrol and the popular 134bhp hybrid combining a 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor.

The hybrid needs careful driving to get the best from it but, having tested several models and versions, I now consistently top 60mpg, regularly hovering at 70mpg. With the ability to run on electric motor alone, stop-start urban driving actually boosts economy. Use the engine to get up to speed, lift off the throttle and you can maintain momentum on the battery at up to about 44mph with a light foot. With no engine braking and little friction, the Auris hybrid will coast huge distances and for that time you’re not using any fuel while still recharging the batteries.

The CVT automatic gearbox works well in urban driving, but floor it and you get a lot of engine noise – another reason to drive with a light foot.

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You’d never call the Auris exciting to drive, but it is dependable. It corners competently, and with barely any body roll and with more weight and feel at speed thanks to the retuned electric power steering, you can maintain momentum, encouraging a smooth driving style. The suspension has also been tweaked for better straight-line comfort. The Auris smooths bumpy roads well but poor surfaces create noticeable tyre noise.

The Auris is roomy enough to carry three adults in the back with decent legroom, but they might find the edges of the roof lining a little close for comfort.

Clever packaging means that, even with the large battery, the Auris still has a full-size 437-litre hatchback boot with underfloor storage tray. Flatten the rear seats and it rises to 1,199 litres.

There’s a logical layout to the curvy new fascia, with big, user-friendly dials, while the rev counter has made way for an eco, power and charging gauge to help keep you in the ‘green zone’. A colour touchscreen is included on all but entry model to control most functions, and there’s push buttons for heating and ventilation. However, given the hi-tech nature of the Auris, a pull-on handbrake, rather than an electronic parking brake, seems out of place.

The interior is fuss-free rather than fancy but, despite efforts to improve sensory quality with soft-touch materials and more coordinated appearance, the plastics lower down - such as the door bins - feel and look cheap. A shallow rear screen and high parcel shelf limit visibility – fortunately all but the entry model gets a rear-view camera.

The Auris proves you don’t have to make sacrifices to drive a hybrid when it comes to space and practicality, and it rewards a measured driving style. It’s not exciting, but it does give a feel-good factor emissions and economy-wise.

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