What is it?
The Toyota Auris is the latest, revamped version of the brand’s British-built family hatch.
Revised styling, only petrol or hybrid engines, Strong safety spec.
The Toyota Auris is a competent, ultra-dependable entrant in the family hatch market, and the latest package of updates improves the car in many areas. But this is a competitive sector with some now very high-quality cars in it.
The Auris has to fight harder to be visible against its competitors and having failed to address a totally innocuous image, it doesn’t come up to traditional rivals such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra – at a time when they are facing severe competition from new challengers, especially from Korea.
The Toyota Auris is built in the UK.
There is a new Toyota Auris in showrooms – well, sort of.
Toyota’s family hatch has undergone a ‘focusing and streamlining’ in a bid to keep on competing in a family hatch market that remains highly competitive despite the rise of the SUV. However, as this car goes on sale, the rumours grow that this will be the last Auris.
For years its predecessor, the Corolla, was the butt of motoring jokes – especially on TV programmes such as Top Gear. It was derided, not for doing anything particularly badly, just for being so dull. So back in 2007 Toyota decided to launch an all-new car with a new name – Auris.
Now we hear that the next Auris will be – a Corolla. This will happen basically because sales of the Auris are steadily declining and something has to be done to turn them around.
That slide has already seen diesel versions of the car ditched – they didn’t sell even before the politicians endowed diesel engines with pariah status. Now you have a simple two-way choice of a 1.2-litre petrol unit, or the 1.8-litre hybrid – and around three-quarters of Auris buyers choose the latter.
The 1.2 was added to the range in 2015 when the Auris underwent a major revamp. This was much more than a facelift, the new engines joined by body changes including a lower roofline and sharper nose – in the process providing the Auris with a degree of visual style it badly needed. The latest update refines these visuals, again trying to pitch the car more upmarket while adding such niceties as LED daytime running lights.
So why is the Auris – one of just three British-built family hatches on the market today – so unappreciated? To try and find out we are testing the most ‘normal’ version, the 1.2 petrol, eschewing the hybrid. That unit no doubt attracts many motorists for which the electric part is an important buying consideration, and it is only supplied with a less than impressive CVT transmission.
Buying and owning a Toyota Auris
The Auris continues to be offered in hatch and estate ‘Touring Sports’ versions, both body styles available with the petrol and hybrid powertrains, and all also offered in all four trim levels – Icon, Icon Tech, Design and Excel.
Standard equipment even on the entry-level Icon grade is impressive. Alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, electric windows all round, leather on the steering wheel and gear knob are included, as is Toyota’s Touch 2 touchscreen, with a six-speaker audio, DAB digital radio, and Bluetooth.
It’s not many entry-level cars that include a reversing camera as standard, and this is just part of a comprehensive safety package that helped earn the Auris a top when it was last crash tested, way back in 2013.
Toyota groups its systems under the ‘Safety Sense’ banner and every car includes Lane Departure Alert and the Pre-Collision system – autonomous emergency braking. At speeds between 6 and 49mph, the driver is alerted both visually and audibly if the system detects the likelihood of a collision. If the driver fails to react in time, the system brakes the car.
The Icon Tech grade applied to our test car adds just £150 to the £20,155 price of the entry-level hatch. For this, the specification gains cruise control, navigation and smartphone connectivity.
All of this makes the Toyota Auris competitive against its major rivals, the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, though all three struggle to stay ahead of their now comparable quality rivals from Korea, Kia’s Ceed and the Hyundai i30.
Inside the Toyota Auris
The Auris revamp has included more work to the interior, building on a major redesign that was part of the 2015 facelift. Again, the aim is to make the surroundings appear more upmarket and sophisticated, and measures taken have included ‘a reduction in the visual mass of the dashboard design’ – i.e. it’s less in your face.
In truth this is a bit of a reversal – the original Auris of 2007 had a rather attractive curvy dash setup but the 2015 replacement was much more slab-like and less attractive.
Other measures in a bid to emphasise the quality includes more consistent illumination of the instruments, and crisper finishes to the detailing.
Leaving aside the driver’s surroundings, the Auris offers a reasonably spacious interior, both in front and back, despite being one of the shortest cars in the class. Boot space is reasonable too, at 350 litres, is comparable with Ford and Vauxhall. Others in the class offer a lot more, however – the Hyundai i30 has 395 litres, the Honda Civic a cavernous 477 litres.
Overall, the interior of the new Auris is an improvement over the outgoing model, but it still doesn’t match up to many of its rivals – the finish is dull, the perceived quality still average. The market is moving quickly in this area and the Auris is not keeping up.
Driving the Toyota Auris
When the 1.2-litre turbo petrol unit arrived with the 2015 revamp, we were praiseworthy, describing it as “very smooth, whether ticking over or accelerating strongly – so long as one does not ask too much of the lower end of the rev range.”
That opinion holds today – it is a remarkably refined powerplant and, when first moving away, one could almost imagine one is driving the hybrid in full electric mode.
Yet the engine also has some pull – its 10.1 second 0-62mph time is well up at the sharp end when compared to rivals. In terms of economy and emissions the 1.2-litre Auris is in the ball park at 58.9mpg and 112g/km respectively, but whereas just three years ago the new engine endowed the car with a reputation for frugality, rivals have caught up and moved (just) ahead.
The latest revamp has seen work to the suspension, to both improve ride comfort and keep the car more upright in the corners. The power steering has been modified for better feel and feedback, and a swathe of extra soundproofing added – this definitely works, the cabin a very quiet place in which to travel.
All of which adds up to a highly competent performance on the road, if unremarkable. The steering is too light and doesn’t provide the confidence to attack challenging bends with gusto, though body roll is not as pronounced as in former versions while in a straight line the ride quality is very compliant.
Overall, this is not an exciting car to drive at all – but it is very easy to get accustomed to, comfortable to travel in and undemanding to live with.
The Toyota Auris is a competent package that, for a whole host of buyers, will offer all they need – comfort, reasonable quality, unflustered progress and dependable reliability, day after day after day.
In 2017, however, Toyota sold a mere 14,487 examples of the Auris, of which more than 10,000 were hybrids. In comparison, Ford Focus sales were just shy of 70,000, while Vauxhall sold almost 50,000 Astras. Why?
The problem for the Auris is while it is competent, it is just so devoid of personality. Yes, it is ultra-dependable, but to the point where five minutes after getting out of the car one forgets everything to do with the drive.
Of course, for most motorists, dependability in their daily driver will be all they require – but the sales figures suggest they still look for just a bit more when buying…