Matthew Jones14 December 2012

Driven: Toyota Auris 1.8 VVT-I Hybrid

It's the new petro-electro Golf rival from Toyota. Has a long way to go...

Driven: Toyota Auris 1.8 VVT-I Hybrid


So: this is a damn sight better than the old Auris - a car seemingly conceived to shuffle pensioners from A to B without changing their heart rate. Toyota's latest Golf rival looks more aggressive, employing the new "keen look" design language (or "strechy-backy headlights"), and with the hybrid tech it's a lot kinder at the pumps.

Hybrid? Hasn't got one of those awful CVT transmissions like the old one, has it?

‘Fraid so. But it's not all bad. Toyota's modified it so there's a better match between your speed and engine revs. But it still does that annoying thing where the revs explode if you pull away from a junction quickly - same on some motorway inclines, so every journey's pockmarked with thrashy engine noise.

Oh. So what is the engine?

The Hybrid's got a 98bhp 1.8-litre four-cylinder VVTi petrol engine, and an electric motor, which combine to produce 134bhp.

Right. Not one for the traffic light grand prix, then?

Absolutely not. It weighs 1370kg - and don't forget that dithering CVT - so acceleration to 62mph takes a slovenly 11.4 seconds. But you're missing the point a bit here.

Which is?

Economy. The Auris Hybrid's most impressive stat is the manufacturer's claimed MPG - it'll fit 74.3 miles into a gallon.

Eh? How?

The electro-petro mix means it'll manage short trips in town on pure battery power (for 1.25 miles, at least...), and every time you coast or brake it gets a squirt of recharge. Considering the MPG, the switch between power sources is liveable and relatively unintrusive. But...

But? I don't like buts. Unless they're big.

This is a big but, based on our experiences with the car. We drove the Auris Hybrid about 400 miles, and couldn't get anywhere close to the manufacturer's claimed 74.3. The best we managed was an average of 49.7 - more than a Jaguar XKR's difference. And no, the Stig didn't take it home.

Oh. So should I not bother with one?

No, we're not saying that. There are lots of good things about the Auris, just not necessarily the Hybrid, which seems a lot like a plain-clothes Prius. It's one of the most aerodynamic cars in its class (as well as reducing ride height by 10mm and its total height by 55mm, Toyota's increased airflow above and beneath the car for slipperiness), its innards are supremely well bolted down, and feels stiff and competent through corners (new bracing and reinforcements to the car's underbody, front and rear structures and suspension make it more rigid than the outgoing model).

Thing is, some might be better off with the 89bhp 1.4-litre D-4D diesel with Stop/Start. Toyota reckons it'll do 58.9mpg, and you might stand a far better chance of achieving it.

What if I really want a hybrid?

Well, it's a lot better than the Citroen DS5 Hybrid, which feels like it's escaped from the development lab. And more refined than the Honda Civic Hybrid, cheaper than the Prius-based Lexus CT200h (our Auris was £21,745, and a similarly-specced Lex' would cost you at least £6,000 more). But nothing's come close to providing such an effective mix of petrol and electric power as the Vauxhall Ampera/Chevy Volt range-extended EV. Auris Hybrid included...

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