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Toyota Auris

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Toyota Auris HSD
6/10

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Road Test

Toyota Auris 1.8 HSD T4

Driven January 2011

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Toyota's grip on hybrids is so strong that this petrol-electric Auris replaces the 2.0-litre diesel in the range. And like the widespread adoption of turbodiesels around 10 years ago, Toyota reckons that hybrids will become an unflinching choice, rather than some fanciful statement of environmental intent. Nearly all Toyotas will have a hybrid by the mid 2020s and this Auris is the first of that rollout (it's also the first Toyota hybrid that isn't a Prius).

The Auris Hybrid, Toyota says, is supposed to put petrol-electric tech on the menu for a whole load of buyers who want hybrid science packaged in a regular car with a regular shape at a regular price.

It uses the same 98bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine and 80bhp electric motor as the Prius, but weighs 40kg less, giving it a 2mpg fuel economy advantage. But because it's a slightly smaller car than the Prius, it has the running and servicing costs of a base Aygo. And you can't argue with the maths - CO2 emissions of 89g/km and combined mpg of 74.3 (with the 15in alloys) sees to that.

But there are problems. Whereas the Prius is a ground-up hybrid, aerodynamically optimised with the car engineered around the batteries and motors, the tech in the Auris is retro-fit - the hybrid bits have been squeezed around existing parts, which compromises space and handling. Therefore, it has 75 litres less bootspace than a regular Auris, and 167 less than the Prius.

And because this is supposed to look and feel like a normal car, there's little sign of the hybrid gadgetry inside. You get a little readout in the middle of the speedo, which tells you which motor is doing the driving and when the batteries are being charged by regenerative braking. It's fine, but not as fun as the gizmotastic Prius with its space-age screen and geeky bar graphs.

It also frustrates on the road. The engine wails if it even looks at a hill, and the ride has been unsettled by battery bulk. Where the regular Auris is smooth and settled, the Hybrid jinks and bobbles.

Despite the compromises, this car is OK. As transport. But as something to love, it fails. If you want a decent, efficient hatchback that still drives and behaves like a car, forget this and consider the Golf Bluemotion. With 99g/km CO2 from a 1.6-litre TDI, it shows that good ol' diesels still have life in them yet.

Dan Read

Performance: 0-62mph in 11.4secs, max speed 112mph, 74.3mpg
Tech: 1798cc, 4cyl, FWD, 134bhp, 104lb ft, 1380kg, 89g/km CO2

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