What is it?
A new Toyota Auris. Well, a facelifted one. We're sure you're as excited by this as we are. But at least it's quite a substantial set of mods, that includes revised suspension, an all new interior, lower kerbweight and some heavy body revisions. The roofline, for instance, has been dropped by a whopping 55mm. This in turn lowers the centre of gravity, reduces weight, improves aerodynamics and has benefits for fuel consumption and CO2.
The design looks much sharper with neatly pressed lines and that V-shaped nose actually gives the Auris a bit of visual identity. A bit. Trouble is, the Koreans, by which we mean Hyundai and Kia, have closed the gap completely in terms of quality, safety, image, equipment and engineering, are arguably further ahead in design, tend to be cheaper and have a bit more about them. Hmmm.
The best advice we can give is not to buy the hybrid model. Yes, we know it looks tempting with emissions of 85g/km and the promise of 76.3mpg, but you'll never get that. In fact the battery can deliver enough juice for a mere 1.25 miles of electric motion and when running on petrol it's not that pleasant. The 1.8 petrol is too raucous and it's teamed with a CVT gearbox, our least favourite sort. The best we saw was 49.3mpg. It's a shame that Toyota, which has done more to promote hybrid than anyone, isn't doing more to advance the technology. The 1.4 diesel is a preferable all round car.
All models do driver with a bit more precision and control, though. The ride is composed and although there's more road noise than is ideal, on the whole it strikes a good, if dull, balance.
On the inside
This, surprisingly, is one department where the old car performed well. It had an unusually high, curvy console. But that's gone now and in its place we have an upright slab of black plastic. Quite baffling, really. There's nothing creative about it and although it might be fractionally more tactile, the Auris can't hold a candle to the VW Golf - or indeed most other European rivals - when it comes to interior design and materials. Quality is beyond doubt, of course, but neither space nor layout is impressive (although new batteries mean the hybrid's boot is bigger).
The Auris will never let you down. Ever. It'll last longer than you even if you live to be eleventy hundred and four. It carries with it the promise of absolute peace of mind, leaving you to be concerned about nothing more than fuel economy. Once again, with that in mind, avoid the hybrid: you'll never see those on-paper figures. you might with the diesel, though.