First DriveThe Toyota Auris Touring Sports Hybrid has low headline running costs and impressive luggage space, but it fails to inspire dynamically with uncertain steering
First DriveThe new Toyota Auris is super-rational and likely to be a good ownership proposition, but lacks character and is dynamically behind the class best
What is it?
This is the facelifted Toyota Auris, which has undergone some mechanical tweaks and minor visual changes to bring it in line with the latest Toyota look.
Exterior changes include a new front and rear bumper design, including integrated fog lamps, new headlamps, a revised bonnet and a new style of grille.
Inside, more soft-touch materials have been used across the top of the instrument binnacle and around the glovebox and the centre console has been redesigned.
Additional standard kit includes a USB port and Aux-in socket, and a leather flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Perhaps more importantly, Toyota says that the suspension damping has been retuned to improve its ride and handling on UK roads. It also says the power steering has also been revised and refined to deliver better feedback and improved vehicle agility.
Both the engine line-up and trim levels have been simplified; buyers can choose from 1.33-litre and 1.6-litre petrols and a 1.4-litre diesel, and three spec levels, T2, TR and SR.
Here, we test the 89bhp diesel in mid-range TR trim, linked to the MultiMode automated manual transmission.
What’s it like?
The Auris has always been solidly good without matching class leaders such as the VW Golf for quality and refinement or Ford Focus for driver involvement. That much hasn’t changed.
However, the facelifted Auris is a more compelling proposition than it was. The steering still lacks a little feel, but is more engaging and direct than before.
Judging the suspension damping changes on smooth Spanish roads is less easy. The car retains its MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear set-up, but it coped well with expansion joints on motorways and rode rippled surfaces better than ever before.
The 1.4 diesel engine has just enough power to pull the Auris along briskly enough to keep up with motorway traffic, and is torquey enough to be mildly entertaining on flowing roads. However, while it cruises quietly, it is a little coarse under acceleration.
It’s economical, though, recording 58.9mpg and emitting 127g/km of CO2 with MultiMode – only mildly worse than the manual version, which hits 60.1mpg and 125g/km.
However, the MultiMode transmission is no more than adequate in manual mode and downright slow to change in automatic mode. As such, it does nothing to enhance the driving experience.
The Auris’s cabin is enhanced by the latest modifications, but only marginally. It always was a nice place to be, and the changes add a small degree of comfort. The TR trim level makes financial sense, adding kit including 16-inch alloys, climate control, front fog lights, and electric rear windows to base spec for around £700.
It also remains a hugely practical cabin. There’s plenty of driving position adjustment, the seats offer decent support and there’s a tiny bit more storage space than before. It also benefits from having a flat rear floor, giving back seat occupants more room and making carrying three small people in the back a realistic proposition over reasonable distances.
Should I buy one?
The Auris continues to have plenty of decent attributes, but no great ones.
On the plus side it’s reasonable to drive, economical to own, ticks all the safety boxes (including the once-pioneering driver’s knee airbag), is spacious and loaded with storage cubbies and is backed up by Toyota’s excellent dealer network. The fact it is built in Britain has also helped avoid price fluctuations that have befallen rivals, adding to its appeal.
On the downside, it remains anonymous to look at and own and it doesn’t match the class best in terms of refinement or driver involvement.
As a result, whether you want an Auris depends on your priorities. What’s more, while this engine is adequate, you’d have to cover a lot of miles to justify buying the diesel, and the MultiMode transmission is best avoided.