Toyota's exciting family hatch

Forget the boring Corolla: this is the new, (allegedy) exciting Toyota family hatch - the Auris.Designed in Europe, the Auris sticks reasonably close to the Auris Space Concept shown at the Paris motor show in September. It carries over key Yaris styling traits, particulary its nose and high waistline. But it's still a fairly conservative design for a car that was supposed to spice up the brand's image against more stylish rivals.

Toyota says the Auris design process was conducted 'from the inside out'. The result is a car that has exactly the same wheelbase as the Corolla it replaces, but is longer, wider and taller.

The Auris will come in three- and five-door variants. Two petrol engines will be available - a 1.4-litre 96bhp unit and a 1.6-litre version producing 122bhp. The diesel line-up comprises a 1.4-litre 89bhp engine and 2.0- and 2.2-litre units with 124bhp and 175bhp on tap respectively. Prodigious torque means that the two larger oil-burners will be the fastest models in the range - the 2.2 D-4D can hit 130mph and reach 60mph in 8.1secs.

Few details of the car's interior specification have been released, but from the initial images it appears to have a heavily-sculpted dashboard, with a thick central 'bridge' that houses a higher-positioned gearstick and handbrake.

Toyota has chosen the Bologna motor show in early December for the Auris's official debut. UK sales will start in February 2007, ahead of the rest of Europe. But curiously - given the car's European design aspirations - it's already on sale in Japan.

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