What is it?
At Autocar we think cars should be fun to drive. This rule applies whether we’re discussing sports cars or family hatchbacks, which is why we're so fond of the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf.
Dynamically the Auris has left us cold, but for this latest version Toyota has reworked the suspension and steering to sharpen things up. There’s also the new 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine we’re testing here, as well as a new 1.6-litre diesel to go with the existing petrol, diesel and hybrid offerings.
With a new grille that extends into revised headlights, plus restyled front and rear bumpers and LED tail-lights, Toyota has also aimed to give it a more purposeful look.
It’s safer, too, because you can now opt for a package that adds lane assist, automatic high-beam headlights, road-sign display and collision avoidance.
What's it like?
The new 1.2-litre engine is a little gem. It only produces 114bhp but feels sprightly once the boost arrives at 1500rpm, from where it revs cleanly all the way to the somewhat previous 5500rpm limiter. And being a four-cylinder unit it’s smooth, too, certainly when compared to the Focus’s waspish 125 Ecoboost triple.
We tried a manual gearbox-equipped model, and although the gearlever is curiously long, it has a decent action as you snick each of its six ratios. The clutch also has a positive bite point and the brake pedal a progressive action. So far so good, then.
What about the all-important handling upgrades? Well, it’s better than the old car. The steering could use a bit more weight in its neutral position, but it’s quick as you turn into a corner and builds weight steadily as you add lock.
Our drive was on a soggy day in Belgium, so it was hard to assess grip levels, but suffice to say in such conditions the Auris is front-end limited. What we can say is it’s still not as fun as a Focus or Golf. There’s more initial body roll and, even once it’s settled mid-bend, the Auris never really feels engaging or playful.