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.
It rides better than before, though, soaking up all but the biggest potholes even on the larger 17in wheels. And while the wet weather also made overall refinement hard to gauge, Toyota has added extra soundproofing that seems to hold the worst of the wind and road noise at bay.
In the cabin you get a good driving position bar the short reach adjustment from the steering wheel, but otherwise six-footers will be comfortable enough. Not so in the rear, mind, with limited leg room leaving it a little tight for lanky folk.
Smarter materials improve perceived cabin quality but it still looks rather sombre inside, although the new 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system is certainly an improvement over the old set-up.