The first full hybrid in this class is impressively cheap to run, but its diesel rivals are a better drive

What is it?

In effect, this is an Auris with Prius electro-mechanicals, providing a Toyota hybrid at slightly lower prices in more mainstream clothing.

The headline news is its class-leading 89g/km, the servicing costs of a 1.0 Yaris and the low tax it attracts.

Its 74.3mpg just betters the Prius, although their CO2 numbers are identical, while the Auris also tops the less powerful, stop-start Focus Econetic (109bhp, 99g/km) and Golf BlueMotion (103bhp, 99g/km).

Its petrol engine is an Atkinson cycle 132bhp 1.8, a 79bhp, 153lb ft electric motor supplementing the former’s 105lb ft. For technical reasons you can’t add these numbers, but the theoretical peak is 295lb ft.

What's it like?

It certainly doesn’t feel like adding the power and torque figures is legitimate on the road, its admittedly brisk powertrain lacking the immense low-to-mid-range tug of the Auris 2.0 diesel that it replaces.

With its CVT transmission prompting persistent high-rev thrash when worked hard, this an unwelcome substitute for the tachometer replaced by a gauge revealing the charging status of the battery.

Switching to Eco, via a switch behind a stubby gear selector whose return-to-neutral mechanism promotes confusion, softens the noise by dulling the throttle response, together with performance. But for commuting, it’s fine – and the threshing noises create an incentive to back off and save fuel.

You can also drive in pure electric mode, at up to 31mph for 1.2 miles, but the motor is better left to deploy when the ingenious brain sees fit, which is often in urban jams.

A hard and decidedly uneconomical thrash through the hills produced 36.6mpg – another economy-minded tester managed 57.7mpg - so 60mpg-plus should be on.

But thrashing this Auris is an unrewarding experience, this hybrid version shorn of the recently-titivated conventional versions’ improved agility – blame Cd-reducing lowered suspension, fuel-eking high tyre-pressures and extra weight – and its steering is pretty lifeless too.

Should I buy one?

This is a car that’s more transport - if intriguing transport - than engaging drive, but one that proves civil at sensible speeds (more so than the Prius) and tempts very effectively with its dramatically reduced running costs.

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Add a comment…
jonathanes 7 July 2010

Re: Toyota Auris Hybrid Synergy Drive T4

It sounds to me like both you and the person you know do not understand Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system. On-board battery is charged through regenerative braking and, when driven in the manner intended, it will return very good figures.

My trip computer is showing 190 miles covered on current tank with an average of 60.9mpg. Mainly driving in 20mph limited Oxford City, but with 30mph town roads and 60mph country lanes from a neighbouring town. That is in my 5 year old Gen 2 Prius, going for Auris test drive this weekend.

rhw0104 25 May 2010

Re: Toyota Auris Hybrid Synergy Drive T4

If a lot of the time the engine has to charge the baterys to run the electric motor then its not very economical as it then strains the petrol engine. I know sum1 with a prius company car and its using more fuel than the old toyota rav4 diesel

MattDB 24 May 2010

Re: Toyota Auris Hybrid Synergy Drive T4

This car should be compared to the Honda Civic Hybrid in the same way the Prius is compared to the Insight. In this respect, the Auris is night and day superior.

Don't forget, there are plenty out there who hate the smell, noise and extra cost of diesel and want a refined and economical car.

If Toyota are guilty of making automotive white goods then so what. When you drive for 2 hours every day in London traffic, you can't appreciate steering feel, sublime handling and poise, but you can appreciate comfort, noise suppresion, a decent radio and free congestion charge.

By the way, I could save £175 per month alone on the congestion charge as well as the free road tax and reduced fuel costs, lets call it about £200 per month. For that I can buy a used Lotus Elise on a PCP and still have my cake and eat it!