What is it?
This is the Toyota Auris estate, although with a name like Touring Sports you might imagine something a little more glamorous and powerful. There’s a small but solid market for these traditional estates, with most sold to fleet buyers. In fact, Toyota reckons that more than 60 per cent of these more practical Aurises will be destined for company car parks.
Like the Auris hatch, the estate is a neat, contemporary-looking wagon with a pleasing hint of the rakish, whose most impressive feature is that the drivetrain and battery pack of the hybrid version is accommodated without compromising the car’s luggage carrying capacity. Which is quite a feat. Not only that, but its 1658-litre seats-down loadspace is also the best in the class.
The load bay is also well shaped and will – just – swallow objects two metres long, although you’ll be getting intimate with the steering wheel with something that large in the space behind you. The tailgate is yawningly big, the seats fold easily and the removable roll-out parcel shelf doubles as a divider between the front seats and the load space, so it’s certainly practical.
Besides the 1.8 hybrid there are 1.3 and 1.6-litre petrol engines and a 1.4 diesel. There are alos four trim levels, the priciest Excel being the package sampled here.
What's it like?
As you’d expect, this estate version feels pretty similar to the Auris hatch but there are differences in the way it goes down the road. On the positive side, it rides well and possibly even better than the hatchback, despite the double wishbone rear suspension’s need to cater for widely varying weights. At moderate speeds it resists understeer tidily and has a fair bit of grip.
But there’s a mild vagueness to the steering, and in handling balance terms you get the impression that the car is carrying quite a load already – which in a sense it is, with that battery pack under the rear seat. According to the Auris’s deputy chief engineer Satoshi Tanaka, this vagueness is partly down to the tyres, with some original-fitment brands providing better steering feel than others.
The test car wore optional 17in wheels (15s are standard, reducing CO2 emissions from 92g/km to 85g/km) with Dunlop SP Sport Fastresponse rubber.
The hybrid powertrain is not the best choice, however, if this estate is to be regularly used as a beast of burden. Its 105lb ft of torque is sometimes wanting despite the assisting efforts of the electric motor.
This modest lugging power is underlined by the operational character of this hybrid drivetrain. The continuously variable belt-drive transmission prompts the engine to spin continuously at quite high revs and produce a less-than pleasing tone that’s distressingly reminiscent of a kitchen blender. When the car is laden you’ll be hearing this sound pretty often, which is a shame, because the Auris is otherwise impressively hushed at speed.
Otherwise, this more commodious Auris is much the same as the hatch. That means that it’s well equipped and convenient, but the cabin is undermined by a slabby cliff of a dashboard that’s burdened with a surprisingly uncoordinated mix of shapes, materials and textures. There’s not much wrong with its functionality, but this facia falls well short of the classy elegance of the dashboards fielded by Volkswagen, Kia, Hyundai and Ford. The rest of the interior is pretty average aesthetically, too.
Should I buy one?
If you need load volume and a well kitted, smooth-riding, conveniently appointed car, the Auris Touring Sports may be worth considering with its best-in-class loadbay.
But probably not as a hybrid, despite its impressively low emissions and the promise of economy, because it hasn’t the torque or refinement to pull big loads with a diesel’s ease. It’s just too noisy under load, and it's not an especially stout lugger, despite the assistance of an electric motor.
The Touring Sport’s uncertain steering – at least on these tyres – will be off-putting for the keener driver, and the interior and its oddly dated, fussy dashboard fall well short of the design and quality standards set by its rivals. The Touring Sports may be well priced and quite decently equipped, but for many, that won’t be enough.
Toyota Auris Touring Sports 1.8 Hybrid Synergy Drive Excel
Price £22,845; 0-62mph 11.2sec; Top speed 109mph; Economy 70.6mpg; CO2 92g/km; Kerb weight 1465kg; Engine four cyls in line, 1798cc, petrol, plus electric motor; Power 132bhp at 5200rpm; Torque 105lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox CVT