Toyota sharpens the appeal of the Auris

It is some time since I have driven a Toyota Auris, so my first reaction on seeing this road test car was to check the details. I still tend to think of a Toyota Auris as being a compact family hatchback and sitting there in front of me was what seemed quite a sizeable family estate car.

Sure enough, round the back on the tailgate it did say “Auris”. The Touring Sport is actually 285mm longer than the hatchback and I suspect the estate car (OK,‘Touring” if you insist) body makes it look bigger still.

Toyota Auris 1.2 Touring Sports

If you look at the market, the growing focus on the Touring Sports is a shrewd move by Toyota. The market for estate versions of cars in this sector has been growing steadily and now accounts for about a quarter of sales.

While the car may have grown, the engine has shrunk. Not so long ago you would have had a double-take at the specification sheet, convinced that a 1197cc engine couldn’t possibly be expected to deliver reasonable performance for a car this size.

But, of course, in these days when manufacturers are chasing ever-greater fuel economy and ever-lower emissions, small is beautiful when it comes to engines. Thanks to the advances in turbocharger technology many small-engined cars are capable of turning in impressive performances.

But, more of the performance in moment.

These days the Auris makes a bit more of an impression when you first see it. The styling is sharper than the blander designs of in the early years, when the Corolla morphed into the Auris. But it still not as attractive as some of its peers. The design simply isn’t as cohesive as some others in this class – as if different designers worked on the details for sections and then worked out how to join up the various bits.

One of the biggest transformations in terms of showroom appeal is the interior. My impressions of past Toyotas have been rather of workmanlike but bland interiors with (a pet hate) grey silvered plastic highlights. The new Auris appeals much more with better quality materials and bright detailing that now actually looks like metal.

Toyota Auris 1.2 Touring Sports interior

Importantly there’s good space for families in the Auris. That includes the back seats where I found that I could actually squeeze in behind the driving seat when it was still set in my preferred ‘long-leg’ driving position.

I mentioned that the Touring version was longer than the hatchback and that extra length has been used to increase the luggage space. With the rear seats up, the Auris Touring will swallow 530 litres of load. That’s not a class best, but not far from it.

The 1.2 engine actually produces a creditable 112 bhp, making it slightly more powerful than its 1.6-litre diesel sibling. The 0-62 mph sprint is dispatched in 10.4 seconds. The combined fuel consumption is 51.4 mpg. My real-time average was 33 mpg, but that was with more city driving than usual. Over 40 mpg should be easily achievable out of town.

Start up the Auris 1.2 Sports Touring and one of the first impressions is how quiet it is. You can hardly hear the engine. The sound insulation is obviously very effective – a point I noted when I came to the nasty blind bend that I have to negotiate on the way to or from the house. I always sound my horn, but pressing the button on the Auris produced a very muffled sound indeed!

Clearly the Auris is designed to provide you with a comfortable environment somewhat insulated from mechanical matters. That insulation extends to filtering out much of the feedback from the road, too.

The relatively soft ride is cosseting to the point of being slightly ‘floaty’. The steering while progressive and accurate is rather numb. It’s a similar story with the other controls, which seem somewhat isolated from the action. The throttle, for example, has an impression of elasticity that I normally only experience with turbocharged diesels.

So, should you buy the Toyota Auris 1.2 Touring Sports?

Toyota Auris 1.2 Touring Sports

Well, despite the “Sports” in the title, if you are an enthusiastic driver who likes to feel the road through the seat of your pants and your hands on the steering wheel, probably not. For such drivers, feedback is what makes an engaging drive.

But, that is not the market that Toyota is chasing. They know that people looking for a practical family estate are seeking a car that is very capable, easy to drive and gets you from A to B with minimal hassle and expense. If that’s what you are after, then this is probably a car that should add to your list. Especially when you consider Toyota’s enviable reputation for reliability.

If you do so, you will also be doing your bit for post ‘Brexit’ Britain, as the Auris is made in Derbyshire with engines from Wales.

Toyota Auris 1.2 VVT-I Design Touring Sports
Specification and details at time of publication:
Price £20,595
Engine size 1197cc petrol
Power 116 bhp
Top speed 121 mph
0-62mph 10.4 seconds
Fuel economy 51.4 mpg combined
CO2 emissions 126 g/km
Boot capacity 530/1658 litres (back seats up/folded)
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