The Toyota Auris Touring Sports is a simpler proposition than its badging suggests. Not sporting and not a particularly touring-oriented car either, this is the estate version of the popular Auris hatchback.
The wheelbase and forward half of the car are unchanged, but the body has been extended by 29cm to increase boot capacity to 530 litres with the rear seats up, or 1658 litres with them folded flat. That's more space than you get in rivals such as the Ford Focus Estate and Kia Ceed Sportswagon, although the latest Skoda Octavia Estate is even bigger.
The range includes 1.33- and 1.6-litre petrol engines, plus a 1.4 diesel. There's also a 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid that emits just 85g/km of CO2, with claimed average economy of 76.3mpg.
What's the 2013 Toyota Auris Touring Sports like inside?
The boot is the big news. The floor is 10cm lower than in the Auris hatch, so you don't have to lift heavy items as high to get them into the car. Loading is further eased by the absence of a lip at the entrance to the boot.
Just pull a lever in the boot and the rear seatbacks drop forward leaving no inconvenient slope or step. This, plus the standard height-adjustable boot floor and cubbies hidden beneath, makes the Auris Touring Sports a seriously practical estate.
However, because most of the extra body length has gone into making the boot bigger, an adults sitting behind a tall driver is still likely to find kneeroom fairly tight. At least there's plenty of headroom and the rear seats are comfortable.
The dashboard hasn't been changed, which means it's dominated by drab materials and some cheap-feeling switchgear. The colour touch-screen is a focal point, but it's a bit fiddly to use compared with the systems available in some rivals.
Still, the driver will be comfortable, particularly in the supportive sports seats (standard in Sport and Excel models), which offer a good range of adjustment in every direction.
Even entry-level Active cars (available with the 1.33 petrol and 1.4 diesel engines only) get air-con, front electric windows, a USB socket and a multi-function steering wheel.
Icon trim brings the colour touch-screen, alloys, front foglights, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, a reversing camera and rear electric windows.
Sport (1.4 diesel and 1.6 petrol engines only) adds bigger alloys, exterior styling tweaks and privacy glass, although it's a shame you have to go all the way to range-topping Excel to get climate control. Excel models all come with keyless entry, cruise control, auto lights and wipers and heated, part-leather seats.
All Auris Touring Sports models get seven airbags and a full complement of electronic driver aids.
What's the 2013 Toyota Auris Touring Sports like to drive?
The hybrid model is expected to be the biggest seller in the UK, because its low CO2 emissions make it cheap to run as a company car.
As in other Toyota hybrids, a CVT automatic gearbox comes as standard. What's more, the car can run on electric power alone for short periods and is refined around town.
Sadly, at faster speeds the engine sends an unpleasant metallic wheeze through the cabin and becomes vocal even under measured acceleration. The noise doesn't bring commensurate amounts of acceleration either; you have to think ahead for manoeuvres such as overtaking.
For all its flaws, though, the hybrid is still more likeable than the 1.4 diesel. This feels flat until you're closing in on 2000rpm, and even then it's slow to respond to accelerator inputs.
To make matters worse, it transmits lots of noise and vibration into the cabin, and comes with a notchy manual gearbox.
The Auris's steering is equally underwhelming, being light and inconsistently weighted, while the heavy battery pack in the hybrid amplifies the body's tendency to sway about through corners. Its brakes are tricky to use smoothly, which also makes the Auris less enjoyable to drive with any purpose.
The UK’s constantly varying road surfaces make life quite uncomfortable, too. The Auris rides well enough at low speeds – although it still fidgets over broken Tarmac – but bumps and potholes thump through the cabin more noticeably as the speed builds.
Should I buy one?
If it weren't for the disappointing driving experience, the Auris Touring Sports would be a compelling compact family wagon. It really is one of the most practical and user-friendly estate cars on the market.
The trouble is, the 1.4 diesel is nowhere near as flexible or refined as the best diesels rivals, while the hybrid is let down by its sluggish performance and high list price. The cheapest hybrid model starts at £21,095 – more than £1000 dearer than a Skoda Octavia Estate 1.6 TDI SE, which is bigger and better in almost every way. Even if you add the automatic DSG gearbox to the Skoda, it costs a negligible £195 more than the Toyota.
The Auris does counter this argument by being significantly cheaper for company car drivers, but we'd still pay the extra for the Skoda's stronger power delivery, classier cabin and vastly superior driving dynamics.
What Car? says...
Ford Focus Estate
Skoda Octavia Estate
Engine size 1.3-litre petrol
Price from £15,595
Torque 94lb ft
0-62mph 13.2 seconds
Top speed 109mph
Fuel economy 51.4mpg
Toyota Auris Touring Sports 1.4 D-4D
Engine size 1.4-litre diesel
Price from £16,945
Torque 151lb ft
0-62mph 13.0 seconds
Top speed 109mph
Fuel economy 67.3mpg
Toyota Auris Touring Sports 1.6 Icon
Engine size 1.6-litre petrol
Price from £18,600
Torque 118lb ft
0-62mph 10.5 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 46.3mpg
Toyota Auris Touring Sports 1.8 Hybrid Synergy Drive Icon
Engine size 1.8-litre petrol (plus electric motor)
Price from £21,095
Torque 105lb ft
0-62mph 11.2 seconds
Top speed 109mph
Fuel economy 76.3mpg