The Auris range offers the choice of two petrol engines, one diesel and a petrol-electric hybrid. The entry-level 1.33 petrol has 99bhp and is hardly quick, and the 130bhp 1.6 petrol isn’t that much nippier unless you work it really hard. Performance from the 89bhp 1.4 diesel is also pretty pedestrian. However, while the hybrid rewards a relaxed driving style, it’s fast enough.
The Auris does everything it should, but isn’t as accomplished as the best cars in this class. It grips and handles well enough, but isn’t as precise as a Ford Focus through corners and the steering has a somewhat detached feel. Similarly, while the ride isn’t terrible, the Auris doesn’t smother bumps as well as the best small family cars.
This is Auris’s weakest area. The petrol engines are noisy at motorway speeds, and while the diesel is quiet when cruising, it’s gruff around town. The hybrid is near silent as long as you take a gentle approach, but the opposite is true when you’re in a hurry; push the accelerator and the revs soar suddenly and stay there until you’re up to your desired speed. Wind noise is excessive on the motorway, too, and coarse surfaces kick up too much road noise.
Toyota has priced the Auris aggressively and it undercuts many of its rivals, especially if you choose an Active model. Dealers won’t give you much of discount on the list price, but the Auris holds its value reasonably well. The hybrid falls into the lowest company car tax band (for non-electric cars) and is exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge, although it is quite expensive to buy.
We have no doubt that the Auris will stand the test of time well, but it also has the added reassurance of a five-year warranty. Toyotas usually have exceptional reliability, too, and the Auris received top marks on that front in the 2012 JD Power survey. However, while the interior feels durable, the materials are desperately drab and unappealing.
Every Auris comes with front, side and curtain airbags, as well as an airbag that protects the driver’s knees. Stability control is also standard across the range, to help prevent you from losing control of the car. All versions have deadlocks and marked parts to guard against theft.
The Auris’s dashboard puts all the important controls within easy reach and is generally user-friendly. The only exception to that is the touch-screen infotainment system, which isn’t all that intuitive. There’s a wide range of seating and steering wheel adjustment, but you might wish your seat went lower. Rear visibility isn’t great, either, because the rear window is very shallow.
The Auris isn’t as roomy as its biggest rivals, but there’s ample head- and legroom everywhere, and the rear seat backrests recline to allow a relaxed seating position. The Auris also copes with three rear passengers better than most of its competitors, thanks to its totally flat floor. The boot is a good size and shape, and an adjustable floor allows you to split the space in two and flatten out the steps with the seats folded down.
In order of plushness, the trim levels are Active, Icon, Sport and Excel, with the most basic unique to the 1.3 petrol and 1.4 diesel engines. Active models miss out on a few desirable features, but do get air-conditioning, electric front windows, remote locking and a CD player; Icon trim adds alloy wheels and a DAB radio, while range-topping Excel models have automatic light and wipers and a leather-trimmed dashboard.
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