"Spacious, practical and comfortable, there's lots to recommend the Toyota Auris - yet it doesn’t have the quality or personality of some small family hatchbacks."
The Toyota Auris competes with big-selling small family hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus – although it can’t quite match the broad appeal of these cars because of its limited engine range. It's also undermined by its bland looks and simple cabin. But it will prove dependable and reliable, plus it's very easy to drive. All versions come with air-conditioning and lots of useful storage pockets inside, while there's plenty of space for tall adults in the back seats.
This Toyota is an easy car to drive. The steering is light in town, although it could be more accurate. The wheel adjusts for reach and height, and there's a big footrest for your clutch foot. Unusually, the centre console is set up like a bridge, allowing the gearlever and handbrake to be placed high, comfortably close to the steering wheel. The most powerful engine, the 130bhp 1.6-litre petrol, feels weak unless it's revved hard; the same can be said of the smaller 1.33-litre petrol, and both become noisy. The diesel isn’t that quick or quiet, either. The petrol-electric HSD hybrid is essentially a Prius under the skin, offering silent electric running over short distances.
The Auris posted a disappointing 59th place out of 100 for comfort in our sister title Auto Express's Driver Power 2012 satisfaction survey. That could be partly to do with the obvious wind whistle and tyre roar in the cabin, especially at motorway speeds. Add to that the noise of the engines – the diesel in particular – and the Auris could do with more refinement. The floor of the car is unusually flat, so there's lots of rear foot space, and the rear bench seat reclines for added comfort.
There's a whole host of safety features fitted as standard to the Auris, including nine airbags and traction control. Toyota's well documented accelerator pedal issues in 2010 extended to the Auris, although the problem has now been rectified, and the car's electrics and mechanicals have proven reliable. Revisions to the range in 2010 added higher-quality ‘soft-touch’ plastics throughout the cabin.
WHILE the boot isn’t the biggest – a capacity of 354 litres is about average for a family hatchback – there are lots of storage cubbyholes of varying shapes and sizes inside the Auris. These include a tray under the passenger seat, a deep box within the central armrest, two cup-holders that sit flush with the dash, a space underneath the gearlever and two gloveboxes. It will also sit four six-foot adults in comfort, unlike many family hatchbacks.
Value for money
Given the level of standard equipment each model provides and the soft-touch quality of the plastics, the Auris feels keenly priced. It can’t match similarly sized cars from Kia, Hyundai and Skoda in terms of value for money, but even the basic Auris T2 features air-conditioning, while the TR and SR have alloy wheels and two-zone climate control. The HSD hybrid is expensive, although buyers get plenty of equipment for their money. And all models are sold with a comprehensive five-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Economy across the board is very good. The 1.33-litre petrol engine has stop-start – which cuts power (and therefore fuel use) when the car is at a standstill – and returns 48.7mpg. The 1.4-litre diesel does 60.1mpg and the petrol-electric hybrid HSD a class-leading 74.3mpg. Toyota dealers offer fixed-price servicing and parts, although service intervals are quite short, at 10,000 miles.