The Toyota Auris has never set the heather on fire but with the new 2015 range offering revised petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains to their existing wagons and hatchbacks, Toyota hope they can offer something for every potential suitor.
At the car’s European launch in Brussels, we put the 1.2-litre turbo petrol 5dr version to the test, and it’s a welcome addition to the Auris family in what has fast become an overcrowded and competitive hatchback market. It may only be able to muster 114bhp, however, with maximum input from the newly-fitted 1,197cc, 16-valve, four-cylinder direct injection turbo engine (all engines now comply to meet Euro 6 emissions legislation), an acceleration time of 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds represents a reasonable return when sitting behind the wheel. Furthermore, with a top speed of 124mph, this car is certainly a smooth operator in comparison to some of its direct competitors; Peugeot’s 308 1.2 e-THP or Seat Leon’s 1.2 TSI for example.
The new Auris - I must say - looks rather sleek but it still doesn’t possess the swagger of, say, a Volkswagen Golf. But give credit where it’s due, the engineers have certainly brought the Auris to life with both the front and rear having been extensively redesigned to add some bite to its appearance. The new front headlights are equipped with LED day-running lights and while this is not a rare commodity nowadays, touches like this go a long way toward improving the overall aesthetics of the car.
The interior is simple and refined, and has a more striking dashboard than the previous model.
A new seven-inch touchscreen (available on all models with the exception of the entry-level car), as you would expect, acts as the centrepiece but I cannot help but feel Toyota might have been more subtle in the design stage.
Toyota have put a lot of effort into noise and vibration reduction, and this results in a comfortable experience behind the wheel.
Monsoon-like conditions were far from ideal when putting the 1.2 through its paces in Belgium, yet a cruise along the contemporary roads meandering through the quaint suburban towns and villages of Toyota’s European home, dispelled any frustration at the inclement weather.
However, despite introducing a new steering setup into the fold, it doesn’t quite fit the bill in comparison to the aforementioned models when guiding the car through the more challenging twists and turns the countryside’s terrain had to offer.
The suspension has been reworked, but there’s still not enough body roll for my liking. There was, however, sufficient grip to handle the saturated road surface. Power-wise, you can really feel the turbo boost kicking in around 1500rpm and the car is more than able to hold its own in and around the busier stretches.
With Business Edition and Design models adding more variety to the existing Active, Icon and Excel range, there’s plenty of choice for potential buyers.
There’s also a Hybrid version, which, despite accounting for more than 50 per cent of all Auris sales in Western Europe, really struggles in my estimations. Yes it represents great value for money and operates on exceptionally low running costs, but driving the 1.8 VVT-i petrol 134bhp was just as gloomy an experience inside the cabin as the weather was outside.
If it is efficiency you’re after though, the Hybrid model turns in a combined mpg figure of 78, which should be more than enough to satisfy the more no-frills drivers out there.
If, on the other hand, you’re satisfied with an average of 60.1mpg and want a small family runaround with decent levels of kit and enough poke to get you out of trouble, you could do a lot worse that the 1.2-litre turbo.
Engine: 1.2-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power: 114bhp at 5200-5600rpm
0-62mph: 10.1 seconds
Top speed: 124mph