2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid review

15 February 2013

2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid front view

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: Quiet, refined, relaxing
Bad: Iffy details, rear vision
Price: from £19,995
The latest Toyota Auris is noticeably lower and leaner than the model it replaces, with sharpened creases, tautened surfaces and a much more hawkish look about its lamps. Doubtless it’s meant to look aggressively athletic, an outward reflection of the careful changes to steering and suspension made under the skin, to try to make this British-built car more poised and communicative than before.

So Toyota probably won’t thank me for saying that I can barely remember some of the trips I made in the new Hybrid version of the car, across a busy week that involved an unusual number of journeys to awkwardly distant places.

2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid rear view

However, this absence of impression is not meant as criticism. If I can call to mind exactly what I heard on the radio as I sailed up the M1, but can’t remember whether noise levels were intrusive at speed, it must mean that they weren’t. The extra soundproofing swaddling the engine bay, stuffed into the wheelarches and unfurled behind the dashboard has clearly done its job. As has the six-speaker, DAB-equipped stereo.

Being unobtrusive while deftly meeting every need isn’t easy, after all. Just stop and watch the staff in any fine restaurant or hotel as they move quietly about. Fading into the background is hard work.

So I certainly don’t mean that the Auris Hybrid is dull or boring. It’s neither of those things, but it isn’t tiresome or in-your-face either.

2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid interior

Much of the car’s relaxed demeanour stems from its two-pedal hybrid powertrain, which is both quiet and unfussy in operation – once you adjust to the peculiar toggle-style gearstick.

The powerplant is broadly unchanged from the previous Auris Hybrid or indeed the current Prius, from which the components have been borrowed. A 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine provides up to 98bhp, with another 80bhp on tap from the hybrid electric motor. Their combined efforts peak at 134bhp, propelling the car via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that divorces engine speed from road speed.

At low speed, or when setting off, the engine is typically silent as the car makes progress on electric power alone.

2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid instruments

The most familiar gripe about CVT cars – a frantic mashing sound from the engine room under hard acceleration – has largely been soothed away in the Auris Hybrid through a combination of better isolation and more effective use of the available electric shove.

Getting from rest to 62mph takes 10.9 seconds, but the initial surge away from a standstill can feel a lot brisker than that number suggests, especially if you first prod the “power” button ahead of the gear lever. This unleashes full juice – and a prodigious 207Nm of torque – from the electric motor, which like all electric motors gives its best grunt at low revs. If you end up in the wrong lane at the head of a traffic-light queue, for example, you can outsprint most other cars over the first 30 yards to sort yourself out, get in the right lane, switch back into normal mode, and relax.

2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid gear stick

There is also an “eco” mode that softens throttle responses noticeably. It is perfectly tolerable, even around town, as long as you’re in a Zen frame of mind. It makes a big difference to consumption too: I completed one 200-mile round trip in this mode and saw 63.5mpg. Without it, I generally hovered in the mid 50s, never troubling the official combined-cycle figure of 72.4mpg.

The layout of components in the hybrid system has been improved over the old Auris Hybrid, which bundled its battery into the boot, eating into luggage space. In the new model, the nickel-metal-hydride cells have instead been stashed under the rear seat alongside the petrol tank, leaving the 360-litre boot for your shopping. The same packaging tactic in the Yaris Hybrid led to a cut-down fuel tank and reduced range, but in the larger Auris the Hybrid can still swallow the same 50 litres of unleaded as its conventional counterparts.

2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid dashboard surface

In the top-spec Excel trim of my £21,745 test car, the 17-inch wheels haven’t managed to ruin the ride but they have nibbled at the CO2 score. On 15-inch wheels in mid-range Icon trim, the Hybrid manages 87g/km, versus 91g/km on the bigger alloys. The Icon edition is cheaper too, of course, at £19,995.

Excel trim brings leather-bolstered seats that offer both comfort and support in appropriate proportions, plus some fierce heating elements that feel exactly like you’ve sat on a toaster. Excel spec also adds a clutch of automatic systems including rain-sensing wipers that successfully sense rain, automatic lights, keyless entry, park assist, and squawking parking sensors both front and rear. My vehicle also came with Touch & Go – a questionable name for a sensible £650 upgrade that adds a 6.1-inch touchscreen, excellent navigation guidance, Bluetooth and USB connections, plus a useful reversing camera.

The camera is a particular help, given that the newly aggressive styling has resulted in a rear window not much bigger than a pencil, wiped by a wiper the size of a toothbrush. Fortunately the view in other directions is better, with the swoopy screen pillars not proving too much of a blight up front.

2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid rear view mirror

The interior as a whole is tasteful and restrained – a huge step up from the gauche blunders in plastic that blighted the previous Auris. I’m not sure if the stitched leather dashboard is Excel-level only, but I liked it.

Not everything inside is quite as top notch as that neat stitching might suggest, however. There’s a mushiness to minor items that you won’t find in a new Golf, for example. Shut off an air-vent in the Golf and you’ll feel only oiled precision followed by a click. Do the same in the Auris and you’ll simply sense plastic sliding on plastic until it can’t slide any further.

More obviously, the digital clock on the dashboard appears to have been sourced from a pound shop.

2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid interior clock

Still, there are a few items that manage to surprise and delight. The needle of the economy gauge will change colour from bright white to glowing red as it sweeps out of the “eco” zone and into the “power” section, gently reminding you that you’re probably wasting fuel. It’s a subtle but lovely little touch.

And while the new Auris can’t quite match the aggression of its snout, this is a car that can go around corners without collapsing in a heap of wobbles. Hybrid models get fully independent double-wishbone rear suspension, rather than the simple twist-beam arrangement used in the lesser reaches of the range, while the electrically assisted steering feels firm and direct – there are fewer turns lock to lock than before. On twisty and bumpy country lanes it all comes together surprisingly well.

If you want to trim hedges in your Auris Hybrid you’ll have picked the wrong car, however. Plenty of other cars beat it in the arena of cheap thrills – by which I mean an exciting drive combined with great fuel economy. If, by contrast, you want to waft your way from A to B, I can’t think of many better bets.

2013 Toyota Auris Hybrid boot badge

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