REVIEW DATE: 20 Dec 2007
Toyota openly admits it has underachieved in the money-spinning family hatch market in the UK. It's banking on the latest Auris diesels to start rectifying matters. Dave King gets behind the wheel.
It's impossible to consider these Toyota Auris diesel models without at least a brief mention of the Corolla. The world's best selling car, it never really achieved much affection in this country, being generally seen as a functional but unexciting 'white good' of a car. The Auris aims to change that and project a more dynamic image for Toyota family hatches.
So why are we looking at diesels? The simple reason is because this is where the big sales will come and also because Toyota has boldly plumbed a 180bhp oil-burner into the snub nose of the Auris, making it a real closet rocket. While it seems vaguely churlish to mull over where the 30+ million-selling Corolla went wrong, the Auris marked a fresh start, in this country at least. The name (pronounced OW-riss) is claimed to follow the theme started by Yaris and Avensis and has its roots in Aurum, the Latin word for gold.
Three diesel engines are offered, the entry level powerplant being the 1.4-litre D-4D 90, which produces 89bhp and 190Nm of torque. A more popular option looks set to be the car I covered most miles in, the 2.0-litre D-4D 130. This packs 124bhp and a maximum torque figure of 300Nm, translating into a sprint to 60mph of ten seconds flat and a top speed of 109mph. The technical highlight of the range is the SR180 version which is good for 175bhp and a whopping 400Nm of torque, making it as muscular in the mid-range as a Porsche 911 Carrera S. It'll get off the line to the 60mph benchmark in 8.1 seconds but it's when the turbocharger gets spooled up that this engine does its best work, jetting from 50 to 75mph in 8.4 seconds.
"As you'd expect from Toyota, standard equipment levels are excellent."
The electrically-assisted power steering is accurate and compared to the petrol models, it's easy to feel the weight of the D4-D engine on turn-in. The six-speed manual transmission features some closely-stacked ratios that you'll need to keep on top of to maintain decent torque which, in the D4-D 130, is found in a narrowish seam between 2,000 and 2,800rpm. Fortunately, the 'box is a joy to use. Less delightful is the simple torsion beam rear suspension which feels a little dead. It's illuminating that the range-topping SR180 gets a fully independent rear suspension setup.
Perhaps the kindest way of describing the Auris' exterior shape is 'evolutionary.' A less charitable verdict would be unadventurous. If Toyota really wanted to position the Auris as a different and higher quality car than the Corolla, step one should be to ensure it doesn't look broadly similar in dimension to that car. Yet despite the neater touches, well, it does. While Toyota senior suits talk about J-factor, vibrant clarity and emotional identity, most of us think it represents a missed opportunity.
The interior has been smartened up with a clearer dash design and OPTITRON instruments but materials quality is slightly hit and miss. There's also a significant lack of oddments stowage space. For a car that namechecks the Volkswagen Golf amongst its key rivals, the Auris is more than a little behind the curve here. On the plus side, longer overhangs offer significantly better luggage capacity (354 litres) than the old Corolla and despite the wheelbase being the same, some clever packaging sees rear legroom increase. Compared to the Corolla, the Auris is 40mm longer and 50mm wider. One particularly neat design detail is the low door profiles which help to reduce the visual effect of tallness.
The Auris diesel line-up isn't entirely straightforward in the way it's sold through dealers. At the entry level there's the 1.4 D-4D 90, available in T2 or TR trims, and three or five-door bodystyles. The TR model is also offered with the option of a MultiMode automatic gearbox. The D4-D 130 comes in the value TR guise in three of five door form, with the ritzier T Spirit trim only offered with the five-door body. Finally, the SR180 is offered in both three and five-door bodystyles.
As you'd expect from Toyota, standard equipment levels are excellent. The TR looks an especially good buy, the Auris D4-D 130 TR three-door gets 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and extra chrome detailing at the back of the car.
If the Auris plays a mixed hand in terms of design, it comes storming back with a fistful of aces when it comes to running costs, although there is one joker in the pack in the shape of the SR180, a model which we'll consider separately. Both the 90 and 130 D4-D models are not only good value from new but also turn in sparkling running cost figures. If you're going to buy a car with your head rather than heart, these models are right in the mix. Granted, that might not have been Toyota's intention, but it's a reasonably desirable outcome. All models use Toyota's Optimal Drive technology so owners can expect 60mpg from the D4-D 90 model and a very respectable 54mpg from the punchy D4-D 130. Emissions for these two cars are rated at 125 and 138g/km respectively. Likewise, insurance is extremely cheap, the D4-D 90 attracting a 4E rating, the D4-D 130 a 6E banding.
The SR180 isn't in the same boat, the 175bhp diesel engine being seen as more of a temptation to speedy drivers although the 13A insurance grouping is still reasonable for a car with this amount of poke. The 47mpg quoted figure sounds good but when you feel the addictive acceleration this thing can deliver, you'll be mashing the throttle pedal at every opportunity. Anything over 35mpg will then be seen as a bonus.
The Toyota Auris diesel range has a lot going for it. Spacious, well-built, good value, well-equipped and with a welcome element of dynamism injected in the form of the SR180 model, it is, on most objective scorecards, a strong performance. As the Corolla proved, objective scorecards work for a good deal of the world but we Brits are curiously immune to them. We want more. We want personality, some fire in the car's belly, possibly a few appealing flaws that we can call character. This is where the Auris falls a little flat.
Perhaps that appears harsh but it's reality. The Ford Focus will continue to sell more because it's more fun and the Golf because it says more about you as a person. The Auris diesel is that cagoule in the bottom of your chest of drawers. Sensible, but you wouldn't want an ex to see you in it.
The results below show the top AURIS deals on buyacar
|Toyota Auris 1.33 Dual VVTi TR 5dr hatchback|
|Toyota Auris 1.6 V-Matic Icon 5dr [Comfort] hatchback|
|Price £15,077||Save £2,968|
|Toyota Auris 1.6 V-Matic Icon 5dr [Nav/Comfort] hatchback|
|Price £15,589||Save £3,106|
|Toyota Auris 1.8 VVTi Hybrid Excel 5dr CVT Auto [Nav/Pan Rf] hatchback|
|Price £18,912||Save £4,033|
|Toyota Auris 1.6 V-Matic SR 5dr hatchback|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT AURIS DEALS|
|For AURIS DIESEL RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.3 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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