You don’t buy an Auris if you’re seeking a really dynamic driving experience from a family hatchback of this kind but in second generation form, this car has proved to be a big improvement on its unexceptional predecessor. This revised MK2 model makes another step forward in this regard, courtesy of a package of changes primarily aimed at enhancing comfort and day-to-day ease of use. It’s now quieter and offers sharper steering. The car rides a little better too, though the extent to which you’ll feel that depends on the engine variant you choose.
The two oldest Auris powerplants, the 99bhp 1. 33-litre VVT-i petrol unit and the 90bhp 1. 4-litre D-4D diesel, must be satisfied with a rudimentary torsion bar rear suspension set-up. That’s replaced by the more sophisticated double-wishbone arrangement you get with the engines offered further up the range. These include a freshly-developed 112bhp 1. 6-litre D-4D diesel capable of 67. 3mpg and 108g/km of CO2. And another powerplant new to the model line-up, a 116bhp 1. 2-litre petrol turbo unit that offers perky performance, making 62mph from rest in 10. 1s en route to 124mph; it’s the variant I’m trying here. At the top of the line-up, as before, there’s the option of a 1. 8-litre petrol/electric hybrid version that delivers 78. 5mpg and 81g/km in a model that can travel up to a mile on pure electric power alone.
The original design of this second generation Auris model was a lot slicker than its predecessor, incorporating what Toyota calls its ‘keen look’ – all sharp angles and smart, rakish lines. And that more purposeful lower-slung styling has been further developed with this revised MK2 model, which features redesigned front and rear sections that aim to give the car a broader stance and what the Japanese brand hopes will be ‘a more prestigious and sophisticated presence’.
Time to take a seat at the wheel. Look around and you’ll see that cheap silver paint finishes have been replaced by real chrome, there’s a classy ‘piano black’ finish for these prominent door pulls and the more curvaceous dashboard gets a smoother, soft-touch surface and this smart stitched trimming.
Let’s move to the rear seat. Toyota remains proud of the fact that this is still one of the most compact cars in the family hatchback class, though you might not think this to be a particularly good thing if you’ve a family of five to carry about.
Fortunately, some very careful design has ensured that you don’t notice the compact dimensions. Take the sloping rear roof height for example, disguised here by the way that the ceiling gently bulges over your head.
And out back? Does the relatively compact shape compromise boot space? No really. There’s quite a high loading lip, but the wider tailgate opening introduced with the original version of this second generation model is welcome and beyond it, there’s the capacity to swallow up to 435-litres if you load to the roof - pretty good by class standards and far more than you’d get from, say, a rival Ford Focus.
If you’re the kind of person who brings uncompromising reason to the purchase decision when it comes to getting yourself a new family hatchback, then you’ll bond with this Auris right away. Optimal Drive technology, hybrid power, low servicing costs, decent residuals: it’ll all be music to your ears.
What’s changed here though, is that in this improved second generation form, this car now offers a lot more than that. You simply don’t expect it to be as sharp looking, as accomplished to drive and as value-orientated as it now is. Plus the introduction of 1. 2-litre petrol Turbo power and the 1. 6-litre D-4D diesel engine mean that at last, this car is a fully competitive prospect if either you don’t want hybrid power – or can’t quite stretch to it. The petrol/electric option’s worth trying though and it remains unique in this segment.
Finally then, a family hatchback with a Toyota badge that’s class-competitive in almost every way. It’s been a long time coming.