Toyota Auris builds on strengths

The modern family hatchback must appeal to a broad cross-section of motorists, writes Steve Walker. At least, it must if it's to achieve the volume of sales needed to put it near the top of one of the most competitive sectors in the UK car market.

The modern family hatchback must appeal to a broad cross-section of motorists, writes Steve Walker. At least, it must if it's to achieve the volume of sales needed to put it near the top of one of the most competitive sectors in the UK car market.

Achieving this breadth of desirability isn't easy but you can see how the leading family hatchback contenders go about it. In any range, there are value, luxury, fast and economical models and most of combinations in between.

Toyota's Auris is a little different. Despite improvements across the board, the latest facelifted car appears to be adhering more closely to what it's always been good at.

There isn't a great deal in the engine range to spark the interest of the keen driver these days but if efficiency is your thing, the Auris has some tricks up its sleeve. Opening proceedings in the mainstream range is the 1.33-litre petrol unit with VVT-i variable valve timing and Toyota's Stop & Start technology. It's got 100bhp and can take the Auris through the 0-63mph sprint in 13.1 seconds. Next is the 130bhp 1.6-litre V-Matic petrol model. It's the quickest Auris engine with a 0-60mph sprint of 10 seconds and a 121mph top speed. It's also a clever piece of engineering with the timing of both inlet and exhaust valves precisely controlled by computer along with the amount of valve lift. Finally, there's the 90bhp 1.4-litre D-4D common-rail injection diesel that has more torque than both petrol units. Here the big sprint takes 11.9 seconds.


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In a bid to enliven its driving experience, the latest Auris features retuned suspension which is said to better suit the preferences of European drivers and our roads. High-speed stability, ride comfort and handling security have all been addressed. The electric power steering system has also come in for attention and Toyota says it's corrected the detached feel of the helm on the original Auris models.

The Auris isn't ugly in any way but there's little for the eye to latch on to within the amorphous styling scheme. The gentle curves are cleaner on the latest cars which have a deeper bumper that can house integrated fog lights, a more shapely bonnet and headlamps swept back into the wings.

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Build quality is as good as anything in the sector and these facelifted models highlight this more effectively through the use of classier materials. There's soft-touch plastic for the dash top and a nice silver finish for the eye-catching centre console.The floor so there's more foot room for back-seat passengers than in most family hatchbacks. You won't want for head or legroom in any of the five seats and hatchback customers who regularly travel fully-loaded will appreciate this spacious design. Rear-seat backrests even recline to make those in the back more comfortable and there's a healthy 354-litre boot behind.

The 1.33-litre petrol engine returns 48.7mpg on the combined cycle but should be better still by comparison in urban traffic where its Stop & Start system brings the most benefit. Its emissions are 136g/km. The 1.6-litre petrol unit can achieve close to 43mpg and 153g/km but the diesel tops the lot with 60mpg and 125g/km. These figures stand up well against rivals with similar engine options.

Rather than trying to be all things to all people, the Auris is a family hatchback that sticks to what it does well. The latest facelifted car might sport cleaner lines and sharpened driving dynamics but it still prioritises practical virtues over dynamic and aesthetic ones.

Which means that where the Auris continues to excel is in its build quality, highly-efficient engines and general versatility. It does what we've come to expect of a Toyota hatchback and that's exactly what the brand's loyal followers are after.

TOYOTA AURIS

PRICE: �14,463 to �17,745 on the road

PERFORMANCE: 1.6, 0-62mph 10 seconds; top speed 121mph

MPG: 1.6, combined 42.8

EMISSIONS: 125 to 153g/km

INSURANCE GROUP: 4 to 5

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE: Length 4,220mm; width 1,760mm; height 1,515mm

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