The new Toyota Auris is a nice addition to the range, with a vastly improved interior, high specification levels and well balanced ride. It could do with some more power though.
The Auris interior
I was extremely surprised by the top spec XR interior. The contrast stitched leather dash, sports seats with firm support and leather wrapped 3 spoke sports steering wheel with controls really impressed with their quality touch and look. Surprising refinement and quietness in the cabin, was topped by the comfortable and solid ride. The only real noise that gets in the cabin is when the CVT(Continuous Variable Transmission) is pushed. Rear seat space is good, and boot space has been improved to 350litres, which is also good considering the competition varies between 296 (Huyndai i30) and 380 (Golf 7). Everything you’d expect and more is standard on the XR trim, including stand out items such as dual zone climate control, Bluetooth Audio, heated leather sports seats, reverse camera and Smart Entry (Keyless entry and starting). Overall the interior is a very comfortable, quiet and has a typical Toyota solid fit and feel to everything. The leather addition on the upright dash even gives a bit of a Lexus CT200h feel to it.
On the safety front, the XR spec includes ABS, EBD and brake assist and 7 airbags, but does not include any form of stability control, which is out of place in this class, price and range. Toyota SA confirmed that this was not included in the less powerful models due to price, but stressed that; “This does not detract from the inherent tortional rigidity and general crash safety of the car”.
The new Toyota Auris' performance
Performance is not really what you’re after in this engine range and price, but the 1.6litre unit is the biggest naturally aspirated unit available in the Auris range. 97kW and 170NM of torque do an admirable job of moving the now lighter Auris around, albeit without much haste. At reef levels it feels quite light-in-the-pants, but fuel consumption with the CVT box rewards at claimed 6.1l/100km. I managed just over 7.3l/100km.
It cruises quietly at legal speeds, only when overtaking or heading uphill do you really feel the engine could do with more power. This new unit features dual VVT-I technology which further improves performance and fuel economy, and with the CVT, is surprisingly instantaneous at pull off. VW’s 1.4TSI unit will feel more powerful due to the turbocharging (and is the fastest and most fuel efficient in the segment) but the Honda Civic and Hyundai i30 with 1.6litre produce similar performance.
The CVT “auto” box does a good job of mimicking an auto box with steps as imitation of traditional gear ratios. It’s one of the better CVT’s I’ve tested, but is still too slippy and whiney, and I’d rather opt for the manual. If you do want an auto, it won’t disappoint, and has the option for manual shifting, which I used quite often.
Ride and handling is actually surprisingly rewarding, considering the vehicle isn’t a performance model. Firm enough on the 16inch alloy wheels without being uncomfortable. Electronic power steering does a good job at articulating what’s going on, but is more comfort based, and suppresses road vibration and shunt through technologies employed in the steering rack.
New Toyota Auris 1.6 XR CVT conclusion
The Auris makes a fighting comeback in the looks and specification department in this 1.6XR CVT. The competition is stiff, and price, reliability and comfort is key here. For a reliable, comfortable every day drive with quality interior you’re going to struggle to beat the Auris at this price. The Golf will end up costing roughly R40K more when specced similarly, but will reward with what is a better motor for those living on the reef. The new Honda Civic is equally appealing on the looks front, but has lower specification (no leather, no Bluetooth) and slightly plasticky interior. The Hyundai i30 is extremely competitively priced, and you could opt for the slightly more powerful 1.8, but interior won’t be on par to the Auris and performance isn’t better even though there’s more capacity.