Toyota Auris 1.4 RT (2007) Driving Impression

Toyota Auris 2007

Looking at Toyota’s latest attempt at C-segment hatchback glory, there are clear signs that the Japanese brand has closely studied the Volkswagen recipe. This is neither a surprise, nor a bad approach… Then again, many have tried and failed – gunning for Golf appears to be the unenviable task set for every new C-segment hatchback. But it’s not only the rival manufacturers that have been hoping for the top-selling hatchback to be toppled. The Golf’s continuing global success has also been an irritation to motoring enthusiasts who lament Volkswagen’s conservative approach with its champion. Ironically perhaps, it is in this conservatism and careful evolution that one can find the secret to the Golf’s success.

Now we have the Toyota Auris which, based on appearances alone, seems perfectly middle-of-the-road from the outside, but significantly more impressive in its cabin. Just like a Golf, then…

Softly, softly…

Unlike its predecessor, the RunX, which exhibited a few racy elements in its exterior styling, the new Toyota Auris is a grown-up’s car, devoid of frills and any kind of sporty pretensions. In fact, courtesy of its somewhat bloated looks, there are elements of MPV styling to be found in its overall design. Its big body is further emphasised by the fitment of small 15-inch steel wheels to this RT model, as well as the absence of front and rear foglamps to break the monotony of the full colour coding. Visually it is entirely inoffensive, and unlikely to get any pulses racing.

The Toyota designers worked considerably harder inside… Compared with the plasticky facia of its predecessor, which was identical to what you’d find inside the previous-generation Corolla, the Toyota Auris gets its own dashboard made from premium materials and boasting a number of “artsy” details. There’s a flowing, raised centre console, for example, which positions the gear lever closer to hand, and which boasts storage space underneath. Also rather quirky is a near-vertical handbrake lever.

At this price level the use of so much soft-touch plastics is to be commended, and overall the lasting impression of even this base-model Auris’s interior is of quality and sophistication. Adding to this near-premium ambience is a very neat instrument panel with striking chronograph-inspired dials housing comprehensive digital displays.

The standard specification of the Toyota Auris RT model reviewed here is acceptable and the selection process clearly put the emphasis on comfort and safety. As such, there are four airbags, ABS with EBD and Isofix child seat anchorages at the rear. The driving position is superbly comfortable, mostly because the Auris boasts a steering column that offers generous adjustment for rake and reach. Also included in the package are; air-conditioning, power steering, electric windows and mirrors, radio/CD player and remote central locking. The cloth-upholstered seats, by the way, are very comfortable, offering exceptional support. Rear legroom is probably average for this segment, but unfortunately the boot is quite small. You do, however, get a full-size spare wheel as standard, which partly explains the high floor of the boot.

Slowly, slowly…

The feeling of solidity and the excellent NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) control come with a weight penalty. The Toyota Auris is fairly heavy for a C-segment hatchback. As a result, its admittedly willing 71 kW 1,4-litre petrol engine struggles to move it along with any sense of urgency. The slow 0-100 km/h performance (13 seconds) is unlikely to matter much to the target market, but the fact that it feels rather lethargic at the Reef, especially with a full complement of occupants, may well be of concern.

Partly because of this lack of power, you’re likely to wring the little engine’s neck, which impacts fuel consumption. You’re unlikely to match Toyota’s claimed 6,9 litres/100 km. Expect a figure of closer to 8 litres/100 km.

No, this is a car that demands a more leisurely approach. Driven in such a fashion the Toyota Auris is actually mighty impressive. The electrically assisted steering is light and precise, but devoid of weighting and feedback. The ride is beautifully damped and road-, mechanical- and wind-noise suppression is probably class-leading. It certainly would make for a lovely daily driver.

Toyota Auris RT - Verdict

There’s a feeling of solidity, quality and refinement about the new Toyota Auris that the RunX never possessed. On that score Toyota has succeeded admirably in bringing a convincing Golf challenger to market. In fact, in terms of its interior comfort, design and perceived quality, it runs the Golf not only close, but arguably edges ahead in some respects. Also mirroring the base-model Golf (1,6-litre) is the Toyota Auris 1,4 RT’s lack of performance and focus on ride comfort in preference to sporty dynamics. On paper and from inside the cabin, then, it really is hard to choose between the two.

Yet, there is one area in which the Toyota Auris will struggle to match the Golf, and that has much to do with the fact that the Volkswagen has been evolving, consistently, since the late ‘70s into the car it is today. It’s got heritage and, perhaps because of that, has risen above its econo-box origins to become quite a desirable, quasi-premium product. The Toyota Auris doesn’t have this, and it’s not something a manufacturer can replicate, so in terms of ultimate appeal in this segment, at best can hope for second place.

We like:

  • Refinement
  • Comfort
  • Perceived quality
  • Ride comfort
  • Standard safety spec
We don’t like:
  • Small boot
  • Lethargic performance
  • Dull looks
Fast facts

Engine: 1,4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol

Power: 71 kW @ 6 000 rpm

Torque: 130 Nm @ 4 400 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Wheels: 15-inch steel

Top speed: 170 km/h

0-100 km/h: 13 seconds

Fuel economy: 6,9 litres/100 km

Source: www.um.co.za

Also consider:

  • Ford Focus 5-dr 1,6 Ambiente: The Ford’s bigger-capacity engine gives it a torque advantage, but not by much. The Focus also offers more boot space, but lacks the Toyota’s safety specification and perceived quality.
  • Opel Astra 1,6 Essentia: Somewhat ageing in this group, but still a good car with solid build quality and decent standard specification. Noticeably swifter than the Toyota Auris, too, but can’t match the Auris’s more modern, better executed cabin.
  • Mazda3 Sport 1,6 Original: Shares some genes with the Focus but feels different – the Mazda comes across as livelier on the road and the emphasis is more on dynamic sharpness than ride comfort. The interior looks good but it lacks spec compared with the Toyota Auris and it’s not as refined either.
 

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