We put the ergonomics of our A7 to the test
Toyota Auris Hybrid: arrival
On fleet since: November 2010
Total mileage: 80 miles
Official combined mpg/CO2: 70.6mpg / 93 g/km
Actual mpg: 48mpg
Costs: £0 so far
Engine: 1.8 VVT-i petrol / electric motor
Performance: 0-62 in 11.4 seconds / 112mph top speed
Power/torque: 134hp/105 lb ft @ 4,000 rpm
Insurance group: 13
List price: £20,882
Options fitted: sat-nav (£1,200), pearlescent paint (£610)
Price as tested: £22,692
Pros: Fuel economy, low emissions, robust build, simple and practical design
Cons: Engine noise under hard acceleration, small boot, inconspicuous styling
Gallery: Toyota Auris Hybrid
Why are we running a Toyota Auris HSD hybrid?
It's a good question. One answer could be that the team at MSN Cars are staunch environmentalists, sandal-wearing vegetarians to a man, with a natural distrust of insanely powerful sports cars and fuel-guzzling limousines.
That's not the correct answer, obviously. We like the fast and the opulent, the extravagantly-spoilered and the leather-swathed. If push came to shove, we might even like those cars slightly more than the greener stuff but don't tell anyone that.
So why the Auris? Well, the Auris HSD is a very interesting car. Stay with me on this. Sporting an advanced hybrid powertrain encased inside the unflinchingly functional Toyota Auris hatchback body, it's close to the polar opposite of the fast and luxurious machines that car nuts like to swoon over.
Ask the experts, though, and they'll confirm that hybrids like this are going to be a much more common sight on our roads in the very near future. Instead of being confined to specially-designed eco-models, hybrid technology is set to be widely available alongside conventional petrol and diesel powertrains in ordinary cars - just like it is in the Auris.
The question is whether it's an option that enough people will want to take up and our Auris HSD looks like the perfect car to provide an answer.
Most of the other hybrid cars you can currently buy for less than £30,000 leave people in no doubt that they have a bank of batteries and an electric motor whirring away under the surface. Honda's Insight and CR-Z are models that only come with hybrid powertrains and the same goes for Toyota's own Prius. All have distinctive aerodynamically-enhanced bodywork that screams green.
The Auris HSD, by contrast, hides its electric light under a bigger bushel. It looks like any other Auris family hatchback, save for a rear spoiler, special alloy wheels and 5mm less ride height. People who want the neighbours to know they've bought a green car might be put off but if you don't give two hoots what the curtain twitchers at number 32 think, the understated looks won't be an issue.
Our Auris is white and its five-door shape is neat and practical. You couldn't group it in with the most visually exciting cars in the family hatchback class but the safe lines are unlikely to offend anyone. If anything, the styling modifications made to the HSD model give it a sportier appearance than the average Auris.
Again, there's little to point to the car's hybrid status inside, the main clues being a stubby blue gearlever to control the CVT automatic gearbox and a dial to show how much battery power you're using (or saving) in place of the rev-counter.
Initially, the attractive little gear lever seems counterintuitive when manoeuvring as you have to pull it backwards to engage drive and push it forwards to select reverse. The otherwise spacious cabin is also let down a little by a small boot (279-litres) that's limited by the batteries located beneath its floor. In general the car seems very solidly assembled and the quality of the materials is also impressive.
What do you get for your money?
The list price for our Auris Hybrid in T-Spirit trim is £20,882. That locates it towards the upper end of what you can pay for a family hatchback these days and matches it up against some desirable and well-equipped rivals.
That said, our car definitely falls into that 'well-equipped' category. The T-Spirit trim level is as posh as the Auris gets and includes keyless entry, keyless start, a rear-view camera, leather and Alcantara trim, a Bluetooth phone system, automatic wipers, automatic headlights and much, much more.
The CVT automatic gearbox is also standard, a point which helps the HSD in comparisons with conventionally-engined rivals that will invariably charge £1,000 more for an auto. The T-Spirit spec doesn't leave much on the options list but our car is fitted with the £1,200 colour screen satellite navigation system and £610 worth of pearlescent paint. That takes the total OTR price to £22,692.
Of course, all of this ignores the real USP of the Auris HSD, Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive. Powering this clever little car is a 1.8-litre VVT-i petrol engine with 98bhp and a 60kW electric motor. The electric powerplant assists the petrol engine with an extra 80bhp, drawing its power from batteries which in turn are replenished by kinetic energy recaptured when the car is braking or coasting.
The hybrid system can be set in Eco or Power modes which maximise efficiency or performance as required. Then there's the exciting-sounding EV mode which can run the Auris on electric power only for very short periods.
You immediately notice how quiet the Auris is at low speeds and it remains hushed when cruising. If you do put your foot down, though, the peace is broken by a strained engine note that leaves you in no doubt that you're not using this super-efficient Toyota hybrid in the approved manner.
What's next for the Toyota Auris HSD hybrid?
The car's going to be getting a big helping of its favourite driving conditions. A 17-mile commute through south London that regularly takes two hours should be the ideal testing ground for the hybrid technology, although the car may need additional opportunities to stretch its legs and keep its battery topped up.
The hybrid powertrain and 93g/km CO2 emissions mean there's no need to pay the London congestion charge and we'll also be keeping a close eye on the Auris' fuel efficiency. The official combined cycle figure of 70.6mpg leads us to expect some pleasantly low-cost motoring over the coming months. We shall see...
Report 1: Toyota Auris Hybrid: arrival (this report)
Report 2: Toyota Auris Hybrid: month two
Report 3: Toyota Auris Hybrid: month three
Report 4: Toyota Auris Hybrid: month four
Report 5: Toyota Auris Hybrid: month five
Report 6: Toyota Auris Hybrid: final report
Review: Toyota Auris Hybrid
Gallery: Toyota Auris Hybrid
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