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Toyota Auris Hybrid: month two
Where have I been?
The Auris Hybrid hasn't been to some of the places i wanted it to go to this month. That's largely because the Great British weather had the temerity to dump around a foot of snow on my house.
Compared to some, we had it easy round our way but getting where you wanted to go on the roads still became a bit of a lottery for three or four days in early December. Undeterred and armed with the invaluable knowledge contained within the MSN Cars Winter Motoring Guide, I bought a ticket and ventured out.
First, a special mention must go to the train companies who I sometimes let take the strain on my morning commute. They managed to inject their service with a degree of certainty that was completely absent from road journeys in our snowy spell. They cancelled all the trains.
With a white flag fluttering from the roof of the local station, the white Auris Hybrid was my only route into the office.
What do I like?
The thought of using a hybrid car in sub-zero temperatures might produce a twinge of unease in some people but there really is nothing to worry about.
Toyota assures customers that the electric motor and batteries that make up its Hybrid Synergy Drive technology are tested in extreme conditions that far exceed what you'll encounter in the Home Counties this side of the next ice age.
It was minus six degrees centigrade one morning but a poke of the start button still brought the Auris Hybrid's electrics whirring into life without fuss.
Like many motorists across parts of the UK where the chance to drive on snow and ice doesn't present itself very often, I must admit to edging out of the driveway onto the white fluffy stuff secretly thinking Shackleton had nothing on me. That sense of novelty and adventure didn't hang around for long.
In reality, my snowy odysseys weren't dramatic in the slightest. This was thanks partly to my living a short, hill-free drive from a major-ish road and partly to the Auris Hybrid proving quite at home on slippery surfaces.
In Eco mode, the Auris dulls its throttle response to help conserve fuel but this is handy when you're trying to avoid wheelspin on snow. The CVT self-shifting gearbox also serves to make the Toyota an effortless car to drive smoothly, as does the lack of punch the petrol engine suffers from at low revs.
With less traffic on the roads, the snowy drive in and out of Central London may actually have been easier than normal. As for the Auris, it's proving reluctant to give up any serious shortcomings but is it a car you can really love?
What don't I like?
The Auris Hybrid, like its better-known cousin the Prius, is capable of running solely on electricity for short periods. Toyota says that when the car is set in normal mode it adopts EV (Electric Vehicle) mode automatically from start-up and at speeds below 31mph.
In practice, I've yet to get more than fifty yards of pure electric travel out of the Auris, even at a 10mph crawl and with EV mode manually selected via the button on the dash. Toyota says the petrol motor is designed to cut in "if the system determines that its output is needed", and the system is obviously determining that quite a lot.
The average fuel economy reading has dipped slightly to 46mpg. This would be decent going for a C-segment hatch that's being driven mainly at low speeds in urban traffic but the official urban cycle economy figure for the car is 70.6mpg, that's identical to what it returns on the combined cycle. On the current evidence, the Auris would need a sail and a favourable wind to replicate that in the real world.
What's next for the Toyota Auris HSD?
It seems that the qualities that make the Auris Hybrid slightly unexciting in normal weather conditions make it well suited to the cold. Now I'm hoping that the snow holds off long enough to put the car to a more representative test.
I'm keen to get that average economy figure up so it's time to reset the computer and drive like the Archbishop of Canterbury with a migraine for a while. I'll report back on any progress next time, and on what the headroom's like in the hat.
Report 1: Toyota Auris Hybrid: arrival
Report 2: Toyota Auris Hybrid: month two (this report)
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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