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What - 2010 Toyota Auris
Where - Barcelona, Spain
Date - February 2010
Price - £14,463 - £16,495
Available - Now
Key rivals -Hyundai i30, Kia cee'd, Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon, Skoda Octavia, Vauxhall Astra, Honda Civic, Nissan Qashqai
The original 2007 Toyota Auris was dull, the revised 2010 Toyota Auris is no better; the family hatchback sector has moved on and Toyota has totally failed to move with it.
We like - slightly better to drive than before, slightly better quality interior, slightly more fuel efficient engines, will probably be reliable
We don't like - simply has nothing to offer that other cars in class don't do much better or much cheaper
Gallery: Toyota Auris
Read more Toyota car reviews
Toyota has, we think, got a bit of a problem here. Its reputation for reliability has been rocked by an extensive global recall programme to fix issues with accelerator pedals and brakes.
But that's not really the major issue with the 2010 Toyota Auris. 14 months ago, we drove the all-new Toyota Avensis for the first time, and were prepared to overlook its fundamental dullness.
The Avensis is a tool, designed for reps who work the world's highways, It's comfortable in traffic, solidly built. The Auris is essentially the domestic equivalent - a small car for the home. An appliance.
The 2010 version is a facelift and revision of the 2007 original. And the trouble is that in the interim the family hatchback game hasn't mildly evolved, it's mutated.
Toyota can no longer simply play the value card with the Auris - that spot is gone, stolen in broad daylight by Hyundai and Kia, both offering lower prices, lots of kit and longer warranties.
At the same time, the Auris' personality void makes cars like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf seem like Stephen Fry compared to Toyota's 'faceless businessman in a bowler hat'.
In other words, with Toyota showing no signs of getting into a value tussle with Kia and Hyundai, the 2010 Auris would need a serious set of revisions to step up to the class leaders' levels.
It hasn't got them. New looks for youth appeal? Forget it. Better quality inside? Yes, but. Improved dynamics? Compared to what? New engines? God help them... This car is totally baffling.
In the UK the 2010 Toyota Auris line-up is reduced to three trim levels and three engines. We don't even get the 118g/km version of the 1.4 diesel, for cost reasons.
So 1.33-litre petrol, 1.6-litre 'Valvematic' petrol, or 125g/km CO2 1.4-litre D-4D turbodiesel? Well, basically they're all fine if you're undemanding.
All of them are also noisy at higher revs - and all of them also need higher revs to make progress. Which is doubly odd when you consider Toyota's aging buyer profile.
Does your granny really want to cane the nuts off her Toyota to get it to go up a hill? We kind of doubt it. You say she does mostly urban driving? Then 1.33 or 1.4d will be fine.
Compared to rival units, all three Auris engines look highly impressive on paper. But the reality is a lack-lustre one, filled with oddly spaced gear ratios and an absence of torque.
The naturally aspirated Valvematic, for example, is very clever; but it doesn't deliver anything like the driving experience of rival manufacturers' small and efficient turbo-petrols.
Ride and handling
Similarly, since your granny is unlikely to be in the mood for setting special stage times, the Auris' ride and handling are unlikely to cause her any difficulties. But, still...
Marking a change from the original Auris, which was developed as a true 'world car' with the same suspension settings in every region, the 2010 Auris has been retuned specially for Europe.
Toyota needn't have bothered. It rides ok - though with a slightly undulating sensation at low to moderate speeds - and the steering wheel more or less does what you expect, albeit with highly artificial feel and inertia.
It is also an improvement on the original. But that's about all the good we can say about it. There is no driver delight here whatsoever, nothing to make you smile.
This might not have mattered three years ago; these days practically every other car in this segment places at least some emphasis on involving the driver.
And that means the Hyundais and Kias as well as the Fords and the Volkswagens. We would drive this car only if we really had to - and never very far then.
Toyota has, it says, improved the interior quality. And lo, there are more soft plastics in places, with all the major touch points certainly enhanced. But blimey is it uninspired.
And the fit to the finish is pretty sketchy. To say your five-year-old will have the door panel in pieces in seconds may be an exaggeration - but only a mild one.
The handbrake still looks like some kind of phallus, rising from the centre console, but Toyota has binned the ridged button, immediately inoculating its buyers against further outbreaks of 'Auris thumb'.
The Auris is rather roomy, with good head and legroom. Granny may prefer a five-door, however, as the mechanism for folding the three-door's front seats is rather stiff.
Visibility is iffy at roundabouts, due to the angled A-pillar. The low-cost satnav option is unreliable, and embarrassingly incomprehensible when it comes to pronouncing place names.
Kia and Hyundai offer cabin quality that's at least this high. Step into a Volkswagen, and you'll think you've died and gone to middle-class heaven.
Economy and Safety
The Toyota Auris is a five-star Euro NCAP performer, but the original's score predates the latest, more stringent testing standards. With stability control only optional it would not get five stars now.
You do get seven airbags, though. And the engines are greener, too - though hardly to the extent that Greenpeace will be inviting Toyota sponsorship alongside Help the Aged.
Toyota isn't making too much of an effort here because it has a secret weapon coming - the Auris HSD. This represents the first time Toyota's hybrid tech has made it into the regular model range.
The production Auris 'Hybrid Synergy Drive' version is set to be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March, and promises significantly lower than 99g/km CO2 emissions.
In the meantime, best eco option is the diesel, with 60.1mpg combined according to EU figures. However the 1.33 also deserves a special mention.
This features perhaps the smoothest stop-start system we have ever tested - and it apparently saves 3 percent fuel overall and up to 10 percent around town.
MSN Cars Verdict
Bland is the word - but we expected that.
What's worse, what's truly baffling about the 2010 Toyota Auris is that it appears as if the world's biggest carmaker simply hasn't bothered to look at any of the opposition.
Whether this is complacency or idiocy, we're not sure. Even if you really do treat this car as an appliance it just isn't a good enough one any more.Current recalls not withstanding we're sure it will be incredibly reliable, and Toyota dealer service is first rate. Fine if you were already going to buy a Toyota.
But we can't see this Auris bringing any new customers to the brand - with the inevitable exception of the hybrid - and existing buyers must be wondering. Why choose a three-year/60,000 mile warranty Toyota when you could get five or even seven years assurance for less money elsewhere? The Auris no longer makes any sense.
No-one looking at a Volkswagen Golf is going to go anywhere near a car with so little interior design quality, and the 'improved' driving dynamics smack of total disinterest.
Gallery: Toyota Auris
Read more Toyota car reviews
|Need to know|
|Engines - petrol||1.33, 1.6|
|Engines - diesel||1.4|
|Torque (lb ft)||97-151|
|Top speed (mph)||109-121|
|Rating||Toyota Auris 1.33|
|Ride and handling||**|
|MSN Cars verdict||***|
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