Road test: Toyota Auris
WITH sharper styling, keener driving dynamics, more equipment and extremely aggressive pricing, the Mk2 Toyota Auris is a big step forward.
Factor in a five year, 100,000 mile warranty and it becomes a real contender in the family hatchback class.
The rear suspension is an expensive multi-link arrangement that's usually reserved for plusher hatches like the Volkswagen Golf. It means that the Auris not only rides well but corners decently too.
The ride quality is quite dependent on which size wheels you choose and if you prefer a comfortable ride, you should avoid ticking the options box for bigger alloys.
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Combine decent body control with accurate electrically assisted power steering and you have a car that can be hustled through a set of bends with some poise.
The front seats have a much greater adjustment range than previous models, and a wider angle of steering wheel adjustment make it easier for drivers of all heights to find a comfortable position.
There's 20mm more rear legroom and there's more space in the boot – 360 litres with the rear seats in place.
Although the design of the dashboard probably isn't going to win any prizes for style, it's ergonomically very sound. The steering wheel follows a similar philosophy. It looks a bit odd but the controls mounted on it work really well after a bit of practice.
The entry-level models come with electric front windows, air conditioning, heated door mirrors and a stereo with USB and AUX-in connections.
Go for a top of the range model and you'll find gear such as 17-inch alloys, a park-assist system, and heated front seats. Options include a panoramic roof and leather upholstery.
The Auris is as well endowed with safety gear as you'd imagine, with all models getting seven airbags, including twin-chamber front airbags and a driver's knee airbag; and anti lock brakes, among other features.
Despite Toyota's best efforts, it's likely that most UK buyers won't appreciate how much the latest Auris has improved.
But then family hatchback buyers tend not to be adventurous. Golf, Astra, Focus, Megane – they stick to the tried and tested.
It's usually the case that choosing something a bit different from the main contenders results in a pretty serious monetary disadvantage when all the sums are calculated at resale time, but that's not the case with the second generation Auris.
Particularly in the 1.33-litre VVT-i petrol form we've been looking at here, it's competitive against the best in class and its reliability record will probably ace all of the aforementioned usual suspects.
What you don't expect with the Auris is for it to be good fun to drive.
You don't expect it to be sharp looking and you probably don't expect it to be seriously well equipped.
This latest car is all of that and more. It still faces an uphill battle to get British buyers to place orders but those who do will be rewarded with a solid car that is – on the quiet – more fun than you'd ever give it credit for.
It's made of the right stuff and it deserves your attention.