Better than a Merc! The new Auris is (hatch) back with a bang
I'd be surprised, and I suppose you would too, if the maker of a new car didn't claim it was bigger, better, blah, blah, blah than the previous one.
No surprise, then, that Toyota is saying all that about its new family hatchback, the Auris.
To be blunt, it would want to be. And it would need to put its car where its claims are.
The previous Auris is/was what I call a 'dutiful servant'. It got on with the job downstairs so you could get on with life upstairs. I don't think I've ever had a complaint from a reader about it – and I get lots of complaints.
By the same token, it was nothing more than effective and dull, with a truly forgettable cabin. All the while more and more competitors were offering service with a lot more of a smile.
The latest generation is no longer dowdy to look at, especially at the front where it has suddenly become one of the sharpest-looking in its class. The rear is more universal hatchback design but brings something to the table for all that. So the servant has changed its attire and now serves in a smart, crisp new outfit. I'm all for that.
Inside Toyota has taken the cabin criticisms on board – mind you, the version I had was a few steps up from basic and had brushed aluminium and nice-feeling plastic and upholstery.
I could, at this stage, throw a strop over something that might appear trivial to you. But I won't. I'll just give out for a minute . . . With all the preparation and work put into taking this several steps up the stairs, how could Toyota let it out with a rear wash wiper no longer than my middle finger. The back window was filthy in no time because I was driving on all sorts of roads and under all sorts of weather conditions. But all I had was an aperture I would consider far too small to peer out of. Strop over.
I had settled so quickly in this. Even though it is lower (and wider and just 30mm longer) I had no problem at all getting in. The seats suited me; I had my best position in 10 seconds and there was nothing too demanding on my fading intellect to find the thingies to work the audio, ventilation etc. The company's Touch system on my Luna version was brilliant. It was a simple, straightforward touchscreen that even I could follow. Oh, how I wish it could be replicated in others!
The 1.4-litre diesel is something of a favourite of mine. Like a good dinner made by a wily old cook, it puts your meat, two veg and nicely mashed potatoes on the plate every time.
To be fair, it could do with a few more horsepower to spruce it up from 90bhp – many of its rivals have (albeit larger) more powerful engines.
That said, this was really frugal (helped a little by a car that's 40kg lighter). Not too long ago, we'd have been flag waving the fact that a diesel engine dipped under the 100g/km and can consume as little as four litres every 100 kilometres (that's 74mpg – I'm afraid I could never get it that low).
On 15-inch wheels the emissions on this are 99g/km – impressive. On the 16-inch wheels that I had, it sneaks over the 100g mark to 103g/km – remember, there is a fine 1.33-litre petrol as well; low-mileage drivers don't need diesels.
But the best bit for me was the virtual lack of road/tyre noise in the cabin and a notable ability to glide over rough and bumpy surfaces. I would say this was the best I've come across for a while.
The revised electric power steering gave much better feedback and the suspension overall had more dynamism to it.
Yes, the Ford Focus has a sharper feel to its handling but the Auris had something rare in a family car – the feeling of being in something made for a more upstairs marque. I would say I felt better in it than I did in the subsequent Mercedes A-Class. Now that is sticking my neck out. Yet that is where this car has gone – from diligent servant to something of a modern-day equal.
I still have my criticisms and some rivals are better in a few areas, but upstairs meets downstairs under far more favourable circumstances with the new Auris.