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Toyota powers ahead with the clean-living Auris HSD

TOYOTA, a leader in hybrid technology for over a decade, has launched the first full hybrid powerpack in the highly important small family car segment. The Auris HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) claims fuel consumption figures in the region of 70 mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 93g/km which makes it one of the cleanest cars around.

But the sting is in the tail with the initial outlay, a €24,925 price tag. Toyota argues, however, that apart from the advanced technology, the executive level of equipment on board would add up to €5,000 on some rivals in the highly competitive C segment.

The low running costs, €104 road tax, and €1,500 VRT rebate, will cushion the initial cost and owners will find that they are right up there with Lexus quality quietness and specification.

The car has smooth take-off on battery power and even when the engine cuts in to give maximum 136 bhp output, vibration is kept to a minimum. The 0-100km sprint takes just over 11 seconds which matches conventional 2-litre petrol and diesel power units, but stop-start and the battery power for start-offs and low-speed driving keep fuel costs down.

With automatic transmission, the driver can choose EV (electric drive), Eco drive or Power Drive modes.

New styling to the body gives the Auris a fresh look. Climate control, seven airbags, cruise control, bluetooth phone, hill start assist, 17in alloys and a smart start system give the new model upmarket class which raises the standard for the competition. Boot space, despite the battery pack, is 280 litres and rear seats can be folded down to increase this area.

Also new on the Toyota forecourts now is the third generation of Yaris where the emphasis is on sharper style and extra technology built into the mechanical parts. Electric power steering , seven airbags and a full pack of braking and traction control aids are included to improve safety.

Top grades Luna and Sol get 6.1 inch touch-screen interface for radio, CD/MP3, bluetooth and music streaming. From November, the Sol will have a Touch & Go satellite navigation system as standard.

To give better driving dynamics and more interior space, the wheelbase has been increased by 50mm and the interior width by 30mm. The engine options are a 1.0 litre petrol, 1.33 litre petrol and 1.4 litre D-4D turbo diesel. Toyota says that in mixed driving, the 1.0 litre engine can return 58 mpg. Prices start at €14,760.

The new arrivals come at a good time for Toyota which is leading the field in the sales charts this year where sales are expected to peak at under 90,000. Next year will be extremely tough for importers and garages with the forecast that sales of new cars will drop further to around 80,000 units.

Martin Brennan

Sunday Independent