Toyota Auris 1.6 Valvematic

Has Toyota made its previously unmemorable Auris desirable at last?

Price: £17,495-£20,245
Engine: 1,598cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, 130bhp
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 124mph, 0-62 in 10.0sec, 47.9mpg, CO2 138g/km

A year ago, Toyota launched a very surprising car. Simultaneously the giant Japanese company adopted a new slogan: "Fun to drive, again." No longer, it seemed, were Toyotas to be mere domestic appliances on wheels, durable devices unable to stir the slightest degree of desire in anyone with a pulse.

That car, the GT86, is a neat and very entertaining sports coupé with rear-wheel drive and an aura of simplicity. It came about, rekindling memories of past amusing Toyotas such as the MR2 and the Celica, because the current man at the top (Akio Toyoda) is a car nut. And he has realised that to make people want his cars, rather than merely need them, is a very sound sales strategy.

Meanwhile, Toyota still has to sell its mainstream hatchbacks, saloons and MPVs. So into this new cauldron of intended excitement is now pitched the latest Auris, the umpteenth generation of the line called, until 2007, Corolla.

The outgoing model, although not bad, was impressively unmemorable, its sole spark of interest emanating from the Hybrid version, in which the driving experience somehow gelled together more, one suspects, by happy accident than by design.

This time, there is again a hybrid, which is expected to account for 40 per cent of UK sales, and it overcomes the chief snag of the last one by mounting the bulky battery under the rear seat, so boot space is now the same as the standard car's. The battery is lighter, too, contributing to a 70kg weight loss (it's a 50kg slim-down for the regular version).

Much more obvious, though, is that the new Auris is visually striking. It has a strong face, a crisp shoulder line and a confident stance in the way the short, shapely tail sits on the rear wheels. The rear light clusters are works of four-pointed art, while the rear reflectors sit in vertical nacelles as though pretending to be red-hot air emerging from some powerhouse's orifice.

Fanciful? Of course, but this car has had some design love expended upon it. It goes slightly wrong inside, though, with a curious collision of shapes in a dashboard which seems constructed of too many randomly joined components.

The new car sits two inches lower, positioning occupants in a slightly more laid-back pose. This immediately makes it feel more engaging to drive, although the initial engine range brings no cause for excitement. A 2.0-litre diesel is the obvious absentee; it, and a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo petrol engine will arrive in due course, but for now it's a 1.3-litre petrol unit with 99bhp; an 89bhp 1.4 diesel; the hybrid, whose 1.8-litre engine contributes 98bhp of the 134bhp total; and a 130bhp, 1.6-litre petrol engine.

That last figure is a healthy output, and the Auris so powered feels smooth and lively. The best part, though, is the way it rides with suppleness and flow while responding crisply to the steering and gripping with vigour. It's a genuinely enjoyable car with a credible dose of Toyota's new "fun to drive".

Unfortunately, the Hybrid's extra weight and the bigger wheels on which the test car rode spoil both the ride comfort and the steering response, so it is no longer the star as far as enjoying the drive is concerned. However, it is highly economical if driven sympathetically, and it can be had with the smaller wheels on which it is rated at just 87g/km CO2. In that Icon trim guise it costs £19,995, which makes it a proposition of remarkable value. Maybe that 2.0-litre diesel isn't so urgent after all.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own