Top speed: 112mph
0-60mph: 11.4 seconds
CO2 emissions: 89g/km
Best for: Those seeking a low profile
Also worth considering? Ford Focus ECOnetic; VW Golf Bluemotion; Honda Insight
If you've ever been lucky enough to have been in a position to order a new car, then you'll be familiar with the options list, the place where you can spec up your car to your heart's content – bigger wheels, metallic paint, leather trim, that sort of thing. However, the box that you won't have been able to tick is the one marked "anonymity". For that you really need to order a Toyota Auris.
I'm not quite sure what "Auris" means, but if I were told it was the Latin for anonymous I would happily believe it. The new Hybrid version of the Auris is slightly less anonymous, what with its extra front and rear spoilers and special low profile (appropriately) wheels and tyres, all stuck on to help with fuel economy, as you'd expect from a medium-sized hybrid. That, after all, is the whole point of this advanced-but-heavy technology; a petrol engine supplemented in parallel by an electric motor, using energy stored in batteries to maximise efficiency and, in some circumstances, performance. The beauty of the Auris lies beneath its unprepossessing skin.
All going well, you may be able to top 70mpg in your Auris Hybrid, although I was never able to match this claim, just as I have never been able to match the claims made for other hybrids, such as the Honda Insight, the Auris's most direct competitor, and the Auris's specialised sibling the Prius. There is a very strong argument for all Hybrid customers to take a look at the more conventional geared-for-economy models such as Volkswagen's "Bluemotion" editions or Ford's "ECOnetic" variants of their mainstream cars. They make fewer concession to the new technology – so boot space is unaffected, for example – and offer fuel economy which is almost as impressive. Plus they are usually cheaper.
All that said, the Auris is a very personable little companion. It boasts all the traditional Toyota virtues, so it has delightfully light controls, including a dinky little gear lever for the automatic gearbox. And, in case you were wondering, I encountered no mechanical maladies on my test drives. The temptation, strange to say, is to treat the Auris like a performance car. All hybrids enjoy the advantage of low-speed torque thanks to their electric motors, which means they accelerate very briskly indeed to, say, 30mph. It may suit you that when you're flooring your Auris its highly developed state of anonymity means that no one else will notice.