Open gallery Close by Matt Burt 31 March 2014 Follow @@Matt_Burt_ Share
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This second-generation Toyota Auris, first introduced in Europe in 2013, was the result of an ongoing sea change within the Japanese car giant’s boardroom.
Concerned by lukewarm reactions to its mass-market models, enlightened Toyota boss Akio Toyoda demanded sharper looks and proportions aong with weight distribution reconfigured to provide a more engaging drive.
The new Auris has its plus points but overall it falls short of the standards set by the Volkswagen Golf and Ford FocusMatt BurtExecutive Editor, Autocar
So while both platform and wheelbase are carried over from the Auris Mk1 – it has the same 2.6m wheelbase as the previous car and is a touch under 4.3m long – that’s about where the similarities end.
The Auris’s styling is a good deal more modern than that of its predecessor (and quite slippy, with a drag coefficient of 0.277). It is also one of the shortest cars in the Ford Focus class, while weight drops by an average of 50kg across the range.
It’s decently spacious in the front, so there’s a lot to be said for the Auris’s compact package, especially in urban areas. Boot space, at 350 litres, is class average, although the false boot floor (which allows a flat loading bay when the rear seats are folded down) makes it harder to exploit.
Those seeking more load space, however, could always opt for Toyota’s estate variant of the Auris, called the Touring Sports.
By lowering the Auris’s roofline and reducing its ride height, Toyota has reduced the centre of gravity which in turn affords more supple suspension.
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Those worrying about heads striking headlinings needn’t fret, either; the height reduction has been in part prompted by the outgoing Auris’s taller-than-average proportioning, and Toyota is compensating with a roof that billows above each seat row. The new front seats have impressively supportive and upright backs and the driving position is sound.
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There are five trims to peruse through – Active, Icon, Business Edition, Design and Excel. Entry-level models get steel wheels, LED day-running-lights, climate control, front electric windows and USB connectivity as standard, while hybrid models get 15in alloys and keyless start added.
Upgrade to Icon and you get 16in alloys, Toyota Safety Sense technology, electric windows, a reversing camera, and Touch 2 infotainment system complete with a 7.0in touchscreen display, DAB radio and Bluetooth, while the fleet-friendly Business Edition adds cruise control, heated seats and sat nav.
The mid-range Design models gain 17in alloy wheels, Alcantara-clad sports seats, tinted rear windows and cruise control, while the flagship Excel Aurises get LED headlights, sat nav, auto wipers and lights, dual-zone climate control and parking sensors included in the package.
Improved fuel efficiency, handling and ride are the aims, while criticism of the old car’s striking but ergonomically troubled flying-buttress centre console has provoked a major rethink of the dashboard’s architecture and finish, of which more shortly.
The front suspension uses the same MacPherson strut layout as before but with tweaks. Higher specification cars – including the petrol-electric hybrid and the 128bhp petrol – get a double wishbone rear suspension arrangement, while lesser Aurises retain a twist beam.
The electric power steering has a quicker ratio (14.8:1, down from 16:1) and the steering column has been stiffened. The happy surprise is that the Auris gels competently on the road, at least when it is equipped with the smaller (and more fuel efficient) 16-inch wheel rims.
Many will be pleased to find that the ride is pleasingly compliant and that the stiffer body feels satisfyingly robust. The old car’s cornering flop has gone and the electric power steering is accurate and more consistent, despite the steering wheel feeling overly light.