This week we’ve had the Toyota Auris Excel touring Sports Hybrid in for review, the hybrid version of Toyota’s Auris Estate with range-topping Excel trim.
Since its arrival, the Auris has undergone a couple of titivates, with some new trim levels arriving in 2014 and a bit of a cosmetic titivate in 2015 saw new bumpers, grille and lights arrive.
All these tweaks applied to the car we have in this week, the rather long-named Toyota Auris Hybrid Excel Touring Sports 1.8 CVT, which is another way of saying its the Toyota Auris Estate, which launched in 2013 – built in Burnaston – with Toyota’s full hybrid powertrain as an option in addition to a 1.4 D-4D and 1.6 Valvematic.
Many would argue that an estate version of a hatchback is almost pointless, but the reality is that hatchback versions of cars like the Auris continue to garner a bigger share of sales thanks to their practicality, and very few downsides.
With plenty of competition, the Auris Estate has its work cit out, but in this changing world where buyers are starting to shy away from diesel engines the Auris has Toyota’s USP up its sleeve – its Toyota Hybrid Powertrain.
Inside and Out
You only need to look at the Auris Estate to know it’s longer than its hatchback sibling, and all of that is bolted on the back in the form of a, slightly bulbous, accommodating shed.
But the Auris Touring Sports is still a decent looking car with flowing lines and an air of understated quality, although there are more head turning offerings from the competition if that’s what you’re looking for. But it does look rather elegant from most angles.
The interior is a decent enough place too although, again, there’s nothing exciting about it, and there are more scratchy plastics than perhaps there should be – and it all seems a bit dated ergonomically. Perhaps it is starting to need a C-HR makeover?
But there’s plenty of storage in the cabin, good headroom, and acceptable leg room, in the back, and a nice flat floor so the middle passenger – for whom there is room – won’t be suffering.
Neatly, Toyota has hidden the batteries for the hybrid gubbins under the back seat, so there’s no stealing of boot room, and the boot’s a big ‘un with a low load lip. In its class it’s about as good as it gets.
This is the Excel Sports Tourer, so there are plenty of goodies as standard including Climate, Keyless, Park Assist, auto lights and wipers, heated seats, Toyota Touch 2 Go with Sat Nav and more, 7″ touchscreen, DAB, Bluetooth and rear view camera.
We’ve also got some nice leather (£950) and a Panoramic Roof (£550), which really does lift the interior. If we were buying, we’d budget for both.
Performance on the Road
There is precious little point reviewing a hybrid Toyota Auris Estate and expecting it to be the last word in cutting edge handling and dynamics. That’s just not its way. But it is a lot better than you might expect.
Front suspension is by way of the ubiquitous MacPherson strut, but the rear suspension on this Hybrid Auris is by way of fully independent double wishbones, and Toyota has made the Touring Sports stiffer too. Which augers well.
Under the bonnet, the hybrid powertrain uses the 1.8 litre petrol on an Atkinson cycle and and 80bhp electric motor to deliver a usable 134bhp through the compulsory CVT gearbox, and emissions and economy of 92g/km and 70.6mpg (we got, as we’d expect, around 50mpg).
We’ve moaned about CVT boxes for ever, but the Toyota electric CVT has got so much better it often feels like a normal automatic, and it rarely seems to need huge revs ahead of building to any sort of performance. It’s not exciting, but it’s no longer a particular irritation.
But it is probably responsible, nonetheless, for a tardy take off, without which the Auris Estate would feel a lot more brisk around town, although the seamless way it deals with the two power sources really is remarkable. But it is at its best when you’re gentle.
That ‘gentle and refined’ approach to driving applies to the way the Auris handles and drives too, with temperate inputs to the, light and with some feel, steering delivering the best results, and a measured approach to bends again the right way to go. Do that, and the Auris is a delightful way to get around.
It’s easy to declare the Toyota Auris Estate isn’t exciting to drive, isn’t exactly at the cutting edge of style and hasn’t got the most impressive of interiors. But that would be to miss the point.
Yes, the interior could do with a bit of attention ergonomically, but it’s greater than the sum of its (sometimes scratchy plastic) parts; it’s robust, roomy, practical and proven. Which is very Toyota.
That roominess extends to the boot, which is a chunk bigger than competition like the Golf and Focus Estates, and you get the feeling that the whole car is just very well thought out.
The same really applies to the engine, gearbox and handling.
Where an enthusiast might prefer the aforementioned competition, what most car buyers actually want is an easy way to get around, and a quality product. And that’s something the Auris provides in spades.
Judicious application of everything – steering, brakes (which are very good) and throttle – manages to deliver a car which is almost serene in the way it transports you around, taking away the stresses of driving and just doing what it’s very good at – moving people and stuff.
So if you’re looking for a family estate car which is exciting to drive, a bit flashy and with loud looks, it’s probably best you give the Auris Estate a wide berth.
But if you want a car that does exactly what it says on the tin – and will do it quietly, comfortably and reliably until the start of the next millennium – this Toyota Auris Estate will be right up your street.
Toyota Auris Excel Touring Sports Review Photos
Toyota Auris Excel Touring Sports Review Tech Specs (2017)
- Engine: 1798cc Hybrid, 134bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 11.2 seconds / Top Speed 112mph
- Economy: 70.6mpg – Official / 50.3mpg – Test
- Emissions: 92g/km
- Price: £26,345 / Price as tested £28,390
- Test car supplied by Toyota UK