Toyota Auris Hybrid

By Tim Saunders

 

I like the idea of hybrid cars, it’s just I still need to be convinced about the technology.

I have been fortunate enough to test the hybrid Lexus, Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight. While they were all eternally green, I remained unimpressed with the distance they could travel on a full tank, in my experience no more than 300 miles and that’s with a light right foot.

So it was with great interest that I took the new Toyota Auris 1.8-litre hybrid to the road. What Car? magazine reports how it can travel over 850 miles on a tank… Was this going to change my view of hybrids?

We were late for a meeting in London and consequently we sat in the outside lane most of the way there. I forgot to engage economy mode or use the ev switch at low speeds. But despite this it used just one bar of fuel out of eight to get to the capital. My diesel 2002 plate Fiesta would have consumed at least twice as much.

Hybrid cars are best in London because they escape the costly £10 a day London Congestion Charge.

Half way through the test I finally remembered to use the ev switch and found that the Auris would only run purely on its electric motor for up to a mile at speeds of no more than 30mph. It then took at least five or ten minutes to recharge sufficiently in order to use it again. This is exactly the same as in the Prius and the hybrid Lexus in my experience. This ev switch could be improved, I feel. It should automatically switch on rather than relying on the driver to remember. Its location together with the power mode near the gearstick can distract the driver, too. 

Most efficient driving over long distance can be achieved in economy mode and respecting the accelerator as much as possible. This is nigh on impossible though when travelling up a hill or using the cruise control. 

Hybrids do turn the concept of frugal motoring into a bit of a game - Toyota has designed the instruments on the dashboard to incentivise the motorist. The dial where the rev counter would usually reside glows green when you’re driving efficiently and blue when you’re burning too much fuel. Consequently the driver tries to stay within the confines of economy to the best of their ability.

When this car slows down it sounds a bit like an electric tube on the Underground – the hybrid Auris is a very silent car. Build quality is typically Toyota and clearly a lot of thought has gone into the interior, which has a modern clutter free design. The cruise control stalk is at the right of the steering wheel and easy to engage. But it can be a little awkward to find the neutral or park functions on the joystick-like automatic gearbox.

Parkers, the car guide, writes: “The Auris Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) was introduced in May 2010 and it features a 1.8-litre engine combined with an electric motor and continuous transmission. It’s a low CO2, low fuel consumption model aimed at buyers who are interested in eco-friendly cars but do not want to make such a bold statement as Prius owners. The Auris HSD comes in two trims - T4 and T Spirit - with prices starting at £18,950. It is the first mainstream Toyota to get the HSD powertrain and the Japanese firm says it plans to introduce it to the rest of its model line-up.”

If you bear in mind that the Auris hybrid has just a 45-litre fuel tank compared to a standard 60-litre one then the 370 miles achieved during the test isn’t too bad – Toyota is clearly improving its green technology. But I still feel that hybrid cars need to be more energy efficient.

 

Toyota Auris Hatchback 1.8 VVT-i HSD 93g/km T Spirit 5dr

 

New price: £22,595

0–60mph: 11.4 secs 

Top speed: 112 mph 

Economy: 45mpg 

 
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