The C-segment has been dominated by one car for quite some time now, namely Volkswagens Golf. With each passing generation the segment leader seems to evolve in to something increasingly impressive. Recently, the Golfs main rivals have been playing catch-up at an astonishing rate. The Astra to name but one as has really closed the gap on the Golf bar some ergonomic issues.
After spending a week with Toyota’s Auris I have to say that it is revolution for the model in terms of dynamics and styling. This vehicle comes along with a new philosophy for the Japanese marque that basically aims to make its vehicles more exciting and fun to drive while maintaining the brands legendary durability.
One of the biggest improvements with the new Auris versus its older sibling is the overall improvement in tangible quality. The interior is a nice place to be, you’d be hard pressed to find any areas that done feel quite up to scratch. There is also an array of infotainment niceties such as Bluetooth phone and audio, USB and AUX connectivity that can be operated through the steering-mounted controls. My test unit was the mid-range1, 6 XR auto which retails for R269 600 and at that price it is assumed that the vehicle would come with these features as standard.
While the rest of the automotive world leans towards downsized turbo engines and slick automatic gearboxes Toyota has decided to stick with natural aspiration and a CVT transmission. On the one hand the vehicle suffers in terms of performance and even fuel economy versus its turbo-powered rivals. On the other hand aspirated vehicles have been operating reliably for far longer than turbo vehicles meaning reliability is more likely with the former.
I have never been a fan of CVT gearboxes but when driven with progressive throttle inputs the vehicles progress is seamless I would opt for the manual gearbox in any case to help save fuel and improve the performance. CVT gearboxes only seem to work well with turbo charged petrol and diesel engines as these have enough torque and don’t force the gearbox to search for power at the top of the rev range. Often CVT-equipped vehicles drone and give off the sensation that the clutch is slipping however the modern versions as in the Auris are much improved and even have a “stepping” function that mimics a traditional automatic gear change when in manual mode.
The engine feels underpowered up here at the reef; I would assume that the Auris would prove a better proposition at the coast. The 1, 6-litre Valvematic engine produces 97 kW and 160 Nm of torque which is what we are starting to see in the upper B-segment now with some manufacturers. This is why I would like to make a case for the Hybrid version of the Auris. Electric motors provide instantaneous torque along with fuel saving in traffic situations. The hybrid would therefore eliminate the lack of low-down grunt and aid with fuel consumption.
The particular model I had on test is perhaps not the pick of the range. Should you require an automatic the hybrid version is I believe is worth the additional outlay. Other than that stick to the manual derivatives, they are more efficient and engaging to drive. Overall I have to say that I was impressed with the Auris. It may not provide the same level of overall driver satisfaction as the Golf but with each passing generation and facelift it is getting closer and that is the impressive part of the vehicle.