ADMITTEDLY they never went away nor did they stray too far from the upper echelon of the motor business, but Toyota are driving back to their powerful best again, writes John Knox.
Let’s just class their wobble and troubles of recent years as a fade, shall we, but the wind of change is blowing through Toyota and most things coming off the production lines these times have a bit of edge, a bit of eye catching appeal about them; oh, and the technology is on the button too.
Why the upbeat mood, you might ask? Well, a year ago or so I drove the most recent Avensis and I have to say I enjoyed the experience. The Japanese manufacturers, renowned for the superior build quality of their vehicles, ventured a bit in the style stakes and buried some of the hereditary blandness of the car under a shapely new skin of metal.
Avensis left me thinking that maybe there is something new, if not out and out adventurous going on here, then at least style and shape are edging up the scale of preferences with the Toyota mandarins.
Getting into the swing
Last week the drive was in a version of Auris, a mainstream family hatchback. It confirmed the suspicions.
Toyota are getting into the swing in terms of edgy style and shape. They are not up there with the killer designs of the Rav and Celica of 15 and more years ago, but they are moving in a different direction.
Who says shape and style don’t matter and don’t make a difference? The Hyundai i40 Tourer and saloon are admittedly well built and priced cars. They are a heart-warming eyeful too, and that style and shape contributes an unknown quantity to the huge success of the range.
Some weeks ago I got to drive the dashing Toyota GT-86 rear wheel drive sports car. We will tell you about that one later. Again the experience confirmed what one suspected, that Toyota have a Dali-type or someone with a rich imagination in the style department. Great stuff!
The all new Auris hit the market with petrol (1.33 dual VVT-i and 1.6 Valvematic) and diesel (1.4 litre) versions – all 5-door – plus two Hybrid options. There are three trim levels, Terra, Aura and Luna with prices for the entry level Terra petrol starting at 18,995 euro.
One liked the Auris from first glance. It wasn’t all smooth flowing, easy rounded shapes. There were edges, in the mid-section on the rear door for opening the boot; at the centre point at the front to show off the Toyota badge; with the light clusters front and rear styled into noticeable features rather than being mere functional items lost in shape and form.
Yes, ‘Average Joe’ should be able to walk to his car every day and think to himself ‘I like that’ when thinking of shape, and function too. The Auris fits the bill.
High grade cabin
The same freshness is carried into the high grade, roomy cabin that is styled mainly with functionality in mind. Bearing in mind the needs of your average family, the interior space is good.
It is likewise with the boot, which has a capacity of 360 litres, and the option to extend with 60/40 split rear seat back.
My drive was in the 1.33-litre petrol, which features Stop/Start technology. Everything about this car is tuned towards family needs.
It doesn’t blast off from a standing start. You won’t feel a power thrust when you dig your right foot towards the floor when overtaking. What you won’t notice either is the needle on the fuel gauge falling.
Economy is the name of the game here. Initially I thought the car was pedestrian. Then the penny dropped. It was the tuning. Reaching that understanding of Auris helped with the appreciation.
Toyota quote a combined cycle figure of 5.4 l/100km or 52mpg. I was very happy with the returns I got from a mixed bag of motoring.
Auris is of a quiet, obliging, comfort giving nature. And you know with that Toyota badge that carefree motoring is as good as guranteed. Auris is a very fine car, and smartly packaged too.
Standard features – 7 airbags; vehicle stability and traction control; Led daytime running lights; Stop/Start technology; radio/CD with four speakers; USB and Aux-in connection for iPod/MP3; driver’s height adjustable seat; Isofix child seat fixing points