|The new Toyota Auris|
TERRIBLE thing, the C-word – one of the last taboos whereby simplying uttering it can cause gasps of horror from anyone within earshot.
Which is why the C-word has been banned at Toyota. No longer can the word ‘Corolla’ be used to denote a lower-medium car from the firm. Instead, it is Auris (pronounced Aw-ris), an amalgamation intended to hint at gold – aurum meaning gold in Latin.
Apparently, the Corolla name has been up for the chop for quite a few years, but only now do the bigwigs in Japan feel comfortable in letting the name slide into the history books.
You can understand why. Corolla has been immensely successful for Toyota (32 million sales since 1966 across the globe), but it has decided that a step-change is needed to make the firm’s new offering more appealing to younger buyers.
A typical Corolla buyer is 60 years old and buys the car with his or her own money. This demographic means the model has never been a massive fleet seller – last year, a quarter of the model’s 22,000 sales went to fleets.
But now Toyota wants to capture a bigger slice of the fleet pie with Auris, and believes that younger user-choosers will be more attracted to the firm now that the name has been changed.
Whether it will manage, as it hopes, to tempt 30-something professionals out of their Golfs remains to be seen, but what the Auris does do is give Toyota a bigger, fresher model with which to boost fleet sales.
Size is the first thing you notice with the Auris. Sit inside and there’s a huge amount of space, with a wide body and high roof. In fact, it’s not far off its bigger brother the Avensis in terms of interior space, and matches the upper-medium model for the amount of space between the front and rear seats.
However, less noticeable is the exterior styling which veers towards that bland Euro-Japanese fusion.
It still looks too much like a Corolla from the back and an upscaled Yaris from the front, and against the likes of the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra it lacks pizzazz.
The Auris does major on more prosaic areas – ones that will appeal to fleet managers.
The Auris promises to be a safe car – nine airbags are fitted as standard, including a driver’s knee bag, and it has scored a maximum five-star EuroNCAP crash test rating.
There’s a range of five engines – two petrols and three diesels, and the choice of three and five-door hatchback bodystyles (the latter built at Burnaston in Derbyshire). Toyota has no plans to import the four-door saloon version into the UK.
Prices start at £11,995 – £100 more than the outgoing Corolla but £1,000 more than entry-level Focus and Astra models.
However, the Auris scores well on residual values, with CAP estimating the diesel versions will retain around 40% of their cost new after three years/60,000 miles, and petrols in the high 30%s. This compares strongly with the Corolla, which was pegged at 30% for most models.
Toyota expects to sell 25,000 models in the UK this year, although this will include a few Corollas. In its first full year in 2008, the firm expects to sell 27,000 – with fleets accounting for between 25 and 30% of sales.
The five-door, UK-built models will take around 80% of the sales mix, with the 2.0-litre turbodiesel being the most popular choice for those buying with company money.
Behind the wheel
LIKE the Honda Civic, Toyota has respositioned the Auris’ gearlever higher up the centre console so it falls much more easily to hand.
The lever sits on top of a bold arch which runs from the floor to the top of the dashboard – a design cue taken from the arches on the side of the Notre Dame in Paris.
It all works very well, and the box offers short-throw shifts. It’s not Civic sharp, but not far behind.
I tried three engines on the launch. First up was the top-spec T180 with a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine. With almost 300lb-ft of torque the T180 offers a relaxed driving experience, with enough power available in most gears from low revs to make progress simple.
The 2.0-litre diesel hasn’t got the outright pace of the T180 but is on a par in terms of performance with the likes of an Astra CDTi 120 or Focus TDCi.
However, it is a noisy unit with plenty of diesel clatter evident at all speeds.
The 1.6-litre petrol was a real surprise, revving sweetly and not suffering from the lack of mid-range power that its torque figure suggests. It’s also very refined at speed.
The ride and handling on all three was similar, with comfort taking priority over sharp dynamics.
SPACIOUS and sensible are the two words that immediately spring to mind when you think of the Auris. It does everything very competently, but its bland styling will probably hinder Toyota’s efforts to attract more younger user-choosers into the range.
|Model:||1.4 VVT-i||1.6 VVT-i||1.4 D-4D||2.0 D-4D||2.2 D-4D T180|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||96/6,000||122/6,000||89/3,800||124/3,600||175/3,600|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||96/4,400||157/5,200||140/1,800||221/2,000||295/2,000|
|Max speed (mph):||106||118||109||121||130|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||40.9||39.8||56.5||52.3||45.6|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||163||166||132||151||164|
|On sale:||February 1*|
* (3dr versions and T180 – April 1)