It ticks every box relating to operating costs and environmental considerations. But does Toyota's latest hybrid have what it takes to make its mark in a fleet sector dominated by diesel power?
Pitched against the combined might of heavy oil favourites like the Focus, Astra and Golf, the new Auris HSD is facing a formidable challenge in the C-segment.
In the vanguard of an ambitious attempt to broaden the appeal of ultra low emission motoring, the super-eco hatchback also has the distinction of being the first petrol-electric car to roll from a UK production line.
Toyota is hoping this additional version of the Auris will prove attractive to the growing number of drivers it believes like the idea of transport with the cleanest of green credentials but have so far been deterred by the save-the-planet styling that usually comes with it.
From the outside, only modest side and rear badges give a hint to what lies under the bonnet, but having the same full hybrid powertrain as the Prius means the HSD is able to boast a headline-grabbing economy potential of 74.3mpg with 89g/km exhaust emissions in standard T4 form.
Adding more distinctive 17-inch alloy wheels realigns the figures to 70.6mpg and 93g/km when the car comes in T Spirit trim and this is the version we’ll be putting to the test for the next six months as we try to answer the key question of whether hybrid power really is a viable all-round competitor to the trusty diesel.
Toyota UK is expecting the fleet sector to play a significant role in increasing hybrid popularity and reckons it should account for half next year’s sales of the HSD. Priced from £18,950, the model looks an attractive proposition from the accountant’s viewpoint with zero VED, 10 per cent BIK tax and qualification for full first-year corporation tax write-down.
Our car is the T Spirit, which comes with an enhanced specification thought likely to be the more tempting fleet choice. Costing £20,700, it is generously equipped and includes useful gadgets like cruise control, automatic headlamps and windscreen wipers, push button start-stop and Bluetooth. There’s also a neat camera display built into the rear view mirror, but no satellite navigation, unfortunately.
A smart white pearlescent paintwork finish – a £610 option – adds a dramatic dash to the overall appearance and a mixture of leather and alcantara upholstery gives an upmarket feel to the interior. The economy results of my first 100 miles are encouraging – now I’m eager to see if it’s possible to hit the magic 70mpg figure.