By Nick Jones
I was pleasantly surprised by just how good the Prius was when I tested one last year.
So I was keen to climb behind the wheel when Toyota said it had created a petrol-electric hybrid version of the Auris.
The Japanese car maker – which employs thousands of Derbyshire folk at its plant in Burnaston, just south of Derby – firmly believes the technology to develop for the future is a combination of the internal combustion engine and electric motors.
In the Prius, which was launched in Japan in 1997 and went global in 2001, it’s a partnership that is hard to fault.
The car’s looks may not appeal to everyone but the drive is more than adequate compensation if you can get over the hurdle of paying more than £20,000 for a family runabout.
But what of the hybrid Auris? Here is a car – built at Burnaston, by the way – which is well-established in the UK.
The relatively bland shape offends no-one and for non-afficionados there is little to distinguish one model from another.
Toyota haven’t bucked that trend with the hybrid, badged HSD, which, apart from a few subtle badges on the flanks and rear, looks like virtually every other Auris. No flag-flying for its green credentials then.
But for all its simple looks, the Auris HSD is a complex car.
It has Toyota’s 1.8-litre engine with variable valve timing which can deliver 100bhp and yet sip petrol when the driver shows a little restraint with the right boot.
Assisting the engine, or replacing it completely on occasion, is an 81hp electric motor, powered by a high performance battery.
The two power sources are linked through a highly efficient control unit that ensures smooth transition between them.
On the road, the car can run exclusively in electric mode for short periods but under normal driving the motor assists the engine under acceleration.
When the Auris brakes or coasts, the motor switches to generator mode and recharges the battery.
Merging the two poer sources doesn’t mean they each deliver at their maximum but the combined effort is enough to rally 134 horses, which is enough to give a top speed of 115mph with the 0-60mph dash completed in 11.4 seconds, It feels quicker.
More impressive are the fuel consumption and CO2 emission figures – 70.6mpg and 89g/km respectively.
On the inside, the Auris has received a few styling tweaks such as graphical representations showing the driver just how the hybrid is performing and a starter button that glows blue. The driver can choose between EV, ECO and Power driving modes depending on xdesired performance. After that it’s stock Auris, which means comfort and practicality.
Toyota has invested heavily in the Auris HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) and with it comes a brilliant piece of engineering that not only looks good but will give the driver a good feeling, perhaps even a swagger, without shouting why.
It’s certainly as good as any diesel of any substance with regards economy and better than anything on emissions, but at £19,200 it’s a full £4,000 more expensive than any other Auris and only a little under the lager Prius.
But with the fuel and tax savings to be had over a three-year period and with residuals likely to be generous, if the Prius is a good guide, it may be worth the extra investment.