Toyotaâ€™s Auris hatchback, in its first generation, was an almost anonymous attendee at the Corolla party. Will the introduction of the latest Auris have any real effect this time?
We shared our initial thoughts on the new Auris following a first drive in Portugal here and in the February issue of TopCar magazine on sale now. The new car is now available in South Africa starting at the not-too-shabby price of R195Â 000, just a few rands more than the outgoing entry-level 1.3.
So the countryâ€™s local press were assembled in Johannesburg for the local launch of the new Auris where Toyota SAâ€™s representatives seemed very pleased with the result of their president Akio Toyodaâ€™s intervention in the development of the carmakerâ€™s latest project.
Whose seal of approval?
Glenn Crompton, Toyota SAâ€™s vice president for sales and marketing said: â€˜It now looks sharper and more distinctive.
â€˜Itâ€™s lower and visually has a more dynamic stance, but the revisions are more than skin deep. The whole package is lighter, the handling and steering are sweeter thanks to tweaks to the suspension and electric power steering and the car generally feels more nimble and responsive.â€™
The new Auris certainly wonâ€™t be mistaken for any kind of â€˜faceliftedâ€™ modelâ€¦Â It has, what Toyota refers to as a â€˜keen lookâ€™ â€“ highlighted particularly by the chrome accent strip running across the headlight cluster to create â€˜eyebrowsâ€™ â€“ and an Under Priority grille that complements a large trapezoidal lower grille with a smaller example running between the headlamps.
A strong shoulder line completes the Auris view in profile, while the rear is dominated by a wider tailgate opening, a neatly integrated roof spoiler and linear wraparound tail lamps.
More than that, the Auris also shows the benefits of its reduced overall height (55mm in all) and lower centre of gravity in its greater dynamic zeal, compared with the previous model.
The new Auris is infinitely sportier than the car it replaces even in the 1.6 CVT model I was allowed to sample on the route between Johannesburg and the Vaal. And no, this model shouldnâ€™t be overlooked just because it comes with that annoying CVT â€˜mooâ€™.
Toyotaâ€™s overhauled its continuously variable transmission to be more responsive (left to sort itself out, at low revs, the shifts were almost automatic-like) and the Aurisâ€™ become so refined, very little transmission drone creeps into the cabin.
The 1.6-litre, with 97kW and 160Nm at its disposal at 4Â 400rpm, was quite punchy, even at altitude. The CVT also didnâ€™t object to a bit of wringing â€“ just switch it to manual mode and itâ€™s only too happy to rev all the way to the red line through its seven â€˜stepsâ€™.
I had hoped that cars destined for South Africa would drop the gaudy orange digital clock display seen on Toyota products, but my prayers must have been sucked into a vortex. Gaudy orange displays havenâ€™t changed one bit.
Other features, such as white needles and numerals for the instruments, leather dashboard finishes with contrasting stitching on higher grade models and a selection of soft and hard plastics have, however, made it to South Africa.
More to come
On the whole, specification levels, even on the entry-level 1.3 X and 1.6 Xi models are decent. These include remote central locking, air conditioning, multifunction steering wheel, USB/iPod connection and power windows all around.
New colours for the Auris are Avant-garde Bronze and Inferno Metallic orange, also used on the 86 sports coupe.
The Auris range will be expanded in February with the introduction of HSD models, although the 1.3 and 1.6 engines already benefit from Toyota Optimal Drive using lightweight materials, increasing efficiency and using a â€˜charging controlâ€™ or brake energy regeneration system to charge the battery under deceleration.
Sadly for fans of the D-4D, the diesel model has been turfed out of the Auris line-up since Toyota doesnâ€™t see many C-segment buyers clamouring for it.
All Auris models are equipped with ABS, EBD and brake assist, while driver and front passenger and side airbags are standard. XR models add curtain and driverâ€™s knee bags.
Cars come standard with a five-year or 90 000km service plan and a three-year or 100Â 000km warranty.
1.3 X – R195Â 000
1.6 Xi – R217 500
1.6 XS – R228 600
1.6 XR – R253 200
1.6 XR CVT – R265Â 600