The prospect of educating a slow-to-change Irish market that its beloved Corolla is no more must have been a daunting challenge to the boys over at Toyota Ireland. While the Corolla has been the world’s most popular car for donkey’s years, in little old Ireland it has practically become a religion. We first got a taste of the Corolla in this country back in the 1970s, when it offered cheap, reliable motoring at a time when breakdowns were as common as breakfasts. While these early ones rusted into oblivion, their reputation for reliability became encoded into the very genetic makeup of the Irish buyer and this passed down from generation to generation, allowing the Toyota brand to become a major player in the Irish market long before it did in other countries. The Corolla, along with the Starlet, Yaris, Carina and later the Avensis, became regular visitors to the summit of the sales charts. None of them were remarkable in terms of looks or excitement, but this mattered little to an Irish buyer looking to get the most car for their money.
More recently, Toyota has looked at Europe as a very important market and quickly realised that its staid Japanese designs weren’t going to cut it, so it moved its design house to southern France, creating the ED2 design centre. Here cars like the Corolla Verso, Avensis and new Yaris were born and it was here that the Corolla hatchback morphed into the new Auris. The name, by the way, is derived from Aurum, which means gold. Visually, there is a lot of the look of the smaller Yaris in the new Auris. The Auris is taller and roomier than the Corolla. There is nothing overly dramatic about the styling, but it is certainly an improvement on the rather jaded-looking Corolla, and on the inside things have got a lot more interesting. There is a bridged centre console that creates a snugger feel to the cabin (it’s actually bordering on the claustrophobic) and the gearshift level is higher up along with the parking brake. Think Honda Civic Type-R and you are almost there. For us, this looks a little fussy and contrived and doesn’t really work.
The plastics used are hardwearing but not altogether pleasant to the touch. The Skoda Fabia, tested elsewhere in this issue, felt more upmarket. The Auris will be available as a five-door initially, with the three door model due to follow shortly. The engine lineup starts with the bread-and-butter unit of the range, the 1.4-litre VVTi model with 97bhp and 130Nm of torque. While this cannot match the figures of some of its newer rivals, such as those offered by the Kia C’eed, it is more than adequate. Acceleration takes 13 seconds to 100km/h and a top speed of 170km/h is possible. At the same time, it will return a respectable 6.9 l/100km. Next up in the petrol range is the 1.6-litre Dual VVT-i. The ‘Dual’ here refers to Toyota’s system of independent camshaft variation for both intake and exhaust, which uses one electro-hydraulic variation system for each of the camshafts. The 1.6-litre develops 124bhp and 157Nm, while returning 7.1 l/100km. The diesel lineup consists of two models, a 90bhp 1.4-litre D-4D and a new 125bhp 2.0-litre D-4D. While both of these are likely to be minority sellers in this car, the 1.4-litre in particular makes a good buy, but few will be willing to pay the considerable premium asked for it. The performance figures are impressive. The 1.4-litre will manage 175km/h and will get to 100km/h in 12 seconds, returning 5 l/100km. The 2.0-litre D-4D will get to 195km/h and will manage 0-100km/h in 10.3 seconds, while returning 5.4l/100km. We have only driven the 1.4-litre petrol model so far and while it was no scorcher, it is perfectly adequate. What is instantly noticeable is that the Auris is a lot better to drive dynamically than the Corolla it replaces. The ride quality is excellent and it copes well with even poor surfaces, yet it is more engaging to drive than before. The brakes are responsive and not squishy, as in the previous car. There is a five-speed manual transmission available with both the petrol engines and the 1.4-litre D-4D model, and a newly developed six-speed manual transmission is paired with the 2.0-litre D-4D 125 2.0-litre diesel engine. A new-generation MultiMode transmission with steering-wheelmounted paddle shifts is available on the 1.4-litre D-4D and 1.6-litre Dual VVT-I engines. Safety wise, the Auris has received a top score in the Euro NCAP safety tests. There is a steel chassis that forms a sturdy protective cage, with extra bracing designed to divert the force of an impact away from the occupants. There are nine airbags as standard and these include a knee airbag for the driver. Prices for the Auris start at €20,540 for the five-door Terra model, with the three-door model costing €19,900 when it comes later in the year.
Toyota Auris 1.4-litre VVT-I 5-door Terra
Engine 1,398cc 4-cyl 97bhp,
Boot Capacity 354 litres
Acceleration 0-100km/h 13.0 seconds
Top speed 170 km/h
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Economy 6.9 litres/100km
Auris Price Guide
1.4 VVT-I 3-door Terra €19,900
1.4 VVT-I 3-door Strata €21,215
1.4 VVT-I 3-door Luna €22,130
1.4 VVT-I 5-door Terra €20,540
1.4 VVT-I 5-door Strata €21,855
1.4 VVT-I 5-door Luna €22,770
1.6 Dual VVT-I 5-door Luna MMT €25,805
1.6 Dual VVT-I 5-door Sol €28,225
1.4 D-4D 5-door Terra €23,210