Toyota extends its Auris range to include a compact family estate, complete with hybrid drivetrain that helps it stand out from the rest of the segment

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Time was when combining the words ‘compact’ and ‘estate car’, as is the case with the new Toyota Auris Touring Sports, in the same breath would have won you a similarly puzzled glance from a typical UK motorist as the concept of a ‘diesel Jaguar’ or a ‘Chinese MG’.

After all, what would be the point of a small estate? And who’d want one? Well, plenty would in this downsized, perfectly packaged, efficiency-oriented market.

Toyota's new compact estate will have to face well-established rivals like the Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia

It hasn’t escaped the notice of product planners that the market for wagon-converted C-segment hatches – Volkswagen Golfs, Ford Focuses and the like – has been steadily growing ever since the hatchback class became the core of the fleet car market.

There are now estate or pseudo-estate versions of offerings as different as the Skoda Fabia and Chevrolet Cruze, and of most affordable five-doors in between. They account for 25 percent of all C-segment sales in Europe, and three-quarters of that portion are sold to fleets. Although, this segment has seen a few disappear including the Seat Ibiza ST and the Renault Clio ST, so nothing is certain.

In order to muscle in on this segment, Toyota has released its Auris Touring Sports. It's offered with a choice of petrol and diesel engines but, more notably, it's available as a hybrid. With a claimed average of 76.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 85g/km, it could well prove a tempting proposition for company users.

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So is the new car an inspired bit of product planning or is it another also-ran?


Toyota Auris Touring Sports rear

The Toyota Auris Touring Sports version shares the same 2.6-metre wheelbase as the standard five-door, but it is 285mm longer overall – all of that length in the rear overhang, to the benefit of boot space.

The rear loading sill has been lowered by 100mm and the loading aperture is wide, permitting access to a boot that’s 1070mm long with the back seats in place and 1900mm with them folded, according to our tape measure. The nickel-metal-hydride high-voltage battery for the hybrid's drive unit is situated beneath the rear seats, so it doesn’t eat into cargo space.

Sport spec misses out on keyless go and parking sensors but we'd still have it

The Auris is suspended via MacPherson struts at the front. One of the reasons to opt for the hybrid version is because, unlike the entry-level 1.2-litre turbo, 1.3-litre petrol derivatives and the 1.4- and 1.6-litre turbodiesels, the hybrid has fully independent double wishbones at the rear, whereas cheaper variants use a torsion beam.

Meanwhile, the Auris Touring Sports gets its own suspension tune and reinforcement around the boot aperture that makes the body almost as torsionally stiff as the regular five-door hatchback.

The hybrid powertrain itself makes 134bhp in total, from a 1.8-litre petrol engine and an 80bhp electric motor. In range-topping Auris models on 17-inch alloy wheels, it emits just 92g/km of CO2.

Aside from the wallet-thickening CO2 performance, the power of continuous product improvement might be the most convincing thing going for Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. The manufacturer surpassed five million hybrid sales this year and with every new model along the way, it has made incremental improvements.

Only by that route can any manufacturer really learn what’s reliable when you mix petrol and electric power – as well as what simply works. The Auris Touring Sports counts as another new model, of course – and its hybrid driveline, therefore, gets new control logic for its power-split transmission, even compared with the Auris hatchback.

That, Toyota says, makes for smoother performance and, specifically, a closer relationship between vehicle speed and engine revs. Which, in terms of the perception of performance, at least, sounds like exactly the kind of update that a Toyota hybrid needs.


Toyota Auris Touring Sports interior

Trim levels include Active, Icon, Business Edition, Design and Excel. Entry-level models get 15in steel wheels, climate control and USB connectivity as standard, while hybrid models get keyless start and alloy wheels. Upgrade to the mid-range Icon model and you'll find 16in alloy wheels, front foglights, electric windows, a reversing camera, and Toyota's Touch 2 infotainment system complete with DAB radio and Bluetooth.

The fleet-friendly Business Edition trim adds luxuries such as sat nav, cruise control, electrically adjustable lumbar support and heated front seats to the Auris, while the Design trim adorns the estate with 17in alloy wheels, Alcantara-clad sports seats and tinted rear windows.

Toyota isn't alone on this, but if you rest your arm on the door in traffic it's too easy to inadvertently open a window

The range-topping Excel trim includes sat nav, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, part-leather and part Alcantara upholstery, parking sensors, folding door mirrors and automatic wipers to a compelling package.

Chances are that you don’t go for a Toyota estate if you’re looking for vast levels of interior flair, touchy-feely surfaces and what the layman would call ‘high quality’. Toyota thinks of quality differently.

If it makes the same component the same way a million times, that’s quality, and that’s the sort of approach that lends you an interior like the Toyota Auris Tourer’s.

There are more than a few hard surfaces around, while the LCD clock that could have come from the mid-1990s and the illuminated sign that shows how many seatbelts are clicked up look like add-ons of a style that you wouldn’t find in a Volkswagen Golf.

But the cabin is not totally without interest. Some of the silvered plastic highlights add a certain something, there’s the odd Lexus LFA-like swoosh and, by and large, things are pretty good ergonomically.

Some of our testers would have preferred a steering wheel that extends closer to the driver, but space is plentiful in the front, while adults will find it just as easy to get accommodated in the rear as in any other C-segment car.

The boot, meanwhile, is particularly impressive. Because the Auris Touring Sports’ 285mm of extra length over the hatchback has gone behind the rear seats, it makes the boot a 530-litre affair with the simple split-fold seats in place, and that rises to 1658 litres with the seats folded.

On hybrid models the battery is stored beneath the rear seats, rather than directly beneath the boot floor, the result being that boot space isn’t compromised in the way that it is in a lot of hybrids and range-extender EVs.

There’s plenty of storage space all round the car, to be fair: loads of cubbyholes and three 12V sockets. The Toyota Auris is that sort of car.

Six speakers are standard, as is DAB audio on Icon models and up. It is not the most intuitive set-up, but it’s simple enough once the presets are plumbed in. Sound quality is respectable for this kind of car, at this kind of price. It also reads from an aux-in device with simplicity and streams Bluetooth audio just as readily.

Bluetooth is standard on everything above the base Active car. All of our testers found that their different brands of phone connected easily and downloaded contacts and call lists quickly. The quiet ride helps audibility.

Sat-nav, available as standard on the top model, works just dandily, but the screen could be bigger and of a slightly higher resolution. A reversing camera is standard on Excel models, but it, too, would be better if it worked through a bigger screen. Thankfully, the Touch&GoPro dealer-fit system offers exactly that.


Toyota Auris Touring Sports side profile

The Toyota Auris Touring Sports is offered with a choice of five engines. Buyers can pick from a 98bhp 1.33-litre petrol, a 113bhp turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol with a manual or automatic gearbox, an 89bhp 1.4-litre diesel, a 110bhp 1.6-litre oilburner and the 134bhp 1.8-litre hybrid with the e-CVT system.

The focus here is on the range-topping hybrid option. The hybrid system is a wonderfully compact device, complex to explain but brilliantly simple in its operation.

The Auris Touring Sports hybrid will go from 0-60mph in 11.6secs

There is a drive engine and drive motor/generator, both of which are connected via planetary gears to the driven wheels, and a secondary motor/generator, whose speed can be varied to allow for discrepancies in the speeds of the drive motor, engine and driven wheels. It’s simpler than it sounds.

It’s often erroneously described as a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but it’s easy to forgive the mistake, because they’re similar in practice. The Auris’s internal combustion engine, if it’s running, is able to spin at its most efficient revs, which most of the time means that it’s not making a great deal of noise.

When it does, it’s smooth, but the integration of the drive sources is unrivalled in its smoothness. The Toyota Auris just mooches along like any automatic, with a touch of creep at idle and an amicable throttle response on bigger openings.

It’s not über-responsive, mind. Most cars will hit 30mph from rest in comfortably under 3.0sec, but the Auris wants a solid 4.0sec, which is one of the main reasons why it takes 11.6sec to reach 60mph from rest.

It actually feels livelier than that. Not ‘lively’ lively, but lively enough, perhaps like a 10.0sec-to-60mph car. And because of the seamlessness of the delivery, you’re seldom left completely wanting.

Nonetheless, the Toyota is at its best at modest throttle openings, where it delivers impressive smoothness; it’s one of the most relaxing drivetrains we can think of. Wet and dry, the Auris stops in short order, too.


Toyota Auris Touring Sports cornering

The Toyota Auris Touring Sports' drivetrain seems to be best suited to modest throttle openings - even more so in the case of the hybrid model - and the ride and handling suits a similarly smooth and relaxed approach.

At urban speeds, the Auris lopes along nicely. There’s the odd thud, but no shudder and no harshness. It feels about right for this kind of car. The Auris steers pleasingly enough, too, at this sort of speed. At 2.6 turns lock to lock, it’s middling in speed and relatively light in weight but at least consistent with it.

The Auris Touring Sports is a calm, refined and tidy-handling car to drive

There’s no nastiness in the weighting and it never gets heavy or light; it just is. It’s stable enough at higher speeds, too – never nervy, never stolid, just admirably easy to rub along with. Noise levels are muted as well, especially at lower speeds.

Its brakes should enable it to withstand the harshest of Alpine descents and, when not in the line of overheating fire, they bring the Auris up short in wet or dry conditions. Wet grip is strong and the stability control system intervenes subtly, quickly and effectively, switching out again sharpish, too.

Is there a pay-off for all of this ease and effortlessness? Kind of, but you’ll know it’s coming. The Auris isn’t a particularly engaging car to drive, but this side of a Toyota GT86, no Toyota is, nor is really meant to be.

The damping is looser than in, say, the equivalent Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, but it’s hard to criticise too much. As a publication run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, we would like a bit more dialogue with the car, but Toyota has aimed the Auris wagon where it thinks is right, and even if it’s not quite for us, it’s hard to think that the aim is wrong.

If you’ve come to the Auris expecting similar levels of engagement and dynamism (unlikely) to a Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf or even most of the other cars in this class, you may be disappointed. But the Auris is capable enough.


Toyota Auris Touring Sports

Toyota is renowned for its ability to produce reliable and hassle-free cars, and the Toyota Auris is unlikely to be an exception to that rule. Servicing should be relatively inexpensive and Toyota's aftercare is usually exceptional.

Its residual values are forecast to be lower than that of some rivals, such as the Skoda Octavia, so as a long-term bet you may be better off looking elsewhere.

The Toyota's Touch&Go sat-nav is an option worth having, as well as the space-saver spare wheel

The Auris hatch won credit at the turn of the year for its appealing pricing, though, and the estate – and the hybrid in particular – is equally aggressive. In mid-spec Icon trim, it can be had from less than £22k.

And it’s not as if you’re stuck with meagre standard equipment, either. The bog-basic Active-grade Auris gets air-con and electric front windows, and the Icon trim adds a DAB radio, a touchscreen multimedia system, Bluetooth, a reversing camera and the dual-level load bay floor.

Beyond that, moving up to Design or Excel trim brings 17-inch wheels. They affect the hybrid’s CO2 performance but they don’t do so enough to change the all-important BIK tax rate. At the top end, you get keyless go, cruise control, automatic wipers and lights and heated front seats as standard.

We put a hybrid Toyota through a fuel economy cycle where it returned 53.5mpg overall. That might disappoint those unused to the realities of hybrid ownership, but it's still very competitive and at least 10 percent better than we'd expect from a like-for-like diesel overall.

The other engines, the 1.33-litre petrol, 1.2-litre petrol, and 1.4- and 1.6-litre diesels, are reputed to average up to 51.4mpg, 52.9mpg, 65.7mpg and 80mpg respectively. These, again, are competitive figures.


Toyota Auris Touring Sports rear quarter

It's hard to make this verdict sound like it's doing anything other than damning with faint praise.

So let's deal with what you might consider damning first: this isn't the sort of car to get enthusiasts excited. Cars that can do that in this sector do exist, but the Toyota Auris Touring Sports isn't one of them. However – and it's quite a significant 'however' – those who like the way that the Auris goes about things are likely to find that they like the Auris's moves very much.

Even in poverty specification, the Ford Focus trumps the Auris on all fronts

In hybrid form it has an excellent drivetrain that's easy to live with, it's big in the front, decent in the back and spacious in the boot. And it feels efficiently – if unemotionally – assembled.

We would like a bit more from a car than that, but for those who don't, the Auris will fit their needs remarkably well.

Otherwise, take your pick from the Ford Focus, Skoda Octavia, Honda Civic Tourer, Seat Leon ST or Volkswagen Golf Estate.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes.