Toyota Auris XR Review: A-Game

Toyota Auris XR Review

Fresh out from a recent facelift, I had the opportunity to review the new Auris XR model, a 1.6 litre highly specced vehicle that is priced at R287 700. Before we get into the car itself, let me paint the picture of the actual segment into which the Auris is playing.

It is quite possibly the most threatened segment of the motoring market. The C-Segment has enjoyed great successes for decades, aimed at everything from young families, up and coming professionals and rental car companies alike. With the advent of compact SUV’s and compact Crossovers though, cars like the Toyota Auris are no longer just competing with Golf and Focus models, but also with the likes of Renault Captur, Citroën C4 Cactus, Ford’s EcoSport and the likes. In fact, the compact SUV market is the fastest growing segment in the automotive game today and so it makes a much harder playing field for Auris.

As if that threat wasn’t enough, the C-segment hatch market itself is fiercely competitive. Volkswagen’s Golf now offered in SV guise too is a popular choice among South Africans. The Korean product offerings from Kia and Hyundai are also strong contenders in this segment and let’s not forget that Peugeot has just launched the World Car of the Year 2014 in the form of the 308.

Does the Auris have the knack to take on the competition? In a nutshell. Absolutely!

The Toyota Auris is a solid proposition, built Toyota-Tough and every bit as good as any competition out there. The Auris XR is a fully equipped car complete with comfortable and robust new leather seats, a touchscreen infotainment system shared with the Corolla, heated front seats and a whole complement of premium feel features such as climate control, cruise control, stop-start tech and keyless entry. Toyota have also added small but significant chrome trim and surrounds in areas around the cabin and instrument binnacle and a multi-info screen. It’s a fantastic product in terms of ‘feel’ and perceived quality and it impressed me from the moment I took the wheel.

I particularly enjoyed the new Infotainment system. With its blue hue and easy-to-use functionality, it adds a flair to the cabin not usually seen in any Toyota products. It can be a bit ‘slow’ in responding to commands but other than that it’s a user-friendly feature.  On this XR, a reversing-camera is standard and of course a welcome feature too.

I had the Auris in an Inferno Metallic(orangey) colour that is as eye-catching as the name suggests. Toyota has tweaked the Auris front and rear slightly, accentuating the front wings that extend either side of the headlamps and giving the rear a new set of lights too.

The 96kW petrol engine in the Auris XR is a frugal yet lazy unit. It is coupled to a 6-speed manual gearbox with which I was able to achieve an impressive 6,8l per 100km during my drive with it which was mainly in urban driving environments. Toyota’s claimed 6,2l/100km was not far off. The downside was that the 4-cylinder plant needs to be revved quite high to achieve any level of quick acceleration, be it for overtaking or just for closing the gap in front when you lose focus in traffic because you’re on your phone. (Yes You. Stop Texting and Driving. Whatsapp may kill you. Literally.) It is a naturally aspirated engine and as such is probably going to be more reliable in the long run, but this is the area where Toyota will need to catch up/convince the market that this is still the right way. The competition in this segment have a host of engine variants including diesel and hybrid motors that enjoy more efficiency, less emissions and more performance. The Auris range here in South Africa is offered in 1.3 litre, 1.6 litre and 1.8 litre Hybrid options.

Other than the engine the drive is good and the steering is more precise and gives a little more feedback and feel at higher speeds. It’s a Toyota after all and as such, its flanked by a massive network, strong resale value and peerless reliability. It’s also a really good looker, strong on build quality and features…. BUT…. It is in a class of cars just as good looking, just as impressive on build quality and working that much harder to capture the hearts of us South Africans. Game On!


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