Toyota Auris XR HSD review

When people are asked to think of a hybrid vehicle, the first name that invariably pops into their heads is Toyota’s iconic Prius. But the Japanese carmaker is intent on making full hybrids — cars that can run solely on a battery-powered motor or a petrol engine or a combination of both — available across its range of passenger vehicles in the next few years.

The Auris is the most recent Toyota line-up to get the hybrid treatment, with the cheaper Yaris model next in line for later this year.

Hybrids are increasingly capturing the imagination of motorists not only in SA but worldwide as fuel prices continue to spike higher. Promising lower fuel consumption and, in most cases, reasonable performance, we’re seeing more of them on our roads.

Detractors will say that a turbo diesel is just as fuel efficient — and perhaps more so — and cheaper than hybrid competitors. But nothing beats the delight of starting up a hybrid and pulling off without the fuel-driven engine engaging. In fact, it can be driven in electric vehicle-only mode for several kilometres, provided you’re not accelerating up a sharp incline or going faster than 50km/h.

TechCentral spent the past week putting the top-end Auris XR HSD — list price, R299 600 — through its paces. There’s also a slightly cheaper XS HSD in the range, but it comes with smaller alloys and fewer of the creature comforts in the XR.

What we discovered in the XR was that below its rather plain-looking exterior (which is not necessarily a bad thing given the odd and somewhat controversial looks of the more expensive Prius), the fully automatic Auris is, for the price, a well-constructed technological marvel.

Before we get into the geeky gadgetry in the Auris, though, first a little about what’s under the bonnet. The XR HSD — which has the same full hybrid powertrain as the Prius — has a 1,8l petrol engine that delivers 73kW of power. The electric motor delivers a further 60kW for a combined 133kW with maximum acceleration from 0-100km/h of 11,4s. Torque is rated at 142Nm from the petrol engine and a further 207Nm for the electric system.

The rear-view mirror is a treat, too, featuring an integrated, full-colour display connected to a rear camera to help you into and out of tight parking spots when you put the car into reverse. This, used in conjunction with park distance control that warns you when you’re nearing an obstruction by beeping ever-more quickly, is particularly useful for tricky parallel parking. It’s the sort of feature that’s usually an expensive optional extra.

The rear-view mirror also uses “electro-chromatic” technology and filters out the harsh headlights of thoughtless drivers who leave their high beams switched on.

The car also features windscreen wipers that switch themselves on automatically when it starts raining. And the headlights also switch themselves on automatically — if this setting is engaged — when it detects that the light is fading.

There’s no integrated GPS in the Auris, which is a pity, but given that would have probably pushed the price well beyond R300 000, it’s perhaps not surprising Toyota hasn’t thrown in the kitchen sink on this model.

Though the Auris XR HSD doesn’t offer some of the features you’ll find in more luxurious cars, it’s one of the best kitted-out cars in its segment and for its price. If you’re a geek at heart and also want to tackle forever spiralling fuel prices (and reduce your harmful carbon emissions in the process), it’s well worth a look.

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