Toyota Auris hybrid e-car
Town and out in a Prius-powered hatchback
Review It's hard not to feel a little sorry for Toyota. Over the years the Prius – reviewed here  – has not only been a healthy sales success, but the name has become synonymous with hybrid motoring technology.
Hybrid hatch: Toyota's Auris
Yet still, the hard-of-thinking and loud-of-mouth insist on telling anyone listening that they are only bought by fools, Hollywood actors and middle class tree huggers. Presumably in an effort to get around this, Toyota has now whipped its Hybrid Synergy Drive tech out of the highly visible Prius and stuffed it into the altogether lower profile Auris hatchback.
The drive train has been co-opted directly from the Prius, so you get the same 98bhp 1.8L Atkinson cycle petrol engine coupled with a CVT transmission with an 80bhp/153lb-ft (60kW/207Nm) electric motor and 13.1kWh nickel-metal hydride battery.
In Power mode that combination will get you from 0-62 in 11.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 112mph. The largely irrelevant 0.9 seconds difference in the zero-to-sixty dash times between the Auris and Prius is presumably explained by a change in gearing, as both cars weigh exactly the same according to Toyota.
Compared to an Alfa Romeo Giulietta or even a Ford Focus, the Auris looks are rather uninspired
Economy is the raison d'être of the Auris Hybrid and Toyota reckon 74mpg is possible in Eco mode. The best I managed over a very careful 45 mile run was a shade below 68mpg. Drive like a twit and consumption drops into the low 50s. Over the course of a week, I averaged 62.6mpg which means the 45 litre fuel tank can get you 600 miles between fill-ups.
All those figures are an improvement over the Prius, despite it being the more slippery of the two with a drag coefficient of 0.25 versus the Auris Hybrid's 0.28. With CO2 emissions of between 89 and 93g/km, depending on wheel size, car tax isn't a problem because you won't have to pay any. The same goes for the Congestion Charge for those living in or near the Smoke.
The EV button allows for electric-only motoring
As with the Prius, when you hit the Start button nothing happens beyond the dash lighting up like a Christmas tree, because the Auris moves away under battery power with the engine only joining the fray when required. Press the EV button and you can travel in leccy-only mode for around one and three-quarter miles at speeds of up to 30-odd mph, which is handy in slow moving traffic jams or trying to run down chronically inattentive pedestrians.
Cabin architecture is somewhat basic
Being rather smaller than the Prius, there is a touch less space in the cabin, but five adults can still sit comfortably, as long as those in the back are not too long in the leg. Luggage is more of an issue because the boot floor, replete with 'Hybrid Battery Pack' sign, is high. To be fair, the battery pack only steals space from the under floor cubby – poor boot space is a feature of the entire Auris range.
The boot accommodates the battery pack and is bit on the high side
Once inside, the Auris is not a noticeably less pleasant place to sit than the Prius, despite the basic cabin architecture and fittings being those of a fifteen grand compact hatchback, rather than a twenty grand California eco-cruiser.
The dashboard layout and instruments are, however, an improvement. While giving you the same information as the Prius' high-tech fascia, everything is simpler and more conventional and thus easier to understand. The funky blue drive selector is carried over from the Prius.
Centre console detail is more intuitive
The driving position is higher than in the Prius which is better for visibility but not so good for getting a feel of the road when making time. With less attention paid to a wind-cheating profile, the Auris is a lot easier to see out of through the rear window, which pays dividends when going backwards unaided by the optional £1,200 Navigation Pack and reversing camera.
Power flow information
The car's humble origins do however show up on the open road. While everything is perfectly acceptable by c-segment standards, the Prius is definitely quieter, smoother and more refined. The CVT-induced trait of revs-before-action makes engine noise rather noticeable when pushing hard and startlingly the brakes are even more lifeless and abrupt than in the Prius, which makes gentle retardation an acquired art.
Features the same Hybrid Synergy Drive as the Prius, although it's a noisier driving experience
It's in these inevitable comparisons with its Toyota big brother and Honda's hybrid offerings that a couple of problems crop up. The first is price. The entry model will set you back £19,138 while the kit-ladden T-Spirit I had on test will lighten your wallet to the tune of £20,881. That's perilously close to the £20,265 - £23,398 price of the larger and better looking Prius.
The second issue is the inherent conservatism of the car. Honda has been much bolder by making its second hybrid – the CR-Z, reviewed here  – a sporty 3-door coupé, rather than simply a smaller, cheaper Insight.
Considering a Prius isn't too much more, the pricing seems unrealistic
For us Brits, perhaps the most compelling reason to buy an Auris, rather than a Prius, has nothing to do with its technical prowess, but simply that it is assembled here in Blighty, at Toyota's Burnaston plant in Derbyshire.
Taken on its own merits, the Auris Hybrid is a decent car but I can't shake the feeling that, as a concept, it is just too conservative and more importantly priced too closely to the Prius. If I was thinking about shelling out 20 odd grand for a Toyota hybrid, the choice would be easy and it would be the Prius. For the extra few quid, what you get is bigger, faster, more refined and more stylish. ®
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