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Is the Toyota Auris Hybrid that electrifying?

13.10.2015

SOME car manufacturers are desperately trying to find an alternative forward propulsion technology. Some move in the direction of hydrogen power, others tend to go the electrical route. Unfortunately, electricity can run out, as Eskom has shown us time and time again. To counter this, manufacturers drop a fuel-burning engine into the car, thus creating a hybrid. Toyota happens to be a world leader in hybrid engine design and I recently got to sample the latest Auris hybrid.

Last week, our editor, Sean Nurse gave his driving impression on the face-lifted Auris. I was at the launch a few months ago and I must say, it looks really good now. The designers have enhanced the front end and lower bumper to give it a more solid, premium look. The changes also give the vehicle a visually broader stance and lower centre of gravity, as well as a more prestigious, sophisticated road presence and Toyota has also incorporated LED headlights on this model. Now, besides looking cool, LED lights have numerous advantages over conventional bulbs; they produce illumination closest to daylight, they consume less energy than conventional bulbs and they have a service life of up to 100 000 hours - almost the same as the car itself.

At the rear, the lower half of the Auris has been completely redesigned to once again add visual emphasis to the vehicle's broad road stance. The width of a deeper, more muscular bumper design is emphasised by the placement of reflector lamp housings at the extremities, underscored by a thin chrome trim line. The rear lamp clusters now incorporate LED light-guide technology, giving the new Auris a more prestigious, instantly identifiable light signature.

The car was also fitted with a panoramic roof, which extended the entire length of the roof; this simply added to the overall look of the car, which looked really good.

Inside, things get better. The dashboard also features a more curvaceous design. You are immediately greeted by a large LCD touch screen mounted to the centre console, which has been integrated into a single, smooth surface incorporating touch-sensitive switchgear. The upper surface and fascia of the dashboard itself is now finished in the same, soft-touch material with consistent graining between surfaces. There’s also an integrated colour screen in the centre of the instrument cluster. Space inside the Auris is good and the boot is rather large, considering there are batteries hidden back there.

The gear-lever looks similar to that found in a BMW M car; small, round and touch sensitive. I will admit, it took me some time to get to grips with this car. I must have sat in it for about ten minutes, pushing buttons and flicking switches. The infotainment screen does take getting used to. Once I had completed my button-pushing routine, I hit the start button; dials came on but it was dead silent! I put the car in reverse and backed up. It was a bewildering experience as it felt as if I was free-wheeling backwards, my mind was telling me that this was wrong.

Once I got used to this silent driving I headed home. This was where things got confusing. You see, the Auris hybrid doesn’t need to be plugged into an electrical charging port. It uses a 73kW 1.8-litre petrol engine to charge the batteries. It also uses the car’s regenerative braking system to help top up the batteries.

So how does it help? Well, as I found out, the electric motor that is powered by the batteries, which are powered by the engine, help to assist the petrol engine. In heavy traffic the engine goes into a standby mode, allowing the electric motor to move the car along, saving you fuel. The electric motor also helps the engine when extra power is needed.

The Auris hybrid looks really good and it offers great levels of comfort and it is very economical. I managed to get 4.7 litres/100km from our East Rand office to Witbank. It all sounds great but there is a huge price to pay, and I’m not talking about money here…

Even with the electric motor, the Auris hybrid just feels under-powered and I found the car only runs on full electric power up until 40km/h; anything over that and it turns the engine on, and let’s face it, no one here travels at that speed. The other problem is, in order to use battery power only, you need to just about blow on the accelerator; push it any harder and the engine cuts in. I had to pull away from traffic lights at a speed slower than erosion to maintain battery power. However, that stuff is all okay. The biggest issue with the Auris hybrid has got to be the CVT gearbox. I cannot explain to you how awful the sound is. It’s one continuous droning sound and unfortunately, the car doesn’t really get a move on either.

The Auris is a good-looking, comfortable car; it’s well-built and I do appreciate the technology, and at R367 500 that technology is not ridiculously expensive. I just can’t help wondering whether or not Toyota could have made the driving experience as impressive as the other aspects of the car by just adding a turbo to the 1.8-litre engine instead of an electric motor.

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Image Source: Netcarshow

Article written by Justin Jacobs
13.10.2015
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