Toyota Auris

Family hatch cleans up with an all-new low-capacity engine

If there’s one car maker that’s on a green crusade, it’s Toyota. The Japanese firm has pioneered hybrid technology with its petrol-electric Prius, racking up more than one million sales of the groundbreaking family car worldwide.

Now, the company is turning its attentions to its mainstream models with a range of efficient new engines under the Toyota Optimal Drive banner.

The most eco-friendly of these is a 100bhp 1.33-litre unit. It’s smaller, cleaner and more powerful than the 1.4-litre motor it replaces, and its green credentials are also boosted by stop-start technology.

Externally, there’s little to distinguish the latest Auris from its predecessor. Climb aboard, though, and you’ll find a couple of clues to the Toyota’s eco-friendly intentions.

Firstly, the six-speed gearbox features a tall top ratio for fuel-efficient motorway cruising. There’s also a small ‘eco’ button on the dashboard that disables the stop-start system. However, the set-up is so unobtrusive that you are unlikely to consider switching it off.

Unlike the Smart and Citroen, the Auris has a traditional manual gearbox. Slide the lever into neutral when you come to a stop, and the engine cuts out. When the lights go green, simply depress the clutch and the unit unobtrusively bursts into life.

All the same, the system isn’t without its quirks. From a cold start it takes a few miles of engine warming before the stop-start kicks in. This problem was made worse by running power-sapping devices such as the air-con and headlamps.

As a result, the Toyota managed only 30.5mpg on our city route. That was better than its overall figure of 29.1mpg, though, which included out-of-town and motorway driving. We put this down to the car’s 1,280kg kerbweight and weak performance. With only 100bhp on tap, it needs to be worked hard to keep up with traffic.

Toyota’s new 1.33-litre engine makes more sense in the smaller Yaris, but later this year it will also appear under the stubby bonnet of the iQ city car – and here, it could prove even more effective.

Details

WHY: New 1.33-litre engine has appeared in smaller models – we see if it’s big enough for eco-friendly Auris.

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