Toyota Auris Hybrid
Hybrid earns its colours in ultimate green challenge
Who would not want the chance to play for their country? For me, the opportunity to represent England in sport would be a dream come true.
So, when the call came asking me to pull on the white and red jersey, I jumped at the chance. But I wasn’t being asked to appear at Wembley or Twickenham – instead, I would be driving Toyota’s Team England bid for victory in the first-ever Future Car Challenge!
Designed as a showcase for eco-friendly cars, the fuel-saving event was staged as a celebration of mpg rather than mph. It was just the sort of challenge our Toyota Auris hybrid was made for.
With my car sporting patriotic St George’s flag livery, I set out to secure top green machine honours for England and Auto Express. Our eight-car Auris squad also included entries from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We would be up against 56 other competitors driving a variety of electric, hybrid, hydrogen and diesel-powered vehicles.
The 60-mile route we were to ‘race’ along was a reverse of the famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run which was first staged in 1896. We started with early-morning registration before a short hop to Madeira Drive on Brighton seafront. There, fuel tanks were topped up, filler caps sealed and odometers checked. At 8am prompt the first car was on its way, with the rest of us departing every 30 seconds. To maximise our chances of a good result, my co-driver and I switched on the ‘eco’ button and had no air-con, heating or radio. That meant braving cold temperatures – although my partner was kept warm by the constant need to wipe the misted-up windows.
The first section of the route was the 24 miles to Crawley, West Sussex, where we all had an enforced break. The roads were fairly quiet and the skill was to stay at an economical, steady speed and keep the hybrid monitor in the green zone, while using the brakes as little as possible. Driving the car in this way had a calming effect, and I enjoyed the challenge of anticipating events in advance, slowing down early for roundabouts and trying to avoid coming to a complete stop.
Dicing with Saturday shoppers, buses and black cabs made the second leg from Crawley to central London more stressful. Yet when we finally reached the finish at Waterloo Place, the organisers worked out our fuel economy at an excellent 71.4mpg, which is only 2.9mpg shy of Toyota’s official claims.
Better still, my light-footed driving technique earned me the accolade of the second-best Toyota Auris in our team. Not a bad effort for my international debut!
“Dawn’s excellent efforts clearly demonstrate our Toyota’s fuel-saving potential on a long trip. However, the Auris is at its best in town. Use a gentle right foot to glide silently along employing just the electric motor, with the 1.8-litre petrol unit cutting in only when you need a quick squirt of acceleration.”
Deputy Road Test Editor