Toyota is in celebratory mood – it has marked 25 years of car production in the UK with a special edition of its Auris model.
The GB25 Auris is manufactured in Burnaston, Derbyshire, alongside every other Auris destined for Europe. But while we might be partying now it’s difficult to see what the future holds under a hard Brexit. After all, Toyota has six other European plants that could absorb the slack if Customs delays at our borders become too restrictive.
Of immediate interest, though, is Toyota’s expertise in hybrid cars. Since the first Prius arrived in 2000 with sales of just 184 that year, Toyota has now convinced 200,000 UK drivers to adopt its technology and 70 per cent of all Auris models sold in the UK and Europe are hybrids.
Toyota takes great pride in the fact that all its “full” hybrids can run on battery power alone without the need for the engine to intervene, at least for a short period at low speeds.
In heavy urban traffic that means a car running with zero exhaust emissions although it makes up for that when moving more quickly when the engine helps recharge the battery pack that’s also topped up by energy recovery under braking.
It made sense to take a look at the Auris GB25 in hybrid form, which also allowed us to indulge in our own competition to see who could get all of the cell symbols on the car’s touchscreen turned to green to show they were fully charged. Neither succeeded.
However, our journeys tinged by our own failures were made all the better by the enjoyable nature of the car. This will help motorists making the switch from diesel to petrol power to also go the extra mile by moving into a hybrid’s driving seat at the same time.
There was little incentive in the Autumn Budget to make that switch, apart from higher tax penalties on company drivers using diesel cars.
It would be reasonable to expect 55mpg average fuel economy from a car like the Auris using a diesel engine. With purely petrol power under the bonnet, that could be anticipated to drop to 40mpg if driven carefully. But with the benefits of the hybrid system, getting close to 53mpg as an average was entirely feasible – and constant.
The original Auris was probably among the least dynamic cars of its generation but current hybrid technology does far more than improve the car’s economy – it also invigorates its performance.
When you give the go pedal an urgent shove you get an equally urgent reaction and the car takes a bit of a leap forward.
The electric motor that makes the car a silent non-polluter for short bursts joins forces with the 1.8 litre petrol engine to make it a sports car for short bursts, too.
The Auris Hybrid GB25 wears a special Union Flag badge and distinctive bi-tone exterior paint with the contrasting black roof, front grille, and door mirror casings offset by Tokyo Red, Pearl White, or Aspen Grey bodywork. Judging by the test car, Tokyo Red is the one to have.
Black quilted leather upholstery brings a touch of Bentley bling, emphasised by 17-inch alloy wheels with a silver and machined contrast finish plus rear privacy glass.
A seven-inch touchscreen co-ordinates functions including the six-speaker audio system with DAB, Bluetooth for hands-free phone operation and music streaming, and rear-view camera. Older drivers choosing this desirable Auris might prefer the buttons with which they’ve always been familiar but this is progress after all.
The Toyota Safety Sense package brings active systems to can help prevent an accident happening, or lessen the consequence if an impact does occur; its features include a pre-crash safety system with emergency braking, automatic high beam for the headlights, which we always find to be a mixed blessing, road sign recognition, and lane departure warning.
But when it comes down to it, there’s something the technology doesn’t do and that’s help with the purely subjective decision as to whether or not the car’s comfortable. Our Toyota-owning friends Maggie and Bob loved it and so did we but higher profile tyres would have made for even smoother progress.
The Auris Hybrid GB25 costs £24,045. Equally appealing is the standard five-year/100,000-mile warranty as standard, extended to eight years for all the hybrid bits.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Toyota Auris GB25 Hybrid
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 10.9 secs
Top speed: 112 mph
Bhp: 98 @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 142 Nm @ 4000 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 72.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 91 g/km
Best bits: technology in a likeable package