My family has just returned from an Easter break in Rome, the ‘ eternal city.’ Renting close to the Pantheon, we were centrally located to walk around the city & to take in it’s sites & duly strolled to the Borghese Gardens, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain on our first day, St Peters Square, Castel Sant Angelo, Trestavere & Aventine Hill on our second, with the district of Monti, the Colosseum & the monument to Vittorio Emmanuel on the last day. In-between we walked to & sat in amongst others Campo di Fiore & Piazza Navona, all the while marvelling at the sheer number of churches & important buildings. Every street was packed, but being Rome, almost all of the old town roads are open to cars & the throngs of pedestrians battled with numerous taxis, buses, horse drawn carriages & delivery vehicles in the crowded streets.
The majority of these vehicles were petrol or diesel powered & therefore easy to hear. However, the Italian Polizia & Carabineri appear to have taken Hybrid cars to heart, with numerous Toyota Auris & Prius, as well as an all-electric BMW i3 & Mitsubishi MiEV spotted by myself on our travels. In crowded streets, these ‘silent’ cars are just plain dangerous, with numerous close encounters with pedestrians a common site. The hybrid Toyotas were extremely popular, especially the Auris, which was fitting, because I was road testing an Auris just before I went away. However, it was not a hybrid version that came to Company Car, but was in fact Toyota’s latest small 1.2 turbo petrol engined Auris, which was launched in the UK in 2015.
Toyota has given the Auris a mid-life overhaul & the first thing that you notice is that it’s been fitted with a new front grille that extends into revised headlights, plus restyled front & rear bumpers with LED tail-lights. Dark-tinted privacy glass, a shark fin antenna, 17” alloys, LED day-time running lights & a roof spoiler all contribute to a more aggressive look, which is most definitely required in the ultra-competitive C-Sector, dominated by the Golf, Focus & Astra.
Inside, the cabin has been Spring-cleaned, with smarter materials finished in black on the dashboard, with the new 7” touchscreen dominating the centre of this. This infotainment system works really well & is very intuitive for the driver. Bluetooth, SatNav, DAB radio & all media options are simply controlled & easy to adjust or to change whilst driving.
The seats are finished in a really tough looking dark grey fabric & offer the driver & front passenger excellent support & it’s easy to get into a good driving position. Front head & legroom is above average & the flat floored rear gives the central rear passenger better leg room than in most of the competitor’s on offer. It’s practical too, with a 350-litre boot, 34 litres more than in a Ford Focus, which increased to 1199 litres with the rear seats folded. There’s also a great selection of in-cabin storage solutions, illustrating how Toyota have really thought about the requirements of customers, when re jigging the latest Auris.
It’s well equipped too. Auto air-con, power windows, hated, electrically adjustable mirrors, leather steering wheel & gear trim, & a rear view camera are all included on the Design model. You can now opt for a package that adds lane assist, automatic high-beam headlights, road-sign display & collision avoidance for your Auris, which along with ABS, EBD, brake assist, vehicle stability control & traction control all contributing to a safer car.
The new 1.2-litre engine is a cracker. It may only produce 114bhp, but as soon as the engine roars past 1500 rpm,the fun kicks in (185Nm at 1500-400rpm). As it’s a 4 cylinder engine it’s also quieter & smoother than the Ford 1.25 Ecoboost, another good result for Toyota. The upgrades have also contributed to a more enjoyable ride. It’s not only quieter thanks to some new sound-proofing, but also handles better. The manual six speed gar box is short & sweet & works well with the clutch. The Auris holds the road better than before & there’s less body roll than in the last model. It rides better than before, soaking up all but the biggest potholes in Trafford on the larger 17” wheels fitted to my best car. The turbo charged engine takes you from 0-62 mph in a respectable 10.1 seconds & the little engine will go all the way on to a top speed of 124 mph.
How does it do in the economy stakes ? Well, in my experience it more than matched up to the hybrid Auris with my week showing a combined average return of 44.3 mpg, whilst when I drive the hybrid version I averaged 46.9 mpg, although I managed over 50 mpg in the diesel Auris.The emissions are higher than the hybrid though, at 125g/km compared to 87g/km for the hybrid, still the Achilles heal for petrol cars.
The Golf is still to quoted as the class leader in the C-Sector, the Volkswagen is not as good on your pocket & isn’t as reliable as you’d think either. The Company Car, Car of the Year Vauxhall Astra is also at the top of this class & this too looks & feels superior to even this latest Auris. However, before you cross the Toyota off your list, it’s worth remembering that the Toyota has an excellent reliability record & the Auris also comes with a five-year warranty, both good news for fleets. My test model with al of the safety equipment was well priced as well at £21,190. And, coming full circle, I really think that the 1.2 turbo petrol Auris competes well with the most popular Auris, the hybrid & is a model that the Italian public sector should seriously consider because although it’s quiet, you can at least hear this Auris above the noise of thousands of tourists on the streets of central Rome.
A Roman Holiday 3.5/5