The proper fight
If you wanted a small family car decade or two ago, you probably drove out of a Toyota showroom. Going right, presumably. These days, if you’re after a sensible car around 250 to 300 kays, there are hordes of choices with the latest tech and engines. But not many Toyotas…
The evergreen Corolla sedan – now in its 67th generation or something – is still marching into the record books but its local sales top spots leave me skeptical. How many people do you still know who drive a relatively modern Corolla? Reps, companies, rentals and other fleets – that’s where its strength lies.
Things don’t even look half as good for its hatchback twin, the Auris. Roll back a few years and our roads were crawling with every imaginable Conquest and Tazz model. The subsequent RunX still garnered a bit of success but handed a losing batten to the Auris – or Corolla hatchback, as Europeans call it.
Personally I wasn’t nuts about the Runks or Oros, yet my test drives of both revealed that they were slightly dull but highly practical automobiles. In other words, proper Toyotas. Perhaps their pricing was too steep and they failed to keep pace with more affordable and better looking rivals from Korea?
Whatever the case may be, Toyota isn’t giving up the fight that easily. This was brutally evident from the press car they dropped off at my house the other day, coated in paint so vibrant that even yours truly was lost for words initially. Mostly, I couldn’t decide if it was poison yellow or radioactive green.
Toyota calls this hue “Citrus Yellow” and most of us thought that it suits the Auris’ sharp and modern shape well; there are also more conservative colours you may choose from. All testers agreed that the interior is also much improved with better quality materials and (mostly) softer surfaces to touch.
Leather is standard on this XR model, as is the new multimedia sound system with touchy screen. It’s got good audio quality, an easy user interface, cool blue colours to match other controls, a reversing camera, loads of inputs but no volume knob – touch buttons and the steering wheel knoppies can help here.
My OCD is not a fan of current Toyota / Lexus dashboard designs but I will note that the bizarre shapes, angles, layers, 1982 LCD clock and mix of materials look funky and interesting. Silver highlights, more soft leather and white stitching helps to accentuate various elements while also lifting the cabin ambience.
Complaints only arrived from tall occupants who bemoaned limited passenger knee room and windscreen wiper coverage, as well as an odd driving position and insufficient steering wheel reach. Oh, and the clutch clunks on the fire wall when you fully depress it – although this wasn’t experienced by all drivers.
That typed, lots of praise was garnished on the front seat heaters, two 12V sockets, highly efficient climate control with its cool toggle switches, auto-dimming rear view mirror and excellent trip computer between the main instruments. As is customary for Toyota, the gearbox and all pedals are easy to operate.
Motorisation is also customary Toyota equipment with a 1.6L in-line four cylinder petrol giving up to 97kW or 160Nm for 0-100km/h in 10 seconds (we clocked just over nine at sea level), a top speed of 200km/h, 145g CO2 per km and average fuel consumption of 6.2L/100km from the 50L tank (our lumo-lime specimen managed about nine).
Achieving six litres per hundred will take some doing and eat into the XR’s performance even more – by modern (turbo) standards it’s not exactly exhilarating to start with. The lack of costly turbo plumbing is balanced by a rev-happy nature and decent levels of instant, naturally-aspirated response.
Other sensible Toyota hallmarks are 140mm of ground clearance, ABS brakes with emergency assistance, front and curtain airbags (including knee-bag), 16-inch alloys with decent 205/55R rubber, a full size spare wheel and a 360L boot with one-touch 60/40 rear seat recline to give you a completely flat surface.
The XR’s price of N$293,500 includes a three-year/100,000km warranty as well as five years or 90,000km worth of service plan. In this price bracket, the Toyota is outgunned performance-wise by turbo-charged competitors but at least the Auris offers good kit and many models – including a Hybrid.
What the Auris has got going for itself is the reputation and dealer count that comes with its badge, plus a sense of longevity thanks to its relatively simple engine. You could almost say that it’s a no-nonsense car but, and I’m thrilled about this, a higher-spec car with a colour like ours actually looks quite cool.
0-10km/h: 0,56 seconds
0-20km/h: 1,17 seconds
0-30km/h: 1,89 seconds
0-40km/h: 2,59 seconds
0-50km/h: 3,32 seconds
0-60km/h: 4,37 seconds
0-70km/h: 5,48 seconds
0-80km/h: 6,62 seconds
0-90km/h: 7,74 seconds
0-100km/h: 9,32 seconds
0-110km/h: 11,08 seconds
0-120km/h: 12,90 seconds
0-130km/h: 14,83 seconds
0-140km/h: 17,07 seconds
0-100m: 7,31 seconds @ 86,26km/h
0-200m: 10,96 seconds @ 109,32km/h
0-300m: 14,02 seconds @ 125,86km/h
0-400m: 16,74 seconds @ 138,79km/h
Maximum acceleration G-force: 0.53G
All data captured by Racelogic® Performance Box