Live from the launch: Toyota's confusing stop and go system

The Auris Hybrid's stopping and going system had us a little confused earlier. Not the clever fuel-saving technology that cuts the engine out when you are at the lights and restarts it just in time no matter how much you try and catch it out, but the old-fashioned stopping and going bits.

Plenty of modern cars have electric handbrakes, so when we saw the button emblazoned with a big 'P' on the central console, we assumed that's what it was and pressed it to try and pull away. Nothing really happened and the handbrake light was still on.

At which point we stopped being dim and unobservant, and noticed a ruddy great big traditional handbrake sat next to us. Rather than being a secondary brake, the 'P' button was the Park mode for the automatic gearbox.

Once we'd got over the embarrassment and got moving, the Auris proved to be just as we expected on the road. As it shares its engine and gearbox with the Prius, it was no surprise that the car drove much the same as its hybrid sibling. It is at its best at low speeds and when it is being teased along with very little throttle because that's when it uses the battery alone for propulsion - something it is able to do for 2km at speeds up to 31mph.

Thereafter it uses either a combination of the battery and the 1.8-litre petrol engine, or just the engine when at higher speeds. It is not the quickest or most powerful car in its class by a long shot, and the engine gets noisy under high revs, but it is fairly easy to drive in an economical manner thanks to the dash displays which inform you on the best ways to save fuel.

Boot space is compromised quite heavily compared to the standard car thanks to the huge battery under the floor, but it is still essentially a Golf or Focus rival in all other senses.
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