First drive: Toyota Auris Touring Sports

First drive: Toyota Auris Touring Sports

As sure as night follows day, the launch of a mid-sized family hatchback on the UK market is eventually followed by an estate version.

This is Toyota's load-lugging version of the Auris, which is the only estate to be offered in petrol, diesel and hybrid configurations.
AOL cars headed to the Balearic isle of Mallorca to see if it's any good.

What is it?

An elongated version of the current Auris hatchback. Built for consummate practicality and ease of use, it comes with class leading luggage space, one-touch flip down seats and a quiet, refined cabin that you'd be happy to while away the hours in. The Touring Sports wears Toyota's current design theme a lot better than other models in the range, and it's refreshingly non-European styling makes for an interesting sight on the road.

What's under the bonnet?

As well as the headline-stealing 1.8-litre petrol hybrid drivetrain, which offers impressive CO2 emissions and fuel economy at 85g/km and 76.3mpg respectively, the Touring Sports is also available with a brace of petrol engines at 1.3 and 1.6 litres, and a 1.4-litre diesel. Those not desperate for a hybrid should consider the diesel, as it runs it close for economy and is around £1500 cheaper spec for spec. While the petrol models are impressively quiet and smooth, the larger 1.6 we tested lacks torque, so it needs working hard to build speed quickly. Transmissions include a six-speed manual – the sole option on diesel and entry level petrol cars – with a CVT automatic available on the larger petrol. The hybrid model is available solely with the CVT, which makes a din even under relatively gentle acceleration.

What's the spec like?

Four trim levels are offered. 'Active' cars are equipped with automatic air conditioning, traction control, hill-start assist, LED daytime running lights and USB and MP3 compatibility. Move up to 'Icon' spec – likely to be the most popular in the UK – and you'll be rewarded with Bluetooth connectivity, a digital radio and a rear-view camera as well as some additional bits of leather in the cabin. 'Sport' trim is similarly specced but adds larger alloy wheels, different front seats and some racy external body addenda for a more sporting feel. It's worth noting that only the top-spec 'Excel' models come with leather upholstery as standard, but added niceties such as automatic wipers and headlights, as well as keyless go are also included.

Any rivals?

Those in the market for a compact estate car are currently spoilt for choice. Standout rivals to the Auris Touring Sports include the Ford Focus estate, which although isn't nearly as commodious as the Toyota, offers a more engaging driving experience and is available with a wider range of engines, including Ford's brilliant new 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol. If practicality is more your concern, the new Skoda Octavia Estate offers a huge boot, and a number of neat practical touches designed to make life easier. It can't quite match the hybrid Auris's CO2 emissions, but at 105g/km for the cleanest version, it sits just one tax band higher.

Toyota Auris Touring Sports
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First drive: Toyota Auris Touring Sports

What's it like to drive?

As you may expect from a car more focused on economy and practicality, the Touring Sports is never going to get your heart racing. That said, it doesn't fall apart when driven hard, changing direction well, resisting body roll and giving the overall impression of a much smaller car. Where the Auris excels is in long distance cruising. The cabin is hushed, aside from a feint wind-whistle around the door mirrors, and occupants are shielded from even severe bumps thanks to forgiving suspension. It may be an unashamed workhorse, but the Touring Sports is as comfortable and capable as you could ever ask of a family car.

The AOL Cars verdict

Drivers wanting a no-nonsense family hold-all will find a lot to like with the Auris Touring Sports. Serene enough to take the sting out of long drives, yet capable enough to be mildly entertaining when the mood suits, it offers drip-dry practicality backed up with Toyota's bullet-proof reputation for reliability. Hybrid drivers will be sold already, but for those who would normally default to the more obvious rivals from Ford and Volkswagen Group, we'd wager you'll be pleasantly surprised by a test drive in Toyota's offering.

The knowledge

Model: Toyota Auris Touring Sports 1.6 Valvematic Excel
Price: £20,350
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 130bhp 160NM
Max speed: 121 mph
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
MPG: 45.6mpg (combined)
Emissions: 143g/km CO2
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