8 months with a Renault Clio

Top Car's Wayne Batty says goodbye to his Renault Clio. It’s not a soppy farewell but the little 'automatique' did its maker proud.

Kia's trendy family pick

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post experiences the upcoming Cerato.

Toyota’s green power assault

2011-11-16 09:52


Toyota’s Prius led the hybrid charge globally 14 years ago (has it really been that long?) and has become the flagship hybrid model other automaker’s have sought to emulate.

Now the Japanese automaker hopes to tighten its grip on eco-friendly technology with the introduction of its Auris Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD). In case that doesn’t grab you they’ve asked their tuning arm to work its magic on the Auris in the form of a special-edition Toyota Racing Development model.

In short, you’re getting the best (and worst) of both worlds; a green-friendly, albeit underwhelming, hybrid and a sportier fun-to-drive Auris hatchback.

The Auris HSD is launched in two specification levels (XS and XR) and retails at R267 000 and R289 000. The TRD will only be available in limited numbers and pricing is yet to be confirmed.


In terms of design the Auris HSD can be picked out of the bunch via its blue Toyota logo and HSD-branding at the rear and revised front design. At the front the HSD sports a lower grille, while the upper grille sports a single chrome blade as opposed to the standard version’s doubled blade design.

The HSD rides a little lower (five mm) than the standard model and has unique fog lights. The rear is untouched save for the blue Toyota logo and hybrid branding.


As expected from Toyota’s racing arm, the  TRD sports a body kit with a more pronounced grille, side-skirts and a rear design featuring an angular mesh vent. The TRD model looks a lot more assertive compared tnan the standard model courtesy of its lower suspension.

The HSD model has a four-cylinder 1.8 petrol engine capable of 73kW at 5200rpm and delivers 142Nm at 4000rpm. The petrol engine is combined with an electric motor producing 60kW/200Nm. The engine(s) are mated to a continuously variable transmission.

If you’re familiar with either the Prius or Lexus CT200h you’ll feel right at home behind the wheel of the HSD. Unfortunately it carries the strengths of the former and the weaknesses of the latter. The HSD has three drive modes; Eco – electric at low speeds, petrol for when you need more oomph; Electric – Battery driven up to speeds of 50km/h and finally Power - petrol engine derived power.

Auris HSD

GREEN POWER: The Auris HSD presents an affordable hybrid offering in South Africa's C segment market.

Even when you’re driving in the default ECO mode the HSD will switch to EV mode at less than 50km/h. Though it will switch to petrol if you’re too aggressive on with the accelerator pedal regardless of how slow you’re going. The strength of the Hybrid engine will only come to the fore, when you notice you’ve barely made the fuel gauge drop courtesy of the HSD’s frugal fuel economy of 3.8 litres/100km (claimed).

Overall it’s rather underwhelming but at least the power mode does mitigate the sedate drive. I mentioned before the HSD has some of the weaknesses of the CT200h and that’s apparent in the transmission. While in the Eco or electric modes, gear changes are seamless; in power mode you’ll have to listen as the engine whines its way to higher speeds while disregarding gear changes. The Lexus hybrid hatchback is a lot more advanced and in a different segment but I’d still choose the Auris HSD over the former and save R76 100.


Only a few South African Toyotas sported the Japanese automaker’s TRD badge; In 1983 we received the rear-wheel drive Corolla 1.8 and in 2006 the popular RunX RSI received TRD treatment.

In 2011 Toyota has given its Auris some much needed oomph over and above the Sport X line. Only 200 special edition models will be built and one should really experience what TRD treatment can do for a sedate hatchback such as the Auris.

The TRD is powered by a 1.6 (borrowed from the Sport X line) capable of, with the aid of a supercharger, 132kW at 6400rpm and 203Nm at 5200rpm. This is a 36% more power than the Sport X model (97kW) and a 27% increase in torque (160Nm).

And it shows...

The engine is much more responsive and the handling has been vastly improved by the TRD suspension kit which sdrops the body by 35mm. The suspension kit has also reduced body roll and allows for smooth and stable ride. The steering and turn performance has been tweaked.

To be fair it’s quite fun driving the new TRD Auris; I haven’t had this much fun behind the wheel of a Toyota since the launch of the Yaris TS 1.8. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and has a fuel economy rating of 7.5 litres/100km. Gear changes are smooth and typical of Toyota to get the best out of the engine you have reach 4000rpm.

The TRD shows what many South Africans may have forgotten about the brand; Toyota has and still does produce performance vehicles, think of the Dakar-tuned Hilux. It's not exactly premium hot-hatch material but it goes a long way in delivering a spirited ride in an otherwise dull hatchback.


The HSD borrows design elements from the larger Prius such as the gear lever, ignition switch and dials which are now backlit by a blue hue rather than the standard emergency-yellow lighting. The instrumentation display has been changed to accommodate the hybrid technology and now displays HSD-specific information, such as the energy flow and ECO/EV/Power drive read-outs.

Auris HSD

INTERIOR DESIGN: The blue instrumention lightting and gear lever is a nice touch, though I'm still bothered by the Auris' arched gear shift position

Typical of Toyota, the interior is dark grey with cloth upholstery specific to the XS. Leather upholstery is standard on the XR. Standard kit available in the XS model includes climate control, steering wheel controls, power windows, LED running lights and seven airbags. The XR has all of the above but adds cruise control, light-sensing headlights, automatic wipers and auto-dimming rear view mirror with reversing camera.


The Auris HSD will have to face up against Honda’s Jazz hybrid and CRZ, though curiously, given its price, I believe it will do better than the Prius and far better than the CT200h.

The TRD, while fun in its own right, will have its work cut out for it to run in the hot hatch category.

The HSD is a big stride towards creating awareness for alternative energy vehicles in general and its price tag will be the deciding factor for many buyers who generally consider hybrids too expensive. The Auris TRD, while limited in stock, should be driven by the brand loyal and naysayers since it adds something that’s been missing in Toyota’s line-up for ages – excitement.

The Yaris HSD will reach in South Africa later in 2012.

Pricing: Auris HSD
XS HSD – R267 200
XR HSD – R289 800

The Auris HSD and TRD will be sold with a five-year or 90 000km service plan, with service intervals at 15 000km. Also offered is Toyota’s three-year or 100 000km warranty. The hybrid power components are covered by an eight-year or 195 000km warranty.

Check out our galleries:
Auris HSD
Auris TRD


Inside Wheels24

Take a virtual tour of the McLaren 570S in SA

Want to experience what it's like to be behind the wheel of a 419kW sports car? Take a virtual tour of the McLaren 570S in our interactive Snapchat video filmed in SA.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.