At the launch of the new Toyota Auris Touring Sports, we caught up with the car’s Deputy Chief Engineer, Satoshi Tanaka to talk about the latest edition to the Auris family.
When did you start the design and development of this brand new addition to the Auris range?
We started at almost the same time as we developed the new hatchback model. This made sense to us as we had taken time to get the production process in place and the man-power ready to build the cars. As you’ll know from the Factory to Forecourt project, we really try to be as efficient as possible in all aspects of the creation of our cars, as such it was paramount to consider this at the beginning of the project.
What challenges did you face in the design and development of this new car?
The first challenge was the packaging as we wanted to fill the car with many features, but also give it class-leading luggage capacity. Another challenge was the re-design of the Auris, in fact it plays a part in the ‘new look’ Toyota family which you’ll see in the RAV4, Yaris and Verso. Not only did we want a more stylish exterior, we als0 wanted to improve the handling, and therefore had to look into designing a car that sits much lower to the ground.
How did you fit the battery and hybrid system in the Auris Hybrid Touring Sports?
The Auris Hybrid Touring Sports shares its engine technology with the Prius, which is a very strong model for Toyota, so we already had a great place to start. The main focus is the location of the battery, which is unseen, situated under the rear seats. We managed to design the hybrid model to give the petrol, diesel and hybrid models the same luggage space. It was very challenging to fit more equipment into the hybrid Auris, but to offer the same class leading space.
How important do you think hybrid cars are to the future of British drivers?
In the recent years hybrid has become very popular in Japan. The government gives customers an incentive to buy hybrid cars, knowing the importance of the technology on the environment. It is now normal for car buyers in Japan to drive hybrid, it’s not a new technology for my domestic market. I would say that the domestic environment (in Japan) is becoming similar to the UK in this respect.
Our hybrid models offer very good fuel economy, which is something that’s becoming very popular all over Europe. Some of the impressions I’ve already heard from the journalists here (for the launch) is that they like the driving style of the Auris Hybrid Touring Sports. We’ve managed to design the car so the hybrid battery sits low in the car, under the rear seats, which helps to lower the centre of gravity of the vehicle and offer a better, more sporty drive. So with the hybrid drivetrain, bigger load space, engaging drive and new stylish look, we think that the Auris Hybrid Touring Sports will be very well received in the UK.
What is your favourite feature of the Auris Touring Sports?
Well, firstly I think it’s very stylish. It handles and rides brilliantly, I think it’s very well balanced. The interior of the Auris Touring Sports is all easier to access by the driver, very open and simple, even though we’ve packed in so many driver and passenger features. I’d say that when you’re in the car, you’re experiencing Japanese hospitality!
We reflected on the previous generation of Auris and started by completely re-tuning the suspension system. We used a high-tensile steel in the production of this car which reduces the weight and increases the stiffness of the chassis. A low roofline improves the aerodynamics and also helps to lower the centre of gravity of the car, and the car sits lower to the ground than the Auris Hatchback, which adds to this. So, there are many factors that come together to give you one, overall experience of exceptional road-handling and a sportier, more responsive feel.
Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
We have a lot of ideas! First of all, however, we must take time to listen to the voice of the customer through different markets as this will be key in any future developments. Hybrid is one of our features that we are continually improving and will be working to get even more from this technology.
Want to know more. Find out about the Auris Touring Sports here.