When I arrived to meet Andrew Crosby from Fish Brothers Toyota in Swindon I was in for a shock.
In my mind, I’d be tootling around town in a small two-door hybrid vehicle, my first ever experience of a car powered by batteries and petrol.
The car was brought around and it was, to me, a large family car, four door with an enormous boot. It was a Toyota Auris Hybrid in white.
Not going into too much technical detail it has a battery at the back, an engine at the front and the two work in tandem to offset each other depending on the driving conditions and speed. It’s an automatic which was a new thing for me – as I’d never driven one before.
The electric batteries power the car only for a short distance, around 1.5miles but it kicks in and out as you progress through slow moving traffic. Until you drive such a vehicle over a number of days, you have no real clue as to how useful (and eco friendly) this is. Believe me, I’ve been educated, the electric power kicked in a lot.
So two challenges in one day, driving a new type of vehicle and getting used to keeping my left foot still. Andrew took me for a test drive, stayed with me while I had a go and then I was on my own.
By the way and I’ll say this upfront, this car also parks itself but I knew at this stage, I just didn’t have the bottle to try to parallel park relying on the car. I need a space big enough to park a jet in at the best of times, and I couldn’t quite bring myself to trust the car to do it for me.
As I drove the car back home to my office, the first thing which hits you is that it’s so quiet. So very quiet that you almost feel as if the car has stalled when you stop and you initially feel out of control, as if you are coasting in neutral. It’s quite a big mental hurdle to overcome. I knew this would take some time to deal with – every person who got in the car with me commented freely on how quiet it was.
You don’t realise how much you rely on listening to your car and its sounds, until those sounds are not there.
My first proper ‘outing’ was the school run which took me a couple of miles from my central Swindon home. Once again, starting the car demonstrated how silent it is – and at this stage it still feels very strange.
The electric power is engaged at very low speed and when in traffic (which is often in Swindon) so far so good. It’s a smooth ride but I had a couple of niggles. The clock favours the passenger so it’s hard to see and I realise I check the time a lot. In my own car the clock is more central and slightly down to my left, I’m so used to looking at it, having to look elsewhere is odd.
Also there is a compartment or elbow rest next to the driver’s seat which is at the wrong level for me. It would be at the right level if you were taller – but I kept banging my elbow on it.
I’ve had this before in other cars – my current car doesn’t have this arm rest and my previous car had one which could be moved backwards.
Solution? Keep the lid open all of the time.
Day Two was a real test for the car as it was a busy day out and about around town then off to Cardiff for an event and overnight stay.
From early morning the car took me to West Swindon, Old Town, Royal Wootton Bassett and Purton. It performed well and is a dream to drive because it’s such a smooth ride. I’ve not noticed any real loss of power – my own car is a 2 litre and this one is a 1.8. However it doesn’t have the acceleration of my own car and I’m still getting used to that slight delay as the automatic moves through the gears ‘on its own’.
The rear view mirror is a bit narrow for my liking – although the car has a reversing camera. As I know quite a bit about cameras, they are great for some reverse moves but the truth is the perspective is distorted and you cannot see the sides. Therefore I’m reluctant to rely soley on the camera.
Written as I sit in the hotel in Cardiff prior to my first meeting of the day. Yesterday I had travelled to the city in the most appalling weather conditions, pretty scary in a car you don’t know well.
It performed well and was smooth though occasionally felt buffeted by the very strong winds. Having said that, any car would have been bounced by the high winds and driving rain.
The car got me safely to two meetings in different parts of the city. As most of the journey was with petrol on the M4, fuel consumption seemed about the same as normal. It appears that around town you use very little fuel, but on a longer journey, the petrol is used up very much at the same rate as my existing car which is a diesel.
One thing is that it can be easy to speed in this car because it’s so quiet. As I was trying to find my way to my first meeting in central Cardiff, I was flashed by a static camera. No excuses here – it’s my fault for going too fast but I just hadn’t realised I was over the speed limit until it was too late. And yes, I was caught on camera doing 35 in a 30mph zone and am now awaiting my fate.
I’m not blaming the car for this but please take this as a warning. If you are considering purchasing a car such as this, give yourself a good few days to get used to it’s ‘sounds’ or lack of them. This is especially if you are driving in an area which is unfamiliar.
Also I did have some problems with the blue tooth audio, it kept cutting out and I’m not sure why. This was while travelling in Wiltshire – I didn’t use the blue tooth on the way to Cardiff, the weather was simply too appalling to talk to anyone on the phone. Radio was fine though.
I must admit I’m not keen on the cover of the steering wheel as it’s very smooth – I personally prefer something with more grip. But that’s a very personal preference.
The boot is great, could easily fit a pushchair and bags. My overnight bag, business banner, laptop and other paperwork was utterly lost in the space.
Next week – part two – my last two days and a fact file on the Toyota Auris Hybrid.