There’s a lot to be said for Toyota’s hybrid version of the latest Auris – and it’s not all about fuel saving.

Ignoring its green credentials for a moment this family friendly hatchback also scores highly in the design stakes.

The sleek, five-seater hatchback has a new, swept-back aerodynamic face – in line with the rest of the Toyota family – with the new headlights incorporating LED daytime running lights.

The car is longer and lower than the model it replaces but there is still an abundance of headroom for passengers.

The all-new interior has more space, better comfort and a futuristic image, thanks to the tiny Playstation-style lever which replaces the normal gearshift.

There are just three positions for the easy-move lever; drive, reverse and neutral. Push the start button on the dashboard, put the car into drive and you hear – nothing.

For like all hybrids the Auris starts off on electric power rather than use the 1.8-litre petrol engine. This not only ensures that you are not polluting the environment but also that you are not using up any of the valuable petrol.

And if you have a light right foot and are driving mainly in town or city it’s amazing how long you can keep the car running solely on the battery power. There is a dashboard visual showing when you are running on electric only, the engine only or a combination, and if you are not careful it can become obsessive viewing.

When the engine does cut in or when you brake the battery is constantly being re-charged so for many short journeys – certainly at speeds below around 34 miles per hour – the Verso Hybrid will run almost entirely on electricity.

When you need to put your foot down hard for instant power or when on the motorway, however, you will be running on traditional engine power or sometimes a combination of both engine and electric motor, which gives a combined output of 134bhp. Despite this the Auris is surprisingly frugal on petrol even on motorway runs, with consumption of around 50mpg easily attainable, so even if you do a lot of motorway driving this car – unlike some hybrids – is a viable proposition. And the bonus is that because the CO2 emissions are so low you don’t have to pay any road tax.

The interior of the Toyota Auris Hybrid
The interior of the Toyota Auris Hybrid

Three buttons located near the transmission lever let you override the hybrid system, allowing you to switch to “power”, “economy” or “ev” (electric vehicle) mode only, when the battery is fully charged.

But I found the car better left in its normal transmission mode to give good economy and, when power was needed, simply flooring the accelerator as in a traditional automatic.

In practice the Auris Hybrid is quite lively when you need the power and while this is not a sports car it handles superbly, with no roll and excellent road holding.

By using lighter materials and lowering the driving position the car now has a significantly lower centre of gravity than its predecessor, improving its handling and stability.

So now you can buy a hybrid for all the right reasons yet still have a car that’s genuinely good fun to drive.

Fast Facts

Toyota Auris Hybrid Excel 5dr

Price: £21,745

Mechanical: 1798cc, 4 cyl petrol engine plus 60KW electric motor driving front wheels via CVT gearbox

Max speed: 112 mph

0-62mph: 10.9 secs

Combined mpg: 72.4

Insurance group: 7E

CO2 emissions: 91 g/km

Warranty: Five years/100,000 miles