In a post by our managing editor about that part of the European automotive market referred to as the “C segment”, what Americans would call compact cars, some of our readers commented on how “Toyota Corolla” means different things in different parts of the world. In Europe, Toyota sells a Corolla branded car based on its subcompact platform. The car that Toyota sells in Europe that is most comparable to the North American Corolla is called the Auris there. While built on the same platform, the Auris comes with a multilink independent rear suspension, while the U.S. spec Corolla gets a less sophisticated torsion beam setup in back. At the ride & drive for the launch of the 2014 Corolla that I attended a few months ago I asked Paul Holdridge, vice president of sales for Toyota Division, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A, how come Europe gets IRS and we don’t. Holdridge said it had to do with differing driving styles, needs and expectations of American and European consumers. One might thing that means that American drivers don’t care that much about better handling, but it seems to me that the differences between the Auris and the U.S. spec Corolla may have more to do with the expectations of Europeans, than American driving styles.
While reading through the comments on Derek’s post that contrast the Auris to the North American Corolla, it occurred to me that while our readers were surmising the differences between the two related Toyotas, I actually can speak to the topic. In the span of a couple of months last autumn I had the chance to drive the latest U.S. spec Corolla and a couple of 2012 Auris models sold in Europe. As a matter of fact, when I attended Toyota’s Hybrid World Tour event, which brought together all of the hybrid models that Toyota sells around the world, I specifically test drove both the Auris Touring Sports station wagon and 5 door hatchback Auris that they had for us to sample because Derek and I discussed possibly doing a capsule review of the Euro ‘Corolla’.
As it worked out, other things had higher priorities, so that review never got written, which is probably fortuitous because soon afterwards I had the opportunity to attend the aforementioned Corolla ride & drive, allowing me to better make a comparison between the North American Corolla and the Auris. You can read my TTAC review of the 2014 Corolla here.
After seeing that people are indeed interested in comparing the Auris to the Corolla, I went back to the archives and dug up my audio notes from the Auris drives. First, a caveat must be made. This is going to be an apples and oranges kind of comparison. The 2014 Corollas that I drove all had conventional powerplants and braking systems while the Aurises had the 1.8 liter ICE version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive with a total of 136 horsepower. As with other HSD Toyotas, both Aurises had regenerative braking. Another difference was that the Corollas were sedans while the Aurises both had hatches, with one being a longer station wagon. The driving experiences were different too. The Corolla event was a typical ride & drive, where I could take a car on my choice of routes up to about 30 miles. At the Hybrid World Tour, on the first day we could take the cars on a similar loop as you’d find on a ride & drive but on the second day we were also able to drive the cars on handling and high speed courses at Aisin’s test track near Fowlerville, Michigan.
The track day now also seems to have been fortuitous since most of the interest in comparing the two cars seems to be centered on the rear suspensions and how that affects handling.
Before I get into any differences between the Corolla and Auris, first let me say that the cars are indeed similar. There’s a familial resemblance on the outside as well as the inside, with the new Corolla featuring a dashboard obviously influenced by the Auris. Controls are also similar. The Auris cars had leather upholstery and other interior trim comparable to the higher trim lines on the Corolla.
You want to know, though, how the Auris handles compared to the Corolla. Both the Auris hatch and wagon have good mechanical grip and hold the driving line well. Turn in is sharp and steering feel is good at lower speeds, though at freeway speeds there is significantly less feel. My audio notes say that the 5-door hatch’s steering isn’t quite as crisp as the wagon’s, but both Auris cars react quickly to steering inputs and seemed to have a bit more steering feel than the Corolla.
One of the design goals of the redesigned 2014 Corolla was to give the car better driving dynamics. Toyota doesn’t want to be seen as the maker of boring cars. The new Corolla’s rear suspension had been tweaked towards that end, with relocated shock absorbers. In the end, though, the Auris’ more sophisticated rear suspension yields better handling. How much better? Enough that an enthusiast or car reviewer would notice, but I’m not convinced that an average consumer on either continent would find the difference dramatic.
It’s not a night and day kind of contrast. I’d say that the difference in handling between the Auris and the Corolla S is about the same delta as between the Corolla S and the less sporting Corolla LE. Ride quality went in the other direction, with the Corolla LE being the most comfortable and the Auris having the firmest ride. The two Auris models handled very similarly, though the 5-door had a bit busier ride than the wagon.
When I asked the Toyota rep about why America gets the Corolla without IRS and was told that they tailor models to markets my initial thought was that Toyota product planners don’t think Americans can appreciate a more sophisticated, better handling car. Upon reflection, considering the less than dramatic difference in the way the Auris handles compared to the Corolla, it seems to me that which rear suspension Toyota chooses for which market may have more to do with European expectations than with those of Americans. Europeans may expect IRS, even if in the case of the Corolla platform it doesn’t make a dramatic difference in rear world performance.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS