Auris is a big-selling car in Ireland despite criticism of its bland appearance. It sells well because Toyota has an excellent dealer network in Ireland, and the fact that Auris does a decent job of providing compact family motoring. Plus it holds its value quite well.

Toyota is aware of its styling shortcomings in recent years and is going about changing its image. The Japanese giant has given the five-seat front-wheel drive Auris a makeover to add a bit of interest to the exterior, which was never exciting to look at. Toyota is very aware of the competition from household names like Golf, Focus and, of course, the Koreans - Kia Cee'd and Hyundai i30, to name a few.

Auris has a lower roofline and ride height and is now some 30mm longer, although the wheelbase remains the same. Styling-wise, Auris gets the new corporate front-end treatment that makes the car bolder and more aggressive. The 'Under Priority' (whatever that means!) grille design and new 'Keen Look' headlamps couple with LED daytime running lights to help bring Auris up-to-the-minute in styling terms.

So, the outside has more design detail. What about inside? The revised cabin is as spacious as most in its class. Improved materials have been used, too. The driving position has been lowered and there is a slight improvement to the steering column tilt angle. New front seats also benefit rear legroom.

Behind the wheel, the driving position is good, but the dash fails to inspire and unlike the trend to favour instrumentation and controls towards the driver, the dashboard is straight. This, however, does make the front part of the cabin seem pretty large. The boot holds 360 litres and features a dual-level 'deckboard'.

Weight savings and improved aerodynamics (drag is now Cd 0.28) help deliver excellent fuel economy, especially in my D-4D (diesel) test car, plus the ride has been improved. Auris prices start at a €18,995 – that's €1,000 less than a Golf and the same price as the new Octavia. Power comes from a 1.33-litre VVT-i petrol engine. There is also a 130bhp, 1.6-litre 'Valvematic' petrol available. The 1.4-litre D-4D starts at €21,995. The HSD hybrid starts at €26,460.

Toyota is the world's biggest producer of 'C' segment cars with over 39 million sold in 140 countries. Auris is built in the UK, and if you want something other than a hatchback you can get an Auris estate. For those conscious of CO2, the Auris HSD hybrid is the range-topper. Three trim levels are offered, starting with Terra, rising to Aura and with Luna the top spec.

Auris is a good, economical car but, sadly, I never once glanced back at it to admire its looks or when seated behind the wheel felt inspired to take the long way home. Toyota has the brilliant GT86 in its stable of cars; I just wish they would apply some of its magic to Auris.

Michael Sheridan