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Auris range gains X factor

2010-03-17 12:21
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Toyota
Engine 1.3, 1.6, 2 D-4D
Power 74kW @ 6 000-, 97kW @ 6 400-, 93kW @ 3 600r/min
Torque 132Nm @ 3 800-, 160Nm @ 4 400-, 310Nm @ 1 800r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual
Tyres 195/55 R15, 205/55 r16
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan 5 year/90 000km

Lance Branquinho

Remember the Toyota RunX? Obviously you do.

The neat hatchback was a vastly popular car locally – evident in terms of the residuals enjoyed by owners who (begrudgingly) let them into the used car market.

It also boasted a uniquely South African naming strategy – in all other international markets it was called Corolla hatch. Well, if you’re longing for those RunX brand values Toyota might have an answer in the form of the rebranded Auris range – which gains some "X factor".

Beyond the naming strategy, this new suffix adds some trim upgrades (inside and out), a hike in power and the standardisation of six-speed transmissions across the range.

New face

AurisX’s most distinguishing styling trinket is undoubtedly the new grille, bumper and headlight arrangement. The original Auris mesh grille is replaced with a colour-coded item which greatly smoothes the car’s nose. Around the rear there’s a new bumper, taillight design and spoiler.

Bumper-to-bumper, these new styling details add 25mm when compared with the previous Auris.

For those customers who miss the styling bits of the legendary RSI racing moniker, Toyota will be offering a fully certified factory bodykit for the AurisX models featuring skirts all-round with a mesh cut-out carved into the rear skirt's surfacing.

New steering wheel an improvement both in terms of satellite control functionality and grouping and rim design - the AurisX's helm now featuring a (slightly) squared off bottom thrid.

Neatened cabin details

Inside things have remained essentially as before with some added digitisation and a new steering wheel design being the only notable upgrades.

If you are a texture fetishist you’ll notice the new soft-touch trim atop the glovebox and instrument binnacle. Multi-function steering wheel with audio, Bluetooth and information controls is across the range.

Keen drivers will undoubtedly appreciate the new steering wheel’s squared-off bottom third design.

Despite the maddeningly ill-conceived flying buttress centre console architecture remaining an ergonomic foible of note, the Auris is one of the very few cars in its class to retain a genuinely flat rear floor to which enable true five-person adult portability.

Flying buttress centre-console design remains an ergonomic disaster, rendering the stowage space beneath practically impossible to gain easy access to.

Rationalised range

In terms of specification the new AurisX is available in a matrix of derivatives. The three grades (base, mid and high) follow rather diffuse nomenclature depending on engine size. In essence the Auris range has been reduced from nine to six derivatives.

Entry to the AurisX range is gained via the new 1.3l Optimal Drive four-cylinder engine, which replaces the previous range’s 1.4l. Mechanically the smaller engine bests the unit it replaces by 3kW and 2Nm, whilst economy is outstanding - as proven in the 1.3 Corolla locally, which averages around 6l/100km. 

The 1.3 X is a pretty basic offering rolling 15-inch steel wheels, yet boasting USB/AUX input capability, Bluetooth and dual front airbags.

One grade up from the 1.3 X is the first of the 1.6 models, XI. In terms of specification the 1.6 XI features identical equipment levels to the 1.3l car, with an increase to 16-inch wheels (still steel) being the only difference.

Toyota’s 1.6l Valvematic engine has seen a slight tweak to increase power output by 6kW and peak rotational force by 3Nm. It also replaces the 1.8l and as such features in a total of four trim derivates in the new AurisX range.

Engine range sees a 10Nm gain for the D-4D, whilst AurisX's 1.6l petrol is 6kW keener. No more five-speed auto though, which is hardly a tragedy...

1.6 the default choice?

Beyond the rather basic 1.6 XI you can have the XS, which finally fills those wheelarches with alloys, brings powered window operation to front and rear occupants, and increases the safety suite with a driver knee and curtain airbags.

From a styling perspective the XS grade adds front foglamps and around the rump it mounts a rear spoiler featuring an integrated brake light.

The third grade of 1.6l Auris X is the Sport derivative which adds the boy-racer aerodynamics kit…

Rounding off the AurisX range is the XR which features a rather comprehensive specification level, tallying all the XS grade features augmented by a host of nice-to-haves. Convenient rain sensing wipers and auto headlights, cruise control and keyless entry are all XR standard features. It features leather trim for the cabin too.

New front bumper and wheel designs don''t take well to abrasive dirt-road surfaces. AurisX is quite nimble and composed on gravel though.

Does it have the X factor?

Seeing as though nothing has fundamentally changed with regards to the car’s engineering and design you’d expect me to tell you pretty much what I did three years ago when the original Auris was launched.

Back then I though the 1.6l engine was the pick of the range - despite it feeling slightly under-geared driving through a five-speed manual transmission.

With AurisX now featuring a six-speed manual shift regime throughout the range, the issue of booming engine acoustics at highway speed has been addressed. The new transmission, much like the previous five-speed unit, does not take well to being hurried through the shift-gate though...

The original Auris had rather neat road manners with particularly well calibrated steering for a family-oriented passenger car. At parking speeds the power-assisted steering was playfully light yet firmed up linearly as speeds increased.

If there were issues with original Auris I can tally them with authority too as Wheels24 had a long-term test car.

Unlike its VW and Ford competitors, the Auris employed a torsion beam rear-suspension configuration instead of the more modern (and expensive) independent aft-wheel attachment linkages championed by Golf6 and Focus. The result was less than stellar ride quality. It also lacked ESP, which meant if you got particularly adventurous (especially on dirt roads) you required commensurate driving skills to counter the effects of an error in judgement.

Seeing as the AurisX still lacks ESP and features the same suspension set-up, does this make it a dynamically lukewarm car?

Well, despite the branding, let’s dispel the obvious intimation – the AurisX (even in SportX trim) is not a hot hatch. It was never meant to carry the burden of expectation a RSI badge would.

As a C-segment family driving machine, it does have its moments though...

Toyota's enviable record in local rallying continues in 2010 with the Auris S2000 cars of Hein Lategan, Japie van Niekerk, Mark Cronje and Johnny Gemmell.

Rally genes shine through?

As a driving machine the Auris has always done two things particularly well.

With our original long-term test car I did quite a lot of dirt-road driving and was always impressed by the Auris D-4D's ability to soak up punishment at speed over corrugated roads. It’s something Toyotas have always done with aplomb.

AurisX’s dirt road abilities were put to the test severely when Toyota included some Algoa Rally special stages as part of our launch evaluation route. Suffice to say we behaved like hooligans at each opportunity and pitched the AurisXs (I was driving the XD - ironically) into the winding off-camber dirt-road corners with intent.

You’d expect it to be inert, yet the AurisX’s chassis is excellently geared for diligent turn-in behaviour - following inputs from the helm without reservation. On even the most unnerving of surfaces (across suspension severing potholes) haphazard changes of direction were accomplished without traces of indecision from the AurisX's steering or suspension dynamics.

Do this often enough and you'll be grateful for the full-sized sparewheel onboard. AurisX features additional engine, fuel tank and rear floor section under-body covers which are a godsend on testing dirt roads.

Sharper than you think?

To give even more credence to the AurisX’s dynamic validity Toyota arranged some gymkhana runs at Aldo Scribante too. Here I was less keen to test the AurisX’s dynamic talents.

The main straight at Aldo is narrow and without ESP to carry the day I was waiting for somebody to overcorrect and park one the AurisXs against the armco.

In practice nobody did and I was sufficiently impressed (during the entire launch in fact) with the tractability and keenness of the 1.6l engine and the AurisX’s poise.

Despite protesting tyre sound effects the AurisXs were never hesitant to indulge in some hooligrin-inducing dynamic driving. The eagerly geared turn-in sharpness (less so the steering feel) enables one to accurately place the car with quarter-to-three-quarter steering lock inputs.

I never thought I would phrase it this way, but AurisX is entirely chuckable - only the undersized front seats and notchy tranmission detract from the dynamic experience.

AurisX lacks the outright dynamic fluidity of an all-wheel independently suspended Focus, yet courtesy of the rather demanding driving schedule visited upon us I came away with a newfound respect for Toyota’s C-segment hatchback’s road holding abilities.

Considering the Auris rally cars have proven hugely capable there was always the suspicion of the Toyota hatch possessing a fair amount of latent dynamic ability.

Although the range lacks an outright hot hatch alternative, the derivative blend is good. The AurisX improvements are notable. Now if only Toyota could get rid of that silly perch transmission shifter sits atop...


Auris X            R199 900
Auris XI           R216 000
Auris XS          R232 400
Auris SportX   R243 800
Auris XR         R253 900
Auris XD         R268 800

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