TOYOTA enjoyed huge success when its RunX shot to the top of the sales charts from the word go. This was a vehicle that offered comfort, a decent level of luxury, some personality and was quite good to drive, too.
Enter the Auris, launched as a replacement for the RunX, which wasn’t around for very long, but certainly long enough to win over the hearts of many motorists. Auris immediately struggled to pick up the mantle of its predecessor. Moving it off showroom floors was not nearly as easy as Toyota had expected, and those who were looking to upgrade from the RunX were not enamoured of a vehicle that had moved up in price range, but seemed to have lost some personality.
Toyota South Africa has explained that, when the Auris was launched, many potential buyers did not know that it was a replacement for the RunX. So, to make the connection clearer, the company has upgraded the engines and appearance and slapped the “X” onto the name to create the Auris X. Sounds suggestive and somewhat exciting, doesn’t it?
The X upgrade includes a new front bumper and fresh styling for the grille, which is now wider and adds a bit of sportiness. There is also a new front spoiler to complement revised headlamp clusters. The SportX model here has the same spec package as its Auris XS sibling, but adds an aero kit that includes side, front and rear skirts, a diffuser and… customised carpets.
The SportX comes with 16-inch alloys shod with 205/55 rubber as standard. Other features include a rear spoiler with an integrated high-mounted brake lamp, privacy glass for the rear side windows and rear screen and front foglamps. At 4 245 mm long, 1 760 mm wide and 1 515 mm high, the Auris certainly is a fair bit bigger than the old RunX. This results in an airy and spacious cabin.
Climbing inside, it is immediately apparent that a lot of time has been spent on making the interior as comfortable as possible. With both rake and reach adjustment on the steering column and lots of variation available on the driver’s seat, it is easy to find a comfortable driving position.
There is a lot of space around the driver and all the important controls are within easy reach. The layout of the facia is simple and very easy to get used to and steering wheel-mounted controls are an added bonus. The amber lighting of the instruments will not appeal to all tastes and some testers commented that the digital fuel gauge was not very clear, but the general consensus was that the instruments are neat.
Standard comfort, convenience and entertainment features include an audio system with a USB/aux-in jack, electric windows all round and electrically adjustable mirrors. The 1,6-litre powerplant in the SportX has 6 kW and 3 N.m more than that in the outgoing Auris, which takes the maximum power to 97 kW at 6 400 and torque to 160 N.m at 4 400 r/min. Toyota claims that while power and torque are up, emissions have been reduced and fuel consumption has improved thanks to Toyota’s Optimal Drive technology, which has been applied to all engines across the range. CAR’s fuel index comes to 8,3 litres/100 km, which gives the Auris a range of 663 km on a full 55-litre tank. The taxable CO2 emissions fi gure for the SportX is 165 g/km.
Sending drive to the front wheels is a notably slick sixspeed manual transmission that is only let down by a clutch that seems far too light. This engine and transmission set-up helped the SportX achieve performance figures of 10,70 seconds for the zero-to-100 km/h sprint and a 195 km/h top speed. It’s not a ball of fire, and defi nitely not what one would expect of something badged as a “sport” model.
The average 100-to-zero km/h time was a just-below-average 3,13 seconds, with a braking system that is equipped with ABS with EBD. Suspension consists of a combination of MacPherson struts with an anti-roll bar at the front and a torsion beam axle with coil springs at the rear and this proved to be a well conceived set-up. All testers remarked on the comfortable ride quality, even over roads marred by uneven surfacing. The handling surprised most of us as the Auris SportX proved to be an agile car, even though the tyres squealed with little provocation. These two features – ride and handling – were by far the most impressive things about the SportX’s character.
Passive safety features include central locking, an antitheft alarm, whiplash injury lessening (WIL) concept seats for driver and front passenger, ISOFIX anchorages for child seats and seven airbags.
The Auris SportX has a lot going for it – quality levels seem high, standard specification is good, driving dynamics proved better than expected and overall it is a very comfortable car to drive. However, the bland looks and lazy performance fall short of what one would expect a “sport” model to offer. Also counting against the Auris SportX is the high price tag of R243 800. It just seems too much money for a vehicle that wants to replace a best seller, but can’t match it on all bases.