I don’t like the styling of the Kimura Auburn. The shape of the car is lovely, and has no bad angles. But nowhere in my “ultimate definition of a compact car” does it say you need to have an over designed headlight setup that, in much the same way as Take That’s career, doesn’t seem to know when to stop. The back is better, to some extent, but it still feels horribly forced. And what’s with this double exhaust malarkey that regular cars seem to be being given these days? This based model doesn’t even have 4 cylinders. Stop it.
Happily however, this 3 cylinder 1.2 Turbo unit is very spritely, producing 128hp and saving a few kilos compared to similarly sized engines. It’s very buzzy, in a good way, even if the noise sends no hints of performance whatsoever. A perfect accompaniment then for this entry level SXt model, which at just $17,695, is decently priced. More than some other entry level models, but then again, rivals don’t have such a nice amount of power on tap from their base-spec engine. The interior is okay, hardly the worlds most amazing space to be in, but as far as cheap motoring goes, it does the job.
The SCt trim in ‘Solar Silver Metallic’
Really, what sells the base spec of this car is the performance. 0-60 in 9.2 seconds makes it more than capable of very easy motorway driving, and with its 6 speed manual transmission tuned for efficiency, that is a really pleasant surprise. Few petrol cars that can do 60+ mpg average can accelerate like that.
The drive though does leave more to be desired. This spec model is not made for being ragged about; it’s too understeery and gives out early on, probably for that safe, reassuring feel you get on cheaper Japanese models.
Of course though, you’re not going to buy the SXt spec trim. You’re going to spend more on a decently equipped one, and Kimura have kindly given me one of their top of the range LCt trims, this one sporting the 1.8l Turbo. And what an engine; this is a seriously nice unit, with a decent kick in at 2800rpm from the turbos and excellent upper-mid band torque. This engine properly sings through the revs, and is made better by the advance automatic 8 speed transmission on this model. Not much there to enjoy for enthusiasts like myself, but I’d be more than happy to commute with this every day.
The LCt trim in ‘Lavender Violet Metallic’
This trim is also considerably nicer to drive, and makes the most of the car’s general low kerb weight. Still very much on the side of understeer as you’d expect, but it makes up for it with more suppleness at lower speeds and more hardness at higher speeds. In short, you can push it more than the SXt trim, and really get the most out of the multi-link set up at the rear wheels. For a normal car, it does the job well.
The interior is also well specced. The infotainment is nothing to write home about but the material quality is great, and it’s a pleasant cabin to be in. This is also a good chance to talk about the amount of space on this the 5 door hatchback body; the boot is tall and the cabin is airy, though a sunroof wouldn’t go amiss. Practicality is definitely the focus though, and you aren’t going to complain if you want to use this as a family car.
What about the absolute top-end of the range though? The sportier, hot hatch side? The KR-R trim aims to offer just that. 279 horsepower on tap, sent to the front wheels through a proper 6 speed manual. Good setup, though with that much power and such a light chassis, one does wonder why they didn’t go for an AWD setup like the rest of the crowd. The acceleration is good, with 0-60 in 5.7 seconds, though it doesn’t have the same immediacy as the Baltazar Quasar RS325. Worse still, it feels seriously overgeared for a performance car, which is nice for motorway cruising, but hardly appropriate for a hot-hatch.
The suspension is sharper than the other trims, and rightly so, but it’s still such an understeery car. Progressive springs don’t make that any better, and it lacks the more refined, sharper edge that I’d expect from such a car. Indeed, its limit didn’t even feel that different from the LCt - not to suggest that they haven’t changed the setup, because they have - it’s just that, at least on twistier roads, this may as well be just that trim with a more powerful engine and a sportier interior.
The KR-R trim in ‘Silk Pearl White’
The interior remains decently equipped, similar to the ones on the lower spec models, probably to save on weight and costs. You do get features such as launch control and adjustable steering, both of which are nice touches to distinguish everyday driving from more exuberant stuff. If only it was worth driving it more exuberantly. As just a ‘sportier’ trim, it’s fine, but why have that much power if you aren’t going to go all out and make a hot-hatch?
What’s also quite sad about this is that this is undoubtedly the best looking trim in the range. The loud rear splitter, the aggresive front end and that cheeky boot spoiler. They blend the overly-edgy regular features and make it look fast. It just doesn’t deliver though, especially against a competition that will smoke it in a straight line and in the corners. It needs more power, better gearing and much more attention to improve the suspension.
However, that should not reflect badly on the rest of the range. Ignoring the styling - which I’m sure some will find nice - what you have here is a perfectly practical and well designed family hatchback. The base spec SXt isn’t really worth your time aside from its fantastic engine, which (as far as I know) is available on other models in Europe at least and is certainly one of the best i3s on the market currently. The other 1.8 i4 Turbo I also tested was another great unit. The high-spec LCt just about delivers on the road, with its interior features and practicality really selling it more for me. The KR-R trim is disappointing and not worth your time.
It’s not one to go for if you like a more engaging drive, but as a practical, well specced hatchback, this is a solid choice. I’ll certainly be taking this new version of the Auburn forward as a yardstick for everyday cars.
- Gavin Anderson