The so-subtle-you’ll-almost-miss it Auris T180 range-topper has morphed into the SR180. Changes outside are limited to some new 17-inch alloys, a bigger rear spoiler and a bright white paint option.
The mechanicals remain unchanged from the T180, which means a 175bhp, 295lb ft 2.2 D-4D turbodiesel under the bonnet. It also means that the SR180 gets multi-link rear suspension, rather than the twist-beam fitted to the rest of the range.
What’s it like?
This is no hot hatch, despite its £18,495 price apparently putting it in direct competition with the Focus ST or Golf GTi. The SR180’s suspension is too soft, and the big turbodiesel makes the car feel nose heavy and reluctant to change direction.
It always feels surefooted, however, and the SR180’s ride is impeccable, cushioning its occupants from poor road surfaces very effectively.
So think of the SR180 as a rapid, refined cruiser and it begins to make a lot of sense. In fact, when you compare the SR180’s 2.2-litre 175bhp turbodiesel with the 168bhp 2.0-litre unit in the VW Golf GT TDi, the Auris begins to look quite tempting.
The 295lb ft of torque arrives in a linear surge and, unlike the peaky, gruff motor in the VW, it’s all accompanied by a muted woofle. That’s about it as far as direct rivals go, because although the Renault Mégane GT dCi 150 is close on price and refinement, it just doesn’t have the shove of the Auris.
Inside, the SR180’s case sadly begins to unravel once again. There is simply nothing to make it stand out from the rest of the Auris range. And that means a frankly mediocre cabin with little in the way of design sparkle apart from the weird buttress-like centre console – and even that, unfortunately, feels like a flimsy afterthought.
Should I buy one?
Not if you want a hot hatch – this is no performance flagship. But if you’re looking for a seriously refined and rapid long-distance cruiser, the Auris SR180 has few rivals and even fewer equals. As long as you can forgive the lacklustre interior.