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Kode9 review: new 345bhp sports car driven

Ferrari Enzo designer’s Kode9 hi-tech sports car, based on the Lotus Elise, is a real stunner

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3.0 out of 5

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It’s easy to dismiss the Kode9 as a ludicrously overpriced Lotus-based kit car, but up close it feels much more special. The interior is sumptuous next to an Elise’s, while ride comfort is much better without ruining the pin-sharp handling. Although design will divide opinion, we love how it marries retro cues with a unique look - but that price is impossible to ignore.

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Meet the Kode9, a brand new Japanese sports car designed by the same man who penned the Ferrari Enzo. After working for Honda, General Motors, Porsche and Pininfarina, Ken Okuyama started his own design studio in 2006. The Kode9 (Ken Okuyama Design, 9th edition) is the first fully functioning road car to come from it.

Although the design is only a one-off at the moment, Okuyama says it’s his message to the car industry to avoid over-complicated lines and styling based on the lowest common denominator. We can’t argue with that; it looks stunning, with hints of Jaguar D-Type in the huge tail fin and Ferrari Dino in the front end.

Based on an aluminium chassis from a Lotus Elise, with glassfibre panels and a carbon fibre roof, the Kode9 tips the scales at a mere 890kg – but the sacrifice is cabin space. The cockpit feels as compact as a racing car’s, and we can only just operate the clutch without smashing our knee on the wheel.

Fire up the 345bhp 2.0-litre Honda V-TEC engine and there’s a throaty exhaust note behind your left ear. The Kode9 sprints off the line with an audible whoosh from the supercharger. Throttle response is instant and, as you’d expect given the Lotus DNA, turn-in is superb and there’s plenty of steering weight. Corners are taken flat and fast with no body roll, and the car stops on a dime.

You might expect the ride to be harsh and twitchy, but it’s not. The Kode9 floats along with the poise and subtlety of a Mazda MX-5. And its refinement is what really stunned us about this one-off.

The Kode9 is a concept that’s come straight off the Tokyo Motor Show stand – and yet it’s ready for production.

Prices are not fixed yet, but Okuyama plans to build 10 cars in 2014 and up to 20 in 2015. He claims an entry-level 1.6-litre model will cost around £72,000, a supercharged 1.8-litre £115,000 and the flagship 345bhp supercharged 2.0-litre version driven here will be£145,000. In the world of exotic hand-built sports cars, that’s pretty much par for the course.

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