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Anyone looking for a new small car will probably end up putting the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Nissan Micra & Toyota Yaris on their shopping list. The Toyota Yaris ticks most of the boxes, it's stylish, well equipped, safe, environmentally friendly, cheap to run, cheap to insure & above all else very reliable. It didn't win the 'Car of the Year' award in the year 2000 for nothing & has become a firm favourite for all age groups in the UK ever since. However, it is quite expensive compared to the direct competition, wouldn't it be good if you could find a car as good as the Yaris for less money? Well you can & it's called the Daihatsu Sirion, its connection with the Yaris is a little closer than most people are aware of. Daihatsu are owned by Toyota, the little engine in the Yaris was designed by Daihatsu & the Sirion shares most of its mechanical components with the award winning Yaris. Only the body style, interior & badges are different, oh & the price, the Sirion is significantly cheaper.
HISTORY OF DAIHATSU
Although not a household name in this country, Daihatsu is Japan's oldest car company & the first one to import a car into the UK in the early 1960s. Back then us Brits were a patriotic bunch & wouldn't consider buying a foreign car let alone a Japanese one so Daihatsu's sales never materialised. However they didn't give up & returned to the UK in the late 1970s & have been here since providing a small range of vehicles with a reputation for reliability. In Japan Daihatsu produce very small cars with narrow bodies & tiny engines. These are popular in the narrow streets of the big cites like Tokyo & Yokohama where they have the biggest traffic problems. These cars have lower tax penalties than the bigger ones to encourage people to run them, some of these models have made their way to the UK in small numbers. Daihatsu were taken over by Toyota in the mid 1960s & although they share technology, in the UK they are sold independently of each other.
THE DAIHATSU SIRION
This latest Sirion model comes with three engine sizes, 1000cc, 1300cc & 1500cc, the smallest one falls into the second lowest tax band & therefore only costs its owner £35.00 a year on road tax. The other models cost £120.00 a year on tax, still lower than many other cars on sale today. A bright shiny red Sirion with the 1000cc engine was my transport for two days last week, having driven a Yaris in recent months it would be interesting to see how this 'sister' model would perform.
Standing next to it in the car park it soon becomes evident that although the Sirion is small in length, it is tall & wide. The boot is quite large for a small car & would take a weeks worth of shopping without much problem. The rear seat folds forward if you need more space & with the cars boxy shape it would turn this little car almost into a little van. Outside the paint finish was excellent, the gaps around the doors & other body panels was neat & consistent giving you a good first impression. Getting inside is made easy due to its tall design & large doors, this would be an important factor for older people who find it difficult getting in & out of modern cars with lower body designs.
Sitting inside the car you quickly realise how roomy this little car is, it feels roomier than the Yaris despite similar dimensions. There is ample leg room, head room & shoulder room. Four people would sit in comfort, five at a squeeze but mighty impressive all the same.
The dash layout features a pod of instruments in front of the steering wheel that wouldn't look out of place on a motor bike. It looks quite funky but slightly out of place compared to the dark sombre coloured interior. Equipment levels are good with air conditioning, radio CD, electric windows & central locking all standard.
Most of the controls for radio/CD, heater & general switches are housed in the centre of the dash leaving the remaining space for odds & ends. Oddment space has been well thought out with a deep bin below the glove box, big enough for small maps, CDs etc. Another large tray lies in the centre lower section of the dash wide enough to hold a mobile phone, coins, CD etc. There is another storage compartment below that & the cup holders have been placed on the door trims.
Start the car up & drive it & you quickly realise how quiet & refined the Sirion is. The electronic power steering feels good as does the cable gear change which is very slick & precise. Performance is best described as adequate with one or two people in the car driving in town. However, on the open road the little 1000c engine struggles a bit on hills, if you had four or five people in th car it would become a serious issue. For the sake of a £85.00 saving on road tax I would advise the bigger engine which would also be more economical as it doesn't have to be pushed as much as the little 1000cc one. Brakes felt reassuringly good & the suspension provided good road holding & a supple ride considering the Sirion has such a short wheelbase.
It is nice little car which would probably give its owner many miles of trouble free motoring. Just like the Yaris it feels safe, smooth & refined & is well put together. However, its boxy, quirky looks won't appeal to everyone & as it's not a familiar sight on British roads this alone may put some people off. Shame really as the Sirion has a £1000 price advantage over the Yaris & also comes with an impressive five year warranty compared to Toyota's three years. The other thing that may put people off is the image, although all age groups buy small cars like the Clio, Corsa, Fiesta, Micra & Yaris, I only ever see the older generation driving a Sirion. Maybe they know a good car when they see it & the younger generation are missing out.
Thanks for the explanation about the Toyota relationship. Have often admired Daihatsu;s but the Terios only cam in a petrol vesion, not too practical I'm afraid. Lets hope the RAV4 technology spills across like the engine technology seems to have.........Sue
MizzMolko 09.11.2008 19:13
I'm not able to drive yet but it sounds good! Eleanor x