The Compagno was certainly not helped by having the badge of an unknown brand (although it was designed by Vignale), but its price was an even bigger hindrance. It was actually one of the best-equipped cars of its type, with foglights, reversing lights, a radio, a cigarette lighter, wing mirrors and a clock all coming as standard. The problem was that you could get the familiarity of an Austin Mini for £280 less or a Hillman Imp for £260 less.
One of the few cars registered was CGH 8B, which Autocar tested on 20 August 1965. And, remarkably, it's still taxed and on the road, in the care of International Motors, which imported Daihatsus until 2011.
We described the car back then as "well made but technically unadvanced". It had a two-door, four-seat body sitting on a separate chassis, and "in the design of the suspension, engine, transmission and brakes, it follows very closely much that was popular and conventional on British cars some eight or 10 years ago". Like the Morris Minor, then.
The Compagno's four-cylinder, 797cc unit had "decidedly little power", at 41bhp and 47lb ft, "for the car's weight of 775kg", we reckoned. In fact, "with liberal use of the four gears, one may make quite good progress among town traffic, but for this one needs to keep the engine revving hard. Above 50mph, acceleration tails away, and the car would not reach 60mph on one-mile straight against a strong headwind".
"Sometimes, full power is needed to climb quite gradual hills with a full load on board," we added.
Despite this, the car felt "quite lively" — an impression helped by "the gross optimism of its speedometer", but not "unsuitable gear ratios". Second gear was "much too low", while "third is a shade high, so that there is a very wide gap to be bridged by zooming the engine hard in second before changing up". At least top gear was "a good compromise for easy cruising and reasonable flexibility".
However, "engine refinement compensated to some extent for the restricted performance", and one soon developed "a heavy-footed technique" in driving the car, because "the power unit doesn't seem to object at all to consistently hard driving". It simply "buzzed" rather than "thrashed or roared", and in top gear was "remarkably unobtrusive".
We saw fit to praise Japanese engineering concerning the Compagno's transmission: "If early steering column changes for four-speed gearbox had been as crisp and easy in action as British cars as the one on the Daihatsu, they might still be popular today.