This Vauxhall Meriva-sized mini-MPV is bigger than it looks, especially on the inside, and not small on charm

What is it?

It’s the Daihatsu Materia: quite a big car by Daihatsu standards. Despite its kei-car looks – it’s a mini-MPV, about the size of a Renault Modus, Vauxhall Meriva and Nissan Note.

Why the boxy looks? Cubism for cars is all the rage in Japan and the US, apparently, where the Honda Element and Nissan, er, Cube, are doing rather well. So Daihatsu wants in on it too.

What’s it like?

Whether you like the looks or not, they do no harm for interior space. The Materia is nothing if not roomy: it has a wide cabin, bags of headroom and a screen/dashboard set well forward. The driving position’s fine, but the high window line does nothing for placing the corners.

There are a few neat touches inside – speaker surrounds glow blue, there’s a swoopy bit around the dash – but otherwise this is a very conventional, functional interior. Plastics are on the basic side (the Modus and Meriva both imbue a better perception of quality), but fit and finish is excellent.

Rear-seat accommodation is good too: the rear seats split/fold and slide to play legroom off against boot space. In their rearmost position, there’s more legroom than in most big saloons.

Power comes from a 1.5-litre, 102bhp engine, which fizzes along smoothly. Daihatsu claims 0-62mph in 10.8sec and, while it doesn’t feel quite that fast, getting to and maintaining a motorway cruise is easy enough. The four-pot motor has a decent spread of power, the five-speed box’s shift, like the Materia’s other driving controls, is light and responsive.

To drive, the Materia feels like a big, squidgy supermini which, given it’s based on the Sirion platform, is entirely unsurprising. The suspension’s compliant and there’s a fair degree of roll which, because you sit high, feels accentuated even further. But it handles tidily and safely enough.

Should I buy one?

At a touch under eleven grand, the Materia is priced right in the Vauxhall Meriva and Renault Modus’s ballpark. Like for like, it’s a wee bit cheaper than either of them, if lacking their overall interior versatility. But unless you’re particularly sold on the Materia's looks, if you’re after supermini-plus, we’d still recommend a Nissan Note.

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