What is it?
Daihatsu is not known for awe-inspiring products, but last year’s Charade impressed hugely with its incredible engine, space efficiency and value for money. So we know that Daihatsu can make great little cars, but is the all-new Ford Fiesta-sized Sirion one of them?
The five-door Sirion appeared in the UK in 1998, and was praised for its generous specification, low price and strong performance from the 101bhp 1.3-litre engine. But more talented rivals, such as the Skoda Fabia and Nissan Micra, left it in the shadows.
What's it like?
The Mk2’s styling is certainly more attractive than the previous model’s. Gone are the gaping grille and oval headlights, replaced by smaller, horizontal grille slats and angular lights.
The new Sirion has more than a hint of the Honda Jazz to its looks. Steroidal wheelarches meld into the bumpers to create a muscular appearance, helped by the increase in size – it is 95mm longer, 70mm wider and 100mm taller than the old model.
When it arrives in the UK, the Sirion will be available with two petrol engines: an all-new 1.0-litre 68bhp twin-cam triple and a detuned 84bhp version of the 1.3-litre four cylinder from the old car. Daihatsu claims the 1.3 has been tuned for low-end torque to suit a European driving style, with 89lb ft arriving at 3200rpm. Diesel engines are in the works, but we won’t see an oil-burning Sirion for a few years yet.
The offbeat thrum and gutsy performance of the 1.0-litre three-pot won our affection over the raucous four. An extra cylinder seems to rob the 1.3 of the base model’s sense of urgency and drumbeat engine note.
Despite an all-new platform and retuned MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension, the new car’s ride and handling characteristics haven’t changed much over the old model’s. Skinny 175/65 R14 tyres don’t help, and understeer arrives early if you push in corners, but the Sirion quickly tightens its line if you lift the throttle, and the ride is relaxed.
The interior design is a step up from the previous car’s staid layout. A silver-painted fascia panel creates a pleasing ambience and there’s a large speedo and Smart-style separate rev-counter. The switchgear is nicely weighted but, as with its predecessor, plastic quality is poor.
The front seats are now mounted even higher than before, giving the Sirion an MPV-like driving position. But this makes the gearshift feel too far down, even with the driver’s seat in its lowest position, which is a shame because the slick, precise action of the gearbox makes changing cogs fun.
Should I buy one?
Daihatsu describes the Sirion as an MPC (Multi Purpose Compact), but don’t be fooled: the Sirion still won’t qualify as an MPV, and it is neither as space-efficient as the smaller Charade, nor as roomy as the class average.
What it does have are six cupholders, a wealth of cubbies, fold-flat rear seats and ample headroom.
The Sirion might have improved style, an updated interior, impressive 56.5mpg combined economy and a competitive price, but it still lacks the inspiration of the Charade.