A vast improvement over its predecessor, but the standard in the class has been raised so it still faces a battle to prove a compelling buy

What is it?

The Daihatsu Terios is a stylish SUV that is environmentally friendly, or so Daihatsu claims. The Terios offers not only the lowest exhaust emissions in class, but a combined fuel consumption figure of 35.8mpg – pertinent for buyers, particularly in this political climate.

This should make ownership of this new soft-roader no more than expensive than running a small hatchback.

What's it like?

We have already driven the Japanese version named the Be-go, but this is our first drive in the UK-ready Terios, which differs by having no hill-descent software but a revised suspension set-up. And it rides impressively at low speed, with firm damping quickly limiting intrusions.

It doesn’t have the agility of a supermini and understeers in tight corners but the body, helped by the larger track, stays flatter and lurches a lot less than the old car. The hydraulically assisted steering has weight but there is still very little feel.

This 1.5-litre SX model on test, with these two-tone wheel-arch attachments as standard, will be the biggest seller until a diesel variant (Toyota’s 1.4 D-4D) arrives late next year. Above 5000rpm, the four-cylinder’s thrashy note infiltrates the cabin, and relays some pedal vibration, but it pulls well enough. The five-speed maunal 'box is direct, if not a little slushy, and there is minimal driveline shunt for a permanent 4WD powertrain. A locking differential assists progression off-road but is ultimately hindered by poor ground clearance.

Back on bitumen, the raised viewpoint, wheel-at-each-corner stance and super short overhangs have created a car that is easy to navigate without sacrificing functionality. There is ample space in the back with split-fold rear seats, and a side-hinged door to access the boot.

Admittedly, that spare wheel cover is about as fashionable now as black ash furniture and the interior design may feel a little flat compared with the architecture outside, but it’s a solid cabin.

Should I buy one?

It’s worth considering. The new Terios betters its predecessor in every way, but it’s also about £4000 more expensive, and keenly priced competitors, such as the Fiat Sedici await.

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