A-Z of marques: No.14 Daihatsu

Tuesday 17 September 2013 04:32

The marque: Bit-part Japanese player enjoying life on the fringe.

The history: Not many people know that the first Japanese car to be sold in the UK was a Daihatsu. The 797cc Compagno Berlina of 1964 looked like a shrunken Lancia Flaminia, and was styled in Italy by Bertone, but it was not a sales success. It took Toyota to start the Japanese auto-invasion properly, and in 1967 it took over Daihatsu. The Compagno was the first proper car made by a company formed in 1907 to make engines. From 1930 to 1963 it made three-wheelers, but from then it was four wheels but still, mainly, little cars in ever-bigger quantities. The biggest have been the bland Charmant and the Fourtrak and Sportrak 4x4s, but Daihatsu is better known for its sequence of superminis. The Charade has been the most popular, and in the 1980s spawned a manic GTti version with a turbocharged 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine and extraordinary pace. The little Mira and Cuore have reappeared with Malaysian Perodua badges, and the chrome-laden but competent Sirion, the new Charade, the tiny Copen sports car, the curious Terios 4x4 and the YRV "full size" supermini make up the range. The YRV, incidentally, is a kind of Toyota Yaris semi-estate and uses the same Daihatsu-built engine as the Toyota. Other side-turnings from the road of established auto-evolution have been the Hijet, based on the 55 Wide van and marketed as the world's smallest people-carrier, and the Move, an engagingly square MPV-like device with a little three-cylinder engine.

Defining model: Move, a weird synthesis of sense and free-thinking diminutiveness.

They say: We're quite big, really.

We say: Car-wise, they think small.

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