Car reviews - Daihatsu - Applause - Executive 5-dr hatch
Reliable, comfortable cabin, versatile hatch
Room for improvement
Dull to drive
7 May 2003
DECIDING between small four-door family cars can be a bit like choosing soap powders. They all have similar specifications and do the same job, so the choice comes down to sifting through the fine differences and making a personal choice based on the packaging.
Daihatsu tends to be overshadowed by the larger Japanese manufacturers like Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi but the company - originally called Hatsudoki Seizo Co Ltd - has a longer heritage than its rivals, having produced its first gas intake engine in 1907.
The first three-wheeler was built in 1930 and the first four-wheeler in 1937. In 1951 the company adopted the Daihatsu name, making light trucks. A milestone was the announcement of a prototype electric vehicle in 1966.
Daihatsu has been an important player in the small passenger, four-wheel drive and light truck markets in Australia since 1965, successfully marketing the Charade, Rocky, Feroza and a range of light trucks.
The Applause was introduced in 1989, entering the fiercely contested small family sedan segment.
It is powered by a 1.6-litre, overhead camshaft, 16-valve engine driving the front wheels through either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual gearbox.
The body styling is deceptive, having the appearance of a sedan with a traditional boot. In fact, it is a cleverly disguised hatchback.
Four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes complete an impressive specification.
The Applause range includes the base Li, the Executive, Xi and Sports models. The latter pair have several extra features including larger wheels, central locking, better interior trim, tilt steering and electric mirrors.
The Applause Executive's 1589cc, 16-valve engine is an excellent performer. The engine is very light, featuring hollow crankshaft and camshaft, and is quiet in operation. Economy is also a strong point with 7.0 litres per 100km achievable in normal city driving.
The four-speed automatic transmission has a lock-up clutch which contributes to the excellent economy. A safety feature of the auto is that the brake pedal must be pressed before the shift lever can be moved from the Park position. Also, the ignition key can only be removed with the lever in Park.
On the road, the all independent suspension - MacPherson struts front and rear - and non power-assisted rack and pinion steering give the Executive a responsive feel but high roll stiffness can cause some loss of wheel adhesion if the car is pushed hard into corners.
Brakes are discs all round, ventilated at the front, with plenty of stopping ability for the car's performance.
The combination of sedan shape and hatchback opening makes the Executive a roomy and practical package. The rear parcel shelf can be removed to allow the rear seat backs to fold back and folding the seats forward gives a large and useful luggage area.
Special attention has been paid to rustproofing the body with the use of galvanised panels, and side intrusion bars are fitted to all doors.
Reliability has been a strong point with all Daihatsu models and the Applause continues this characteristic.
When looking at possible purchases, keep in mind the Executive was packaged with the fleet market in mind so check the distance covered by the car is consistent with its age, using the yardstick of 15,000km per year as an average.
The Daihatsu Executive is a top contender in its class. Excellent specifications, good performance and economy, a useful body design and a reputation for reliability make it a good buy.
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