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Car reviews - Daihatsu - Charade - CX Luxury 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Zippy performance, fun handling, compact dimensions, stylish inside and out
Room for improvement
Confined cabin

7 May 2003

THE Chambers dictionary defines Charade as "a piece of ridiculous pretence". These are hardly the correct words to describe Daihatsu's Charade, which is a class leading, no-nonsense, value for money small car.

The Charade is one of a fiercely competitive group of small cars which offer excellent performance, economy and value for money at the entry end of the market.

The Charade is laid out in the standard format for cars of its class front-wheel drive with a transversely mounted four- cylinder engine.

The willing fuel-injected, 1296cc, single overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder power plant is the class leader, giving 62kW at 6500rpm and 105Nm of torque at 5000rpm. With only 810kg of car to propel, the Charade is a nippy performer.

The engine drives the front wheels through either a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. The gearing is low, to capitalise on the good top end performance and willingness of the engine to rev to 7000rpm. The Charade will cruise comfortably at highway maximums without effort and with plenty of overtaking power on tap.

The Charade is attractively but conservatively styled with strong, distinctive lines. It may lack the flair of one of its rivals, the cheeky Mazda 121 "bubble car", but its lines are strong and distinctive enough not to have dated since its introduction.

Standard equipment includes electric mirrors, AM/FM stereo cassette player, tachometer, rear intermittent wiper/washer, shaded windscreen, digital clock and fabric door trim inserts. Options include air- conditioning, central locking and alloy wheels.

Suspension is by MacPherson struts and coil springs all round, with trailing arms at the rear. Steering is by power-assisted rack and pinion with an excellent turning circle of 9.2m, the best in its class.

The Charade handles well with a good neutral feel and a trace of understeer when pushed hard. The ride on smooth surfaces is good but tends to become a little choppy on rougher surfaces.

Brakes are disc front, drums rear, with vacuum power assistance. Wheel rims are 4.5x13 inch, shod with 165/70 radial ply tyres.

The Charade scores top marks for fuel economy due to its light weight and small, efficient engine. Expect around 7.0L/100km around town.

The Daihatsu Charade has an excellent reputation for reliability with dealers reporting extremely low warranty claim incidence, though there have been some minor problems with body trim items such as window trim strips.

As with any used car, check for evidence of body corrosion, particularly if the car has been kept near the seaside. Always remember that the car with the least kilometres on the clock, provided it has been well looked after, is the one with the most life remaining.

In a class which is highly competitive and features a number of good value vehicles, the Daihatsu Charade stands out for performance, equipment level, quality of build and reliability.

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