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Car reviews - Daihatsu - Sirion - GTvi 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Value, equipment, engine performance
Room for improvement
Automatic transmission, driving dynamics, premium unleaded, refinement

11 Apr 2001

CAR purchasing - road testing - should not be this difficult, should not mess with the mind like this one does.

If it is a Sirion the car should be tiny, tinny, cheap. If it's a genuine GT it should be fast, involving, joyous at times to drive.

Well, damn Daihatsu if the Sirion GTvi is not all of these things.

To get your head around the concept it helps to think of this budget-priced, pint-sized hatch as the greatest Sirion of all time, not a car that actually deserves a gran turismo tag.

There is no GT stripe to be found across the bodywork, though a sliver of chrome along the side panels adds some spice along with five-spoke alloy wheels, rear spoiler and a deep front bumper with foglights.

The engine is a derivative of the 1.3-litre, 16-valve four-cylinder found in the Toyota Echo, featuring variable valve timing and producing 75kW at 7000rpm and 120Nm at 4400rpm.

The numbers are not high enough to stop the punters up at McPhillamy Park turning the car on its head and torching it, but with a splash of the required premium unleaded petrol the engine will help get the big hand to turn to 100km/h in less than 10 seconds. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder model needs nearly 20.

The 1.3 gets noisy towards redline but, unlike the 1.0, does not require a caning to get there. Indeed, it makes for a trouble-free driving experience around town, providing good response from down low in the rev range and allowing the driver to seize upon gaps in traffic without acting as if there?s a Jayco hitched to the tail.

Flitting in and out of carparks has also never been easier thanks to the addition of power steering, only recently made standard across the Sirion range, assisting with the superb 8.8m turning circle. Fuel economy is a claimed 6.8 litres per 100km for the city cycle (auto).

The one significant impediment to progress is the optional four-speed automatic transmission tested here. Despite shifting smoothly, the automatic saps plenty of power by hunting up and down through the gears.

The driver can manually select gears from buttons on the steering wheel, however operation requires an awkward reach to the "steer shift" switch, gearchanging can become unnecessarily complicated through tight sections of road and downshifts are sometimes refused point blank if the electronic brain deems the resultant revs too high.

In other words, go for the five-speed manual fitted standard.

There's plenty of roadholding and stability with a wheel at each corner of the car, 14-inch rubber and ultra-firm MacPherson strut (front) and torsion beam (rear) suspension set-up.

The driver will grin as the car hugs the road during spaghetti-smooth corners, and laugh out loud as it picks up an inside wheel. But he or she will cringe, too, when pushing a little further brings on hefty amounts of understeer, front tyres which can sometimes scrub the inner guards and, on the rippled corners Australian council workers have turned into an artform, severe vibration through the steering rack.

The brakes introduce ABS to Sirion, however they also rely on rear drums and pedal feel will start to wane after a heady session down lover's lane.

These are the dilemmas the GTvi brings. You can't believe this is a Sirion, but you must keep reminding yourself it IS still a Sirion.

Noise from the road, suspension and front windscreen is distracting. But noise from your choice of compact disc is soothing. The stereo system is afflicted with microscopic buttons. But the remaining controls - sans steer shift - are neatly presented.

The steering wheel and driver's seat come without height adjustment. But that seat is supportive and snug. Rear seat comfort does not apply to adults. But the boot is bigger than you might expect. The doors are light and tinny. But there are five of them - two more than the price suggests. And on it goes? There are no brand names like Recaro or Momo to trigger a response from joy riders but the standard equipment is higher than Sirion has ever gone before.

Dual airbags, central locking, power steering, electric windows and mirrors, a couple of cup holders and vanity mirrors, cloth door trim, front seatbelt pretensioners and height adjustment, remote hatch and fuel filler release, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, rear windscreen wiper, rear mudflaps, a three-year/100,000km warranty. These were already there.

In addition to the aforementioned ABS (with electronic brake-force distribution), alloys, foglights, front seats and CD, the GTvi includes an engine immobiliser, aluminium-look instrument faces that turn an evil shade of strawberry at night, a neat three-spoke tiller, a transmission indicator on automatic models and four colours to call its own: white, silver, red and green.

Air-conditioning is additional, the steer-shift auto the best part of $2000 and pearlescent paint another couple of hundred.

GTvi is the Sirion many have yearned for and others would never have contemplated. Powerful, artful, capable to a point and wonderfully equipped, it should be more than enough for the 20-somethings Daihatsu hopes to connect with - at a boutique pub, or on the internet, not the bar up on the hill at Bathurst.

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