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Car reviews - Daihatsu - Terios - range

Our Opinion

We like
Great around town
Room for improvement
Not so good off-road, or even on a highway

25 Sep 2003

DAIHATSU’S Terios was conceived to combine mini people-mover practicality with four-wheel drive versatility.

Although the Daihatsu Pyzar and Mazda 121 Metro were the first mini-RVs to arrive, the Terios stretched the envelope by offering pseudo off-road ability.

The Terios’s funky shape — with its extremely short front overhang and plastic cladding along the flanks — provides the right mix of sportiness and strength.

Park it beside virtually any other vehicle and its size (or lack of it) is apparent. It is tiny and tall and looks like a toy when parked beside a LandCruiser.

Inside, there is room for four and legroom in the back is fairly good. The tall body, which provides heaps of headroom, helps as passengers sit fairly upright.

With the rear seat in place, luggage room is okay but it cannot match the space offered by the Pyzar or Metro. To maximise luggage room, the rear seat cushion folds forward, allowing the backrest to sit on the floor.

The driving position is nice and high so you feel you are driving a larger vehicle. It is only when you have a passenger literally rubbing shoulders with you that you notice how narrow and small it is.

Power comes from a willing 61kW, 1.3-litre, 16-valve four-cylinder engine.

It develops a meagre 105Nm at a very high 5100rpm, which means it has to be revved hard to extract reasonable performance.

This driving style creates a bit of a din with the engine sounding flustered and strained above 5000rpm. Short gearing — try almost 4000rpm in fifth at 100km/h — keeps the engine pumping, but it does not do much for noise levels.

Wind noise also makes its presence felt from 100km/h. Cruising at 80km/h is far more pleasant.

The gearbox has relatively short throws but you have to deal with a rather notchy and uncooperative action.

The standard power steering is also light and brings no real criticism, although you tend to do a bit of wheel twirling as it needs 3.5 turns to swing from lock to lock.

Like the RAV4, the Terios has a monocoque chassis rather than a ladder-frame set-up as used by off-roaders such as the Suzuki Grand Vitara.

This means the Terios is more refined and car-like to drive but cannot offer the off-road capability of the Suzuki.

The Terios uses a permanent four-wheel drive system but — like the RAV — does not come with ultra-low gear ratios. This is in keeping with the vehicle's intended purpose as a strictly light-duty off-roader.

Nevertheless, it offers good ground clearance and the centre diff can be locked to provide greater traction.

The soft suspension setting means there is a fair amount of bodyroll, though the tall, narrow body makes this feel worse than it is.

The Terios may look the goods but unless you regularly need four-wheel drive or good ground clearance, vehicles such as the Daihatsu Pyzar and Mazda 121 Metro are more practical.

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