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Car reviews - Daihatsu - YRV - five-door hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Adventurous styling, sliding rear seat, engine performance, light manual shift and clutch action
Room for improvement
Poor ride and handling characteristics, awful stereo controls, lack of driver amenities

31 Oct 2001

By MALCOLM LIVERMORE

WE CONDUCTED a straw poll as part of this road test, just to check that Daihatsu management was not straining the truth when it said the YRV - or Youth Recreational Vehicle - was certain to strike a chord with pubescent Australia.

And the response we got was telling. Brand-new car. Bright red paint. Looks that don't conform to the norm. Said one: "There's features galore, man".

That much is unquestionable. The sub-$20,000 sticker price lands the owner a distinctive looking five-door hatch kitted up with central locking, a CD stereo, air-conditioning, dual airbags and power assistance for the steering, windows and wing mirrors.

Then there's the smarter than average seating set-up - an acknowledgment that whippersnappers of the modern world have different recreational needs to their pre-millennium parents.

A wide-screen digital TV, for example, can be carried from department store to apartment when the 50/50-split rear bench is folded. More than that, the seat base flips up to create a barrier of sorts between the cargo area and cockpit. The base can be removed, too.

And when friends are invited along for the ride, the sliding rear bench will guarantee acceptable legroom for all concerned.

A sad fact of our modern times, however, is that this number of features crammed into such a low retail price means that sacrifices must have been made elsewhere.

Where do we start?

In the cargo area there is no luggage cover, full-size spare wheel, small-item storage options, tie-down hooks, not much floor width or depth (even with the rear seat forward), no lighting and nowhere neat to stick the headrests when the seats are folded.

There is also a fragile board over the spare wheel well, a 120mm drop from the loading lip to floor and compromised luggage space when child seat tether straps are in place. There is also a sizable step left in the floor when the rear seat portions (back and base) are folded.

In the rear seat compartment, passengers are treated to an excellent view of the surrounds with the "theatre" seating arrangements. Headroom is abundant. Maps can be stored in door bins or a pocket behind the front passenger seat.

But there are problems. The small seatback is inappropriate for tall adults. There is no head restraint or three-point seatbelt for the centre occupant. No lighting. Not much room for feet and no grabhandle for window-seat passengers - people who, depending on their size, could also find the seatbelt sash uncomfortable.

And so to the cockpit, where the aforementioned features do little to mask the compromises made to get the YRV to market.

We did not expect luxuries like cruise control, variable intermittent wipers or seat lumbar support. We can live without remote locking or an automatic wipe function when the driver squirts detergent on the windscreen.

And we welcome the inclusion of a tacho, twin trip meter, fuel filler release, simple to read gauges, a splash of colour on the instruments and temperature controls, and facilities for storing coin, cup and telephone.

Yet we are disappointed with the lack of driver amenities. The steering column cannot be adjusted. The front seats lack support and offer no movement other than backrest angle and fore/aft slide. There is no footrest or armrest. Visibility in all directions is mediocre.

The stereo might be packed with features but microscopic buttons and a confusing fascia design tend to make the driver avoid adjustment. The faceplate must be flipped before a CD can be inserted.

Let us also refer to a small and difficult to view fan dial, some ill-fitting interior trim, hard plastic lining the dashboard and doors, a dash rattle which developed during our time with the car and the large sealed-up hole betwixt the two centre-mounted air vents - the spot where other countries get a clock. There are no vanity mirrors, no ...

OK, time out.

People will place importance on some of these items and overlook the rest - and if no more than four people are to be transported, YRV could still be seen as a worthwhile proposition. Until it is driven, that is.

As is the case with the rest of the YRV package, here again we find prime selling points - strong engine performance, low fuel consumption, to name two - disguising the overall driving experience, which is substandard.

Like others in the Daihatsu range, the YRV uses a derivative of the 1.3-litre engine with variable valve timing powering Toyota's own clever compact, the Echo.

This particular unit has no trouble shifting the 860kg YRV from point to point, exhibiting lots of strength in the mid-range and a good turn of speed when more revs are stacked on. The noise at high rpm tells the driver that a good hard thrashing isn't welcome - and it's not needed. The rewards are ample lower down.

The light clutch and manual gearshift action further simplifies the task at hand and the distance between fuel stops indicates the engine is a sipper. Expect to average about 7.0 L/100km.

A further strongpoint comes in the braking department. While an ABS brake system is unavailable, the standard disc/drum combination offers good stopping power and strong resistance to fade.

It is in the ride and handling department where the mechanical package comes unstuck.

The front end of the YRV feels crude, the suspension allowing the car to bang and crash its way through potholes and the like and sending up vibration - and not a small amount of noise - to the cabin.

Corners can prove particularly troublesome. Some body lean must be reckoned with, the rear end is prone to skip off-line when it meets a series of bumps, the tyres offer little grip and the nose will run wide without much provocation.

Power-assisted steering ensures parking manoeuvres are a simple affair, however high gearing does not help with precision. The steering also allows kickback and rattle to rise up through the rack.

Daihatsu management was not telling porkies when it said the YRV was practical, flexible, well equipped with big-ticket items and sort of beautiful. Our straw poll, and our time in the car, confirmed that.

But what started life as a great conception has been maimed in the pursuit of inexpensiveness.

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