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New models - Daihatsu - YRV - 5-dr hatch

Daihatsu's YRV shapes up

Undiluted: The YRV remains true to the "double-wedge" shape pioneered by the concept car unveiled at the 1999 Tokyo motor show.

Daihatsu aims to tackle the likes of the Holden Barina and Suzuki Ignis with its new YRV wagon

4 Jul 2001

DAIHATSU is on the comeback trail and the all-new YRV (Young Recreational Vehicle) is one of the cornerstones of its planned resurgence in Australia.

The newcomer is intended to fill the void left by the demise over the past couple of years of the Applause and five-door Charade, which were positioned at the upper end of the light-car segment.

Similar in size to Toyota's five-door Echo, YRV is priced from $17,990 and comes in one trim level only - everything is standard, says Daihatsu. The only options are a "steershift" four-speed automatic transmission, which adds $1800 to the price, and metallic paint ($125).

"YRV is a statement that embodies the direction of Daihatsu," said Alan Porich, Daihatsu Australia divisional general manager domestic sales and customer fulfilment.

Mr Porich said the YRV was targeted specifically at youthful, image-conscious buyers seeking a city runabout.

YRV's pricing puts it up against five-door rivals such as the Suzuki Ignis (from $16,490), Holden Barina (from $15,990) and Toyota Echo (from $17,800). But while its rivals are classified as hatchbacks, Daihatsu prefers to call its contender a wagon by virtue of its "extended rear end".

Daihatsu is 51 per cent owned by Toyota and its local subsidiary has been controlled by Toyota Australia since July last year, but company officials are not worried about a conflict between the YRV and Echo.

"If the YRV takes sales from Toyota, then that's inevitable - there will be overlap from time to time," Toyota Australia senior executive vice-president John Conomos said.

"This (overlap with Echo) should not prevent Daihatsu from aggressively chasing sales." Although the YRV appears to represent far better value than a similarly equipped Echo, Daihatsu has set a conservative sales target of 1000 to 1200 cars per year - or just under 100 per month.

The YRV was first shown in concept form at the 1999 Tokyo motor show and the production variant remains true to the "double wedge" shape pioneered by the original.

Its tall-boy stance is designed to maximise interior space and the "stadium seating" arrangement - whereby the rear seats are set 75mm higher than the front seats - gives rear passengers better forward visibility.

The rear seats also feature a 50/50 fold and slide function and can be configured in various ways to boost versatility.

At the newcomer's heart lies essentially the same 1.3-litre, four-cylinder engine that powers the Echo hatchback, although Daihatsu refers to the variable valve timing system as DVVT, in contrast to Toyota's VVT-i nomenclature.

The power and torque figures are respectable but by no means outstanding - 64kW at 6000rpm and 120Nm at 3200rpm. Nevertheless, Daihatsu is at pains to point out that 90 per cent of peak torque is available from 2000rpm, which is claimed to enhance driveability.

Daihatsu Australia national manager Wayne Gabriel says the engine also shines in terms of fuel economy and reliability. The company quotes consumption figures of 5.6 litres/100km on the highway and 6.8L/100km around town. The auto uses 6.0L/100km and 7.2L/100lkm respectively.

The optional steershift auto is a feature unique to Daihatsu in this segment as the only other sub-$20,000 car (or sub-$40,000, for that matter) offered with it is the Sirion GTvi.

The Steershift system features buttons on the steering wheel - much like Porsche's Tiptronic system - that can be used to shift up and down. Alternately, the transmission can be left to its own devices.

YRV's suspension uses a conventional set-up comprising MacPherson struts at the front and torsion-beam axle at the rear. The whole show is kept on the road by a set of 14-inch steel wheels shod with 165/65 R14 tyres.

Standard equipment levels should please most value-conscious buyers - dual airbags, air-conditioning, power steering, engine immobiliser, power windows and mirrors and electronic windows all come at no extra cost.

Daihatsu has also thrown in a competent (if somewhat fiddly) Kenwood CD stereo as the company recognises the appeal of a decent sound system to young buyers. The stereo face can be flipped or detached altogether to minimise the risk of unwanted attention from light-fingered types.

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

DAIHATSU'S YRV seems a reasonably attractive package on paper and it doesn't look too shabby in the metal either.

The newcomer is intended to play a key role for the company and it appears as though the right ingredients have been thrown into the mix.

YRV's "double-wedge" shape is aesthetically pleasing, remaining remarkably true to the 1999 concept. It features the tallboy stance that is becoming increasingly common among the new generation of light/small cars as such a design creates generous interior space within compact external dimensions.

The layout seems to work as the YRV feels light and airy inside even though it measures just 3765mm long and 1620mm wide.

Rear seat accommodation should suit most occupants and the 50/50 split-fold facility means luggage space can be extended to decent proportions if you are travelling just two-up.

On the road, the car is competent although it breaks no new ground in terms of performance or dynamics.

The 1.3-litre engine is a willing performer when mated to the five-speed manual transmission but it struggles with the steershift auto.

The steershift system works well enough but the engine lacks the grunt to make this option an enticing proposition. The auto YRV labors up hills, which means surging past slow-moving trucks on inclines is not easily achieved.

Refinement levels are reasonable and the cabin appears generally free of squeaks and rattles.

The chassis is adequate rather than exemplary, tending to pitch and wallow when pushed really hard over twisty, undulating roads. But few owners are likely to want to explore the outer limits of the YRV's handling.

On the highway and around town - which is where most YRVs will spend the majority of their time - the car remains composed and user-friendly.

Overall, the YRV is on par with the likes of the Suzuki Ignis but it cannot match the Holden Barina in terms of handling dynamics or solidity.

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