Daihatsu Sirion 1,3 Sport Automatic (2005) Driving Impression

Daihatsu Sirion 2005

As a respected manufacturer of quality compact vehicles, Daihatsu must be well-positioned to capitalise on the market’s swing to more economical, efficient and smaller cars. Finding a disappointed Daihatsu owner is exceedingly difficult. Unfortunately, that statement must be immediately contextualised by this – finding a Daihatsu owner is rather difficult… full stop. Perhaps as a result of its wilfully quirky design strategy this Japanese marque has thus far failed to reap the benefits of not only being closely associated with Toyota, but also of making excellent vehicles. With the latest Daihatsu Sirion, it may finally have a strong contender.

Quirk factor remains for Daihatsu Sirion

Whereas the previous Daihatsu Sirion was beaten into shape by a design team wielding ugly sticks, this new model looks positively futuristic, with a square overall shape meeting dramatically oversized wheelarches. At the front there’s a gaping two-tier airdam flanked by oversized foglamps. It’s certainly eye-catching, but once again Daihatsu has come up with a look that will polarise.

The interior of the Daihatsu Sirion is similarly quirky, but certainly modern. There’s a pod-like rev counter that sits on top of the facia a la Mini Cooper. Almost the entire instrument panel is taken up by a huge, almost retro-futuristic speedometer. Daihatsu has done well to break the monotony of grey plastic that is so prevalent at this side of the market. The lower part of the cabin is finished in a lighter hue, and the centre section of the facia which houses the ventilation controls and audio system is trimmed in shiny metallic silver. In typical Daihatsu fashion, the plastics are all hard, but the fit and finish superb.

Stretch-out space

Daihatsu’s small-car expertise really shines through in the cabin. The box-like shape and wheel-at-a-corner design translate into massive passenger space. Certainly, you’ll struggle to find another car of this size with so much rear legroom. Even shoulder room is impressive, given the car’s relatively compact dimensions. There are also numerous hidey-holes for storing keys, wallets and the like.

Although the driver’s seat as well as the steering wheel boasts manual height adjustment, the overall seating position remains fairly high. Of course, some drivers may prefer it this way, but coupled with the lack of lateral support from the seats, and some bodyroll in the corners, the sensation of “sitting on top” rather than inside the car is pronounced.

Where Daihatsu has been less successful is in the luggage area. Considering the fact that there’s potentially wasted space in the second row, a sliding rear bench would have made more sense, particularly as boot space is limited. The rear seatbacks are split 60/40, though, and fold forward to unlock useful loading space. The lack of rear seat flexibility is quite a disappointment, especially seeing as the space is certainly there to introduce a cleverer sliding/folding arrangement.

This particular Daihatsu Sirion model has a very decent standard specification level. Air-conditioning, a neatly integrated sound system, electric windows, power steering, an airbag for the driver and ABS with EBD are all part of the package.

Where’s the Sport?

You don’t have to be an automotive expert to understand that a 1,3-litre petrol engine with 64 kW, coupled with a four-speed automatic ‘box, is never going to result in fireworks. The Sport badge, therefore, is a bit unfortunate and certainly only in reference to the car’s appearance, because with a 0-100 km/h time of around 14 seconds, you’re not going to get anywhere fast.

That said, the four-speed gearbox is generally well-matched to the engine, but fourth is a bit of a “cruising” gear. It is, however, possible to lock out the top ratio, which improves the Sirion’s about-town sprinting abilities considerably, and also cuts back on the transmission’s tendency to hunt through the gears. Driven in a relaxed manner, though, the Daihatsu Sirion engine and transmission work well together and also deliver good fuel economy. Daihatsu claims a fuel consumption figure of 6,4 litres/100 km, but generally speaking you’ll be looking at around 8 litres/100 km for predominantly town use.

Raising further questions marks about the suitability of a “Sport” label is the car’s dynamic ability. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the way it goes about its business, and for the majority of potential customers, the emphasis on comfort and safety will be a positive, but the sporty looks do make promises of entertainment and “fizz” that this Daihatsu Sirion struggles to live up to. The wheelbase is quite long for such a small car, so there’s little of the choppiness that affects many small cars. The steering is electrically assisted, exhibits little feel and is also very light. Overall, then, the Daihatsu Sirion 1,3 Automatic is a very easy and comfortable car to pilot around town. But if you’re looking for something sporty… go look elsewhere.

Daihatsu Sirion - Verdict

This is a very solid little product by Daihatsu. You can ignore the Sport badge, though, because in reality it’s a straightforward automatic city car with numerous talents, including passenger space, decent standard specification and good ride comfort. Sadly, however, due to Daihatsu’s confusing labelling as well as still-polarizing design, it is unlikely to gain the mainstream traction it deserves.

We like:

  • Passenger space
  • Quirky design
  • Fuel economy
  • Build quality
We don’t like:
  • Small boot
  • Four-speed auto tends to hunt
Fast facts

Engine: 1,3-litre, four-cylinder, petrol

Power: 64 kW @ 6 000 rpm

Torque: 120 Nm @ 3 200 rpm

Transmission: Four-speed automatic

Wheels: 14-inch alloy

Top speed: 175 km/h

0-100 km/h: n/a seconds (approx. 14 sec)

Fuel economy: 6,4 litres/100 km

Source: www.um.co.za

Also consider:

  • Honda Jazz 1,4i CVT: A fair bit more expensive compared to the Daihatsu Sirion, but if you can afford it, it is by far the best small automatic on the market, though CVT is always an acquired taste. Excellent space utilisation, build quality and a very decent standard specification.
  • Hyundai Getz 1,6 Automatic: A popular choice and with good reason. Boasts a well-made and spacious cabin, good performance from the most powerful engine in this segment and a comfortable ride. Lacks safety specification, though – there’s no ABS.
  • Daihatsu YRV Automatic: An enemy from within. The YRV is powered by the same engine and features the same specification level as its Sirion brother, too. So, why choose this? It looks sportier and offers more boot space… and it’s very different.