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Daihatsu back on Toyota's agenda

Tiny but tough: Daihatsu's UK-spec Terios 1.5 SX.

New Terios mini-SUV could lead Daihatsu's 'rebirth' here as a sub-RAV4 Toyota model

16 May 2006

TOYOTA Australia has an ace up its sleeve if petrol prices continue to climb: Daihatsu.

Although the small Toyota-owned Japanese brand withdrew from the Australian market in March, some models – including the all-new Daihatsu Terios compact 4WD, released this month in the UK – now look set to re-emerge as Toyota-badged products.

Despite initially indicating that Terios (and others) was not under consideration for "rebirthing" in Australia, Toyota Australia has re-focused its attention on several offerings in the wake of skyrocketing fuel prices.

Toyota Australia’s executive director John Conomos said last week that given the huge swing in consumer preference to light and small cars, selling Toyota-badged Daihatsus was "in principal" a possibility.

Mr Conomos said careful consideration would need to be given to models and price-points, but acknowledged that the redesigned Terios, launched in Japan earlier this year, would be a good fit for Australia as a sub-RAV4 model.

He also said Toyota’s massive "costs-down" initiative could help position Toyota-badged Daihatsus as viable light-car options in the future.

The third-generation RAV4 now on sale in Australia is larger and no longer available in a three-door model.

The Daihatsu brand was withdrawn from Australia distribution because of poor sales of its mostly light-car contenders: the (previous-generation) Terios, Sirion and Charade.

At present, Toyota has no vehicles under the $14,990 Yaris and the company is keen to exploit the potential of a sub-Yaris vehicle.

The Terios broke cover as a Japanese domestic market model earlier this year, badged as both a Daihatsu and a Toyota.

It was launched early this month in the UK, where it's available in three specification levels, complete with full-time four-wheel drive, differential lock and an 80kW/141Nm 1.5-litre engine.

UK pricing starts at £12,995 ($A32,000) for the Terios 1.5 S manual (initially available in black paint colour only) and rises to £14,295 ($A35,250) for the Terios 1.5 SX manual, which is expected to be the top-selling variant.

The flagship Terios 1.5 SE automatic, at £14,995 ($37,000), rounds out the range.

In the UK, standard equipment for the five-door five-seat Terios includes air-conditioning, power steering, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, full-time four-wheel drive with centre diff-lock and fixed 50/50 front/rear torque split, twin front and side airbags, five three-point seatbelts, radio/CD player, power windows and reverse parking sensors.

Compared to the previous model, the new 1.5 SX is 230mm longer at 4075mm and a significant 190mm wider at 1745mm, putting it somewhere between the new Renault Clio and larger Megane hatches for overall length.

Entry-level models have a tight 9.8-metre turning circle, despite front and rear tracks measuring 1450 and 1480mm respectively – a massive 145 and 170mm greater than before. Meanwhile, the wheelbase – at 2580 mm – grows by 180mm.

Based on an all-new monocoque construction, the new Terios is traditionall Daihatsu's biggest selling model and will play a key role in boosting the marque's European sales from 32,000 in 2003 to 80,000 in 2008.

Toyota plans to sell 1500 examples per month in Japan under the name Rush, while the same vehicle is also sold as the Daihatsu Be-go in Japan, where 500 monthly sales are expected.

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