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Daihatsu's dash of spice

Mini marvels: The YRV sub-combact people-mover (top) and Sirion GTvi will add a sporting flavour to Daihatsu's line-up.

Daihatsu hopes the sporty YRV and Sirion GTvi will spice up its product range

3 Aug 2000

DAIHATSU Australia will preview the new YRV sub-compact people-mover at the Sydney International Motor Show in November and plans to put it on sale in the first half of 2001.

The 1.3-litre five-seater will sell for just under $20,000, emphasising Daihatsu's aim to position itself as the king of the mini-car marketers.

The YRV will be previewed less than one month after the 1.3-litre Sirion hot-hatch - to be known as GTvi - goes on sale with pricing starting from about $17,000.

The YRV first appeared as a turbo concept car at the Tokyo motor show last year while the Sirion 1.3 debuted in Geneva early in 2000.

They will add significantly to a Daihatsu passenger car range which has shrunk to just three passenger models - the standard 1.0-litre Sirion, the Terios mini four-wheel drive and the newly arrived Cuore mini-car.

This five-car range is designed to stabilise a sales rate that has plummeted over the past few years, at about 6500 cars annually.

Toyota Australia took over local Daihatsu operations earlier this year. One of the first decisions made after that was to bring the GTvi here as a flagship model.

It is expected to account for 200 sales per month with Daihatsu hoping it will rekindle interest in the cheap hot-hatch sector first ignited by the Suzuki Swift GTi.

The GTvi is powered by a highly-tuned version of the same variable valve timing, 1.3-litre engine as found in the YRV and some Toyota Echo models. It produces 75kW at a heady 7000rpm and 120Nm at 4400rpm.

The GTvi is well equipped with dual passenger airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, power windows and steering, sporty interior trim, stereo with CD, rear spoiler and alloy wheels.

The optional automatic includes a "Speed Steer" system which allows semi-manual gearchanging via buttons on the steering wheel. That is expected to be a $2000 option.

The YRV, at 3765mm long, 1615mm wide and 1550mm high, is slightly bigger all-round than the Sirion. It weighs just 890kg and has a turning circle of 8.6m, making it excellent for inner-city work. The engine produces 63kW at 6000rpm and 120Nm at 3200rpm.

Interesting features include double wedge-shaped side windows and a windscreen that extends onto the roof dubbed "panorama window" by Daihatsu.

In typical people-mover style, the rear seats can be slide adjusted by up to 150mm, the seat bottoms removed and the seat backs folded down individually.

The YRV shown at Geneva came equipped with front, side and dual airbags, but would drop all but the front bags in Australian-spec due to cost considerations.

THERE's no problem differentiating the Sirion GTvi from its 1.0-litre sibling.

From the outside, its lairish chrome bumper, side garnishes and exhaust tip, five-spoke alloy wheels and rear high-mounted spoiler are a big giveaway.

Inside, the sporty treatment continues with two-tone cloth and dimpled trim and sports instrumentation.

The contrast becomes even more stark when you press the accelerator. With a 75kW version of the variable valve timed K3-VE engine under the hood, this Sirion deserves the title hot-hatch.

Even with the automatic transmission, the GTvi gets up and rushes along, revving enthusiastically and smoothly to the 7000rpm redline, which equates to 120km/h in second gear. Only steep hills understandably retard progress.

The auto version incorporates a semi-manual mode called "Steer Shift" that allows button-operated gear changing from the steering wheel.

It definitely helps extract maximum urge from such a small engine, but the placement of the buttons means changing gears becomes unnecessarily complicated when twirling the steering wheel.

The downside of the package is the chassis performance, which Daihatsu claims has been improved by a larger rear stabiliser bar and uprated springs and shocks.

Unfortunately, it is not enough. Understeer, torque steer, steering rack rattle and wheelspin all enter the equation when you try to drive this car in a sporting manner. There was even tyre rub on the inner guards during cornering. Tyre size is up from 13 to 14 inches for this car.

Daihatsu was at pains to point out the car we sampled was pre-production and was expecting the production GTvi to be improved.

Let's hope it happens because ride and handling are the weak points of what is otherwise an enjoyable and affordable package.

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