Car Test   R0350
July 2003
  Daihatsu Charade
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.0SL 5door
Although it has a different name, Daihatsu’s newest and smallest offering is really a further development of the Cuore. The name Charade was formerly applied to the larger hatchback, which made its exit three years ago to allow the 1.3 Sirion to take centre-stage as Daihatsu’s supermini contender.
   The clever thing about this latest Charade/née Cuore, is that, although truly diminutive outside (and therefore ridiculously easy to park, aided by one of the best turning circles we’ve measured), it has ample room for four full-sized adults inside. The only snag is that there will only be enough room for shopping bags or a small dog behind them. If, on the other hand, it’s three only, the 60/40 split (and nicely carpeted) backrest flops forward, to find more room for impedimenta; and if there’s just two, they can go on holiday.
   Yes, really; this so-called city car is great out on the open road, cruising effortlessly near the legal limit, or cutting a surprising dash through the gears when overtaking. The willing three-pot motor thrashes and growls a bit around 4500rpm when stretched through the lower gears, but surprisingly long gearing means that it never gets near such offensiveness when cruising. Around city streets, the Charade ambles amiably down to 1500rpm before saying, “please change down”, and most unhampered left turns can be taken in third.
   OK, so it’s not ultimately as smooth as a four-cylinder job (or the three-cylinder VW), but one is compensated handsomely by its fuel economy, which, by any judgement, is remarkable. Remember, too, that our 57.5mpg overall was easily raised, on test, to the mid-60s on long steady runs, and that, at current pump prices, a diesel car has to achieve 2mpg better, to break even on fuel costs.
   Our only significant criticism of the driving position is that the seat could do with more lumbar support. The displays and minor controls have been tidied up – the rear wash/wipe is now incorporated in the right stalk, for example. Ninety-degree door opening can be useful, but reaching out to pull the doors shut can be a problem – in fact, there are no proper door armrests, either.
   This Charade, whether you opt for the bargain-basement three-door or our top version (with five doors, alloy wheels, air-con and four airbags), is cheaper than the previous Cuore thus equipped – or any rival, come to that. Remember that avoiding individual optional extras is better for the trade-in price – so this fully kitted SL is excellent value.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Security, theft of
theft from
  • facia still hard plastic, but looks and fits better
  • radio works well - if you persevere with tiny buttons
  • foglamp/rear wiper now integrated into stalks
  • low window lines - good all-round view
  • rear head restraints push down out of view
  • no volume control for facia vents or face/screen appointment
  • tailgate trim and closure cheap and nasty
  • door oddments cubbier too slit-like
  • pessimistic fuel gauge, with no low-level lamp
  • disappointing Group 5 insurance
Clearly, any cost-conscious small car isn’t going to be the last word in comfort, mechanical refinement or performance. What this latest Charade achieves in these aspects is more than acceptable, however, when you take on board where it excels.
It is, quite simply, the most frugal petrol car we’ve yet tested in real-life conditions; yet it has a fair turn of speed and accommodation for grown-ups, without having to make any apologies. It’s nicely screwed together and the relatively straightforward technology under the bonnet add up to truly low-cost motoring – and not just at the pumps.

engine 989cc, 3-cylinder petrol; 58bhp at 6000rpm, 67lb ft at 4000rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 12 valves   transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 21.8mph/1000rpm in 5th, 17.9 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts, integral coil springs
rear: torsion beam (dead) axle, coil springs
  steering electric power assistance; 3.3 turns lock-to-lock; 8.95m diameter turning circle between kerbs (14.95m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes solid discs front, drums rear, with standard anti-lock control (ABS) on all versions   wheels/tyres 4in alloy with 155/65R13T tyres (steel wheels on EL version); temporary-use spare

size and type budget-priced 5-door 'city-car' hatchback   trim levels EL, SL
engines petrol: 3 cylinder/989cc/58bhp
diesel: none
  drive 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; optional 4-speed stepped automatic with a torque converter

HOW THE CHARADE 5 DOOR COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Daihatsu Charade SL 3/989/58 3220 14.0 26.0/38.3 57.5/114 16/27.5 106 101/73 3.3/8.95 341
VW Polo 1.2 3/1198/65 3800 17.3 23.5/30.6 41/144 18/26 108 96/71 2.9/10.2 390
Seat Arosa 1.4 Diesel+ 3/999/75 2130 12.7 14.6/21.3 62/119 18/26.5 105 91/66 2.9/10.0 355
Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 Eco 3/973/58 3160 19.9 36.2/58.1 50.5/118 28/28 106 95/70 2.9/10.4 382
Daewoo Matiz 3/796/51 4300 21.8 29/45a 44.5/161 27/25.5 105 101/66 3.2/9.3 350
Daihatsu Sirion 1.3 3/1298/102 3450 9.5 20.5/25.9 47/134 13/27.5 105 93/65 3.6/9.3 368
  + 3 door diesel  a approximate figures

Apart from (pessimistic) fuel gauge, clear displays; accelerator rather too light, but well-positioned major controls, with rake-adjustable wheel. Excellent all-round vision, despite thick rear quarters; easy to park and electric mirrors help.
Corners neatly, but bumpy bends can compromise its line. Steering deft and nicely weighted; just a little free play from straight-ahead.
Ride jostles and tyres roar on rougher surfaces, but feels settled on main roads. Twenty-five per cent fewer power pulses result in surprisingly relaxed, subdued cruising. Air-con powerful, but it really compromises mpg - use sparingly! Very quiet heater fan keeps the fresh air moving.

Let it rev (raucously) and its overtaking prowess will come as a pleasant surprise - as quick as a Fiesta 1.4. High gearing means fifth is an overdrive, with leisurely acceleration. Whippy but co-operative gearchange and progressive clutch.
  acceleration in seconds through gears* 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40mph 4.0 12.0 17.4
  30-50mph 5.1 11.5 15.9
  40-60mph 6.7 12.8 17.8
  50-70mph 8.9 14.5 22.4
  30-70mph 14.0 26.0 38.3
  max speed in each gear (* using 6300rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th      5th
     speed (mph)      28.5      50      77.5      96 (5375rpm)      92 (4225rpm)

Apart from a couple of small diesels, you'll not meet more parsimony than this Charade delivers. Pity there's no low-level lamp - the pessimistic gauge forces a refill too early - and the tank is smaller than Cuore's.
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    urban (17mph average/heavy traffic) 39
    suburban (27mph average/6.4 miles from cold start) 50
    motorway (70mph cruising) 49.5
    cross-country (brisk driving/20 miles from cold start) 61
    rural (gentle driving/20 miles from cold start) 71
    overall mpg 57.5
    realistic tank capacity/range 27/340
    official mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 47.1/68.9/58.9
    CO2 emissions 114g/km
    car tax band A

Reasonable brakes with good progression and ABS that keeps side-to-side unevenness in control. A particularly pleasant handbrake. Generous airbag provision on SL - and the (four) seatbelts are lap and diagonal, the fronts with pretensioning.
  from 50mph (with standard ABS)
This model has not yet been
tested by EURO NCAP
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     32.5m
sudden 16kg     27.5m best stop
+ 4kg ie 20kg     28m
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

Big on passenger space or luggage room (for a little'un), but not at the same time. No sill protection - just painted metal, but twin roof lamps inside come on when doors unlocked. Oddments places sparse and unlined; otherwise well trimmed.
  in centimetres (5-door hatchback)
  length 341
  width - including mirrors 182
    - mirrors folded 155
  height 150
  load sill height (inside/outside) 5/60
  turns lock-to-lock 3.3
  turning circle (metres) 8.95
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 84-106
    - headroom 98§
  rear - typical legroom 101
    - typical kneeroom 73
    - headroom 95§
    - hiproom 125
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 38-107#
  load length to facia 208
  load width 90-120
  load height (to shelf/to top of aperture) 44/81
§ no sunroof  # rear seat folded

Only driver's keyhole operates central locking and key in ignition means constant beeping with either front door open. NCSR score not very reassuring, but we like auto unlocking plus interior and hazard lamps on, in the event of an impact.
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)  
self-locking (static + drive off)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
impact release system   
visible VIN   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of"
NCSR - "theft from"
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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