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First drive: Daihatsu Materia – on sale now


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The Materia is no car for the shy and retiring. Its boxy styling is unlike any other mini-MPV on the market. As Japan’s answer to the Mini, the Materia will boost the brand’s image among the young and trendy, given the right marketing support.

Materia’s cube-like passenger cell is extremely spacious. Four adults can travel in comfort, and the sliding and reclining split-fold rear bench means limo-like legroom is possible, although the boot space shrinks from 294 litres to 181 litres as a consequence.

The interior design is modern and includes several neat features, such as neon-lit armrests and speaker surrounds. Quality is on-par with other Daihatsu models, putting underlying strength and longevity above appearance and feel.

Aerodynamics must’ve been a banned word for Materia’s designers, and as a result the car gets buffeted badly by the wind, although it never feels unstable.

Its 1.5-litre engine, the same as used in Terios, is nippy around town when coupled to five-speed manual transmission, but at cruising speed it’s a little noisy and high-revving.

The Materia is quite pricey compared to its Renault Modus rival, but reflects expectations to achieve a few hundred sales annually.

However, if demand is strong, IM Group may introduce a lower-priced and lesser-equipped Materia with the 1.3-litre engine already powering the Daihatsu Sirion.

Price: £10,995 (auto £11,795)
Engine: 1.5-litre 102bhp
Performance: 0-62mph 10.8 secs; top speed 106mph
Transmission: 5-sp man, 4-sp auto
Efficiency: 39.2 mpg; 169g/km CO2
CAP RV 3yr/30k: £3,900 (36%)
Rivals: Renault Modus, Mazda2
Strengths: Uniqueness, street-styling, space
Weaknesses: Expensive, not C-charge exempt
Opportunity: Daihatsu goes funky
Threat: Design polarises opinions
USP: City car with large cab space

Also driven: Daihatsu Terios S

This mini 4x4 would be the perfect car to bounce around a Mediterranean island on holiday.

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