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First drive: Daihatsu Sirion 1.3SE - on sale now


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To be honest, first impressions of Daihatsu’s supermini offering weren’t too promising. That’s not to say it’s a bad-looking car: it’s more an issue of trim quality.

Let’s start on the outside, and the flimsiness of the panels. Although the car has achieved a decent four-star Euro Ncap rating, even the most modest of prods with a thumb or palm and they flex with disconcerting ease. The colour-match between body panels and bumpers on our lime-green test car isn’t perfect, either.

Step inside and things don’t seem much better. The quality of the plastics in this Toyota-backed venture is, at best, pretty poor.

For example, the door to the cubby-hole that sits in front of the gearstick feels like it could snap off in your hand. Open a window and the door trim bulges noticeably to accommodate the moving glass.

Yet despite these rather glaring faults, the car is a real grower. At first, the driving position feels unnaturally high and the seats rather unsupportive. But after a few miles, that seating position feels exactly right for the car. Visibility is great and you’re perfectly poised to spot any last-minute parking spaces. The speed-sensitive power steering helps, as well.

The engine of our 1.3 SE test car, is a really zesty, fun little motor. Revving freely to 7,000rpm, the torquey 16-valve unit gives the lightweight Sirion a surprisingly quick turn of pace. Motorway cruising is fuss-free, with a relaxed 3,000pm at 70mph in fifth gear.

The Sirion range starts at £6,995 for the base 1.0 S model, rising to £8,395 for the 1.3 SE (or £9,190 for the 1.3 SE automatic). Spec-levels are generous, with air conditioning, ABS, EBD, driver, passenger and side airbags, speed-sensitive power steering and electric windows all-round, as standard across the range.

Daihatsu claims class-beating petrol economy and emissions from the 1.0-litre engine, with 56.5mpg combined (64mpg extra urban) and 118g/km, a rival-busting 9.4-metre turning circle for all models and the world’s first self-regenerating catalyst on the 1.3-litre.

To date, 1,202 Sirion’s have been sold in the UK to the traditional ‘bright grey’ buying profile – typically more than 45-years-old with a young outlook. Daihatsu cites the Micra, Clio and Skoda Fabia as the car’s direct competition.

The Sirion is stepping into a fiercely competitive market and will have its work cut out taking on the likes of Micra and Clio.

Perhaps, more realistically, it will be competing with models such as the Chevrolet Kalos or Kia Picanto/Rio, in which case Daihatsu is a worthy rival.

Strengths: Value for money, generous spec
Weakness: Well-established competition
Opportunity: Tap into lucrative sector
Threat: Korean brands
USP: Built in conjunction with Toyota
Price: £8,395 (£9,190 for automatic)
Engine: 1298cc, 16V, DOHC, four-cylinder
Transmission: Five-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Performance: Top speed: 106mph; 0-60mph: 10.9sec; 86bhp @ 6000rpm, 89lb ft torque@3200rpm
Efficiency: 48.7mpg combined, 137g/km CO2
CAP 3yr/30k: £2,975 (36%)
Rivals: Chevrolet Kalos, Kia Picanto/Rio, Suzuki Swift

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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