Daihatsu Sirion

Big things are expected from small cars these days. Supermini drivers want a vehicle that offers more than no-frills transport. Refinement, versatility and practicality are all high on the agenda.

A practical interior, smart looks and a sparkling 1.0-litre engine make the Sirion a strong package. With prices set to undercut rivals, it will provide a lot of room for the money. However, the budget supermini market is no place for anything other than an excellent product, and with strong rivals such as the Kia Picanto, Daihatsu's success is far from guaranteed.

Big things are expected from small cars these days. Supermini drivers want a vehicle that offers more than no-frills transport. Refinement, versatility and practicality are all high on the agenda.

And Daihatsu is claiming its new Sirion delivers all this - and more! The Japanese firm is aiming to satisfy a demanding British market with its latest small car, and has worked hard to make it feel modern and capable.

With its long wheelbase, large doors and a short front overhang, it offers a practical interior. The protruding wheelarches and bold front and rear lights add character to the shape.

From the driver's seat, the sense of space is immediately apparent. A high roofline means headroom is excellent. Legroom is also generous - even with tall occupants in the front, rear passengers remain comfortable.

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Some interesting touches have been added to the dashboard. A pod of instruments sits on the steering column and moves when the wheel is adjusted, while the remaining controls are grouped in the centre console, freeing up space for cabin storage. Trays, cup-holders and door pockets make it easy to stow all but the bulkiest items out of sight.

The wide hatch opens to reveal 225 litres of luggage space. With the rear seats in place the area is short but tall - fold the rear bench, though, and it converts to a flat 630-litre load bay.

Daihatsu developed an all-new body and platform design for the Sirion in conjunction with parent company Toyota. There are driver and passenger airbags, and the stubby bonnet is designed to minimise pedestrian injury in the event of an accident.

Out on the road, the revised suspension and new chassis provide decent comfort. Most road imperfections are filtered out, with only the worst potholes causing a disturbance in the cabin.

Despite small, narrow tyres, the Sirion can cope with spirited cornering and remains controllable.

Light steering and well weighted pedals make it easy to drive, although the five-speed gearbox has a long and vague shift. Only at higher motorway speeds do wind and tyre roar begin to intrude - otherwise unwanted noises are well damped. Under the bonnet, a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine uses variable valve timing, boosting low and mid-range torque to good effect.

Despite its diminutive capacity, it generates 68bhp and 95Nm of torque, giving the Sirion spirited performance, and a pleasing three-cylinder thrum in the process. Loaded with luggage and passengers the Daihatsu will suffer, but most of the time it is more than adequate. Economy and emissions are superb, too. A combined figure of 56mpg and a C02 level of only 118g/km make the 1.0-litre Sirion a very frugal car.

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