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Daihatsu Sirion 1.5 SX

Click to view picture gallery“Proving you dont have to spend
  a fortune on a car that will get you
  from A to B economically while
  still putting a grin on your face is
s distinctive Sirion 1.5 SX...”

SUPERMINIS COME IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES but if you're after one that stands out from the crowd then Daihatsu's Sirion could fit the bill. Not only is it well equipped and amazingly roomy given that nose to tail it measures a mere 3.6 metres but it's also surprisingly good fun to zip around in.

The Japanese Sirion is a five-door supermini with a choice of three engines: 1.0, 1.3 and 1.5-litre. Reviewed here is the punchy 1.5 SX priced at 10,500. For that you get a beefed-up, ground-hugging and sportily-kitted body with a smart 8-spoke alloy wheel housed in the flared wheelarch at each corner. Our test car, finished in a bright shade of red, really looked 'the biz' and attracted a lot of favourable attention.

The Japanese excel at packaging space: putting a quart into a pint pot — and this is where the Sirion's boxy styling comes in handy. And despite its compact external dimensions the Sirion (named, incidentally, after a river in The Lord Of The Rings) can, thanks to its high roofline, accommodate four tall adults in comfort. Being city-sized with especially short front and rear overhangs and blessed with a tight turning circle, the Sirion is perfectly adapted for life in the urban jungle; it's easy to manoeuvre and a doddle to park. Even so, the 1.5 SX comes with rear parking sensors as standard.

Get behind the wheel (doors open to almost 90 degrees so getting in and out is easy) and the first thing you'll notice is the refreshingly minimal instrumentation. Everything you need is there — rev-counter, speedometer and fuel gauge and an LCD driver's information panel — but it's all neatly fitted within a single oval pod that moves up and down with the height-adjustable steering wheel so all the key information is always visible. White on black graphics and bold orange needles add clarity.

The uncluttered centre console houses a neat-looking integrated audio system (radio/CD with MP3 compatibility and large buttons for ease of use on the fly) along with straightforward rotary controls for the air conditioning. All controls are well sited and can be used with the minimum of distraction whilst driving. Other nice cabin features include sun visors that stay exactly where you park them and the 'dimpled' tactile-grained plastics on the fascia and upper door trims that are pleasant to touch.

“With its grin-inducing
the stand-out, spacious
and surprisingly
satisfying 1.5-litre Sirion
should be a prime
contender for your hard-
earned cash
The Sirion may not be very expensive but Daihatsu haven't stinted in fitting out the 1.5 SX. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, rev-counter, external input allowing an iPod or MP3 player to be played through the radio/CD player, remote central locking, height-adjustable steering column, front and rear electric windows (driver's has one-shot auto down), power door mirrors, remote central locking, alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, sporty bodykit (deep front spoiler with mesh grille, side skirts and rear tailgate spoiler) and front fog lights.

Standard safety features include driver, passenger front and front-side airbags, front passenger airbag deactivation switch, height-adjustable front seat belts, ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control (effectively a traction control system providing corrective action in the event of a skid) and a four-star EuroNCAP rating.

'Ladies who lunch' will be pleased to know that they can drive the Sirion with their hats on. There's ample headroom inside and, wherever they sit, even six-footers will have no space issues. Legroom, too, is very good. The seats themselves are nicely firm and provide good support, notably around the shoulders, and there's good built-in lumbar support for your lower back. Bolstering is light but it's nonetheless effective and the cloth upholstery — black with red-and-black centre panels — adds to the comfort. As do the wide outer armrests built into the door panels. The driver benefits from a height-adjustable seat and although the steering only adjusts for height it's still easy to set a decent driving position. Large windows not only make for an airy cabin but ensure good visibility in all directions.

Those sitting in the back will also be pleased to find that the rake of the rear backrest can be adjusted and, thanks to the split rear seats, there's no compromise on seatback angles with your neighbour. The rear doors' 'extra' glass panes add to the open feel of the rear cabin — it really is somewhere you can stretch out your legs and enjoy the views.

In such a compact body (at 3,605mm the Sirion is 15mm shorter than the new Ford Ka) you'd expect some trade-off between passenger and load space although in this respect the compromise is not that bad: the 225-litre boot is okay and folding the 60:40 split rear seatbacks opens this up to 630 litres. Nor only that but the manner of folding the backrest creates a flat floor considerably deeper than would otherwise be possible — this is because the rear seat cushions rise before hinging forward and dropping down to fill the gap between the rear and front seats. The tailgate lifts high and loading, courtesy of the rear sill being just above knee height, is easy.

“Those sitting in the
back will also be pleased
to find that the rake of
the rear seatback can be
adjusted and, thanks to
the split rear seats,
there’s no compromise
on backrest angles with
your neighbour
Main cabin storage is well up to family life needs with a goodly number of cup holders, stowage boxes, trays and cubbies and a split level glovebox along with a particularly useful open shelf along the lower fascia. And the small pockets that double as front door pulls are perfect for stashing change for parking.

Driving the 1.5 Sirion is surprisingly good fun — there's a playful side to its character brought out by the peppy 102bhp 1,495cc four-cylinder 16-valve petrol engine with Dynamic Variable Valve Timing that gets the Sirion to 62mph in a brisk 10.5 seconds.

Maximum speed is 109mph; so there's enough in hand to zip along on motorways. Max power peaks at 6,000rpm which means you'll need to work the manual 'box to match the paper figures; no problem — the six-speed manual 'box has a clean shift action. And with 97lb ft of torque on hand it's nippy at low speeds for hassle-free urban driving.

Officially, the 1.5 SX returns 54.3mpg on the Extra-Urban cycle; Urban is 35.8 and Combined 45.6mpg. Over our week-long test we recorded an average of 40.8mpg and we would be surprised if most owners couldn't better that to match the official figures.

On the go the Sirion rides well, its absorbent and well-damped suspension smoothing out Britain's third-world secondary roads; and it's an advantage on mean city streets too. Despite having one of the widest tracks and bodies in its sector, the Sirion boasts a class-beating turning circle of just 9.4 metres kerb-to-kerb. In the cut-and-thrust of town driving that's worth its weight in gold. Coupled with the light-ish steering, excellent visibility and a seating position higher than the norm, it ensures the quick direction changes so critical for city driving.

Brakes — ventilated discs at the front — are first rate; they react sharply and stop you purposefully, as an unexpected full-on emergency stop from 40mph proved beyond a doubt during our road test.

And given that it's taller than the average supermini and runs on 14-inch wheels, it handles fine with reassuringly progressive body roll during brisk cornering; in short, the Sirion's game for some cheeky driving. It has a likeable character and makes getting from A to B enjoyable and for not a lot of money. On motorways it feels secure and stable with good straight-line stability even when crossing high bridges on windy days. And it's reassuring to know that there's always the added handling safety net provided by the standard-fit stability control system. Plus wind and road noise are subdued, as too is the sound of the engine when cruising, so the cabin is a pretty restful place to be. All in all, the Sirion puts in a good showing and can be driven with some verve particularly if you're passengerless and feel in the mood.

If you need a supermini you may as well spend your money on something with a healthy dose of distinction, something that has a likeable character and makes getting from A to B enjoyable and for not much money. With its grin-inducing driveability, the stand-out, spacious and surprisingly satisfying 1.5-litre Sirion should be a prime contender for your hard-earned cash. Plus, it now also comes with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty and UK roadside recovery. —

Daihatsu Sirion 1.5 SX
| 10,500
Maximum speed: 109mph | 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 40.8mpg
Power: 102bhp | Torque: 97lb ft | CO2 145g/km