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Click to view picture gallery“Daihatsu’s totally-
  new Terios is a serious
  contender for drivers
  who need the on-road
  benefits of a
big 4x4
  without the punitive
  running and anti-social
  image. So how well
  does the smart new
  Terios stack up?”

ROAD TESTING CARS is a funny old business. Take the other week. We were off to the launch of the latest Maserati and what did we have on test that week? No — it wasn't the Ferrari. We'd had that a few weeks earlier. In fact, it was about as far away — in car terms — that you could get from a Maserati. A Daihatsu Terios. And we were faced with a three-hour drive each way to the launch at the Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire. Still want to be a road test driver?

If you thought this was going to be a bore, think again. Daihatsu (now part of the Toyota empire) is best-known for compact cars; and
the Terios 4x4 sport utility has traditionally been a best-seller for the Japanese company. Happily, this latest Terios is considerably larger than the model it supersedes — bigger than a supermini — and that's good news. And this wasn't the only thing about the Terios that we liked.

The new Terios line-up comprises three models: 1.5S, SX and the top of the range SE automatic. On the road prices start at 12,995 and go up to 14,995 for the model tested here, the 1.5-litre SE automatic.

Standard spec on the SE model is pretty comprehensive: automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, full-time four-wheel drive with a centre diff-lock, driver, passenger front and side airbags, adjustable height front seatbelts, four electric windows (driver's one-shot auto down), reverse parking sensors, 6-spoke alloy wheels shod with 215/65 Dunlops, roof rails, tinted glass with smoked 'privacy' glass for the rear side doors and rear window, power door mirrors, multi-function display and a CD/ Radio.

To look at, the new five-door Terios is very European and sports a rugged charm. It's well-built and attractively-styled, with a clamshell style bonnet and headlamps that are cut back strikingly into the wings. There are strong off-road styling cues: wide tracks front and rear
and short front and rear overhangs, plus subtly flared wheel arches.
In fact, the wheel-at-each-corner Terios manages to look fresh and smart from all angles.

For those of you used to a bit of power beneath your right foot the Terios may seem a trifle tame, but once it is underway it can hold its own. Power comes from a 1.5-litre variable valve timed petrol engine that generates 103bhp and 103lb ft of torque, sufficient to get
the Terios to 62mph from a standstill in 13.6 seconds (12.2 for the manual). Top speed is 93mph. 'Green' drivers will be pleased to know that both the 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic models have
low CO2 emiss-ions: 186 g/km and 196 g/km respectively.

Fuel consumption is good for a compact 4x4, with a combined figure of 33.6mpg. Our test average came close to this, at a welcome 31.7mpg — despite the full-time four-wheel drive. Urban and Extra Urban figures work out to 26.6 and 39.8mpg. For more economical motorway cruising there's an overdrive button on the selector lever knob. The twin over-head cam unit revs to the red-line without getting thrashy and pulls well. At motorway speeds there's minimal sound intrusion into the cabin and the Terios runs along quite happily.

Thanks to the tall body height, the Terios' airy five-seater cabin has very good headroom front and rear. That's not the only direction in which there's ample room — rear passenger head, leg and elbow room are likewise generous but not at the expense of compromising the decent load space behind the reclining (approximately 45 degrees) rear seats. When not in use, the three rear headrests (matched by three
3-point belts) sit conveniently low, which maximises rear visibility — you also have the benefit of audible rear parking sensors. The cloth seats are well-shaped and supportive and even though MotorBar's features editor suffers from a bad back, she was unbelievably comfort-able driving the 300-mile round trip.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel only adjusts for rake, but the high-riding driving position and a height-adjustable driver's seat help compensate for that. A major advantage is the superb all-round visibility and from the driver's seat this helps with ease of manoeuv-rability, particularly in traffic. Fit and finish is good; the instruments deeply recessed dead ahead of the driver, and all controls are self-explanatory and pleasing to use. Sun visors are functionally deep, there is a drop-down sunglasses case in the roof console and you can turn off the passenger airbag from inside the deep glovebox.

A digital display in the central speedometer shows instant mpg, trip, range, outside temperature, altitude and the time. The Radio/CD unit sited in the prominent centre stack not only has large foolproof con-trols, but delivers well-targeted traffic reporting. Equally easy to understand and operate, and sited beneath the audio controls, are three rugged, knurled air conditioning controls and ample amounts of chilled air are available on request. A vertical, colour-coded digital display in the fuel dial makes it clear at all times what gear you're in.

The side-hinged tailgate (which also houses the spare wheel) can be a tad limiting if you happen to be tightly parked but loading the tall, deep boot is easy. The easy to fold split-and-tumble rear seat frees up almost 51 inches (1,290mm) of floor — long enough to accommodate a mountain bike, if that's what you do. Even with the rear seat in use for passengers, the 380-litre boot is capable of swallowing four 45-inch golf bags, four vertically stacked medium-sized suitcases or a typical baby buggy. Seats down, capacity increases to 778 litres. Thoughtful touches include easy opening doors and smooth-working door handles plus rear passenger door hinges which hold the doors open at 41, 60 or 77 degrees — helpful when gettinbg in or out while carrying awkward items.

Pull away, and the Terios feels fine with a decent ride; noticeably so
at low speeds. Damping is on the firm side, which enables the wide-tracked Terios to handle with a nimbleness that's especially appropriate in cut-and-thrust city driving. Corners are dealt with competently
and, when pressed, the Terios stays reasonably flat and stable. You'll definitely have more fun on country roads than you might expect.

Strong brakes provide a good measure of confidence by pulling up fuss-free and the hydraulically-assisted steering has nice weighting. It's also light enough to appeal to SUV-favouring ladies although a tad more feel, while not essential, would be welcome. Drivers of both sexes will appreciate its tight turning circle — just 9.8 metres kerb-to-kerb.

The Terios' full-time 4WD system provides a fixed 50:50 front-to-rear torque split. Although it lacks a proper low-range transmission, it does have an electronically-controlled locking centre differential (activated by a switch on the fascia) to assist off-road. Short front and rear overhangs grant an approach angle of 38 degrees and a departure angle of 37 degrees, and there's a useful 190mm of ground clearance. While it isn't a full-blown mud-plugger to rank alongside say, a Land Rover, the Terios 4x4 is perfectly capable of tackling thick mud, deeply rutted tracks and the like.

Confirming its off-road character, 4x4 magazine recently awarded the Terios the '4x4 Of The Year 2007' title in their Compact/Affordable 4x4 Category. The off-road magazine also praised the 1.5-litre engine's torque delivery when faced with a steep climb, one they were convinced could not be scaled without low-range gearing. The Terios, however, "climbed comfortably to the top with its engine beating steadily at 3,000rpm."

Porsche 911s are great on fast B-roads not solely because of their speed, but also because of their lean girth. What do they have in com-mon with the Terios? Well, the Terios, too, benefits from being small enough to squeeze through tight gaps in traffic and to cope with the ever-shrinking parking bays of urban streets and shopping centres. Its compact proportions also work in its favour off-road, where narrow tracks are no hindrance in places where full-size SUVs could sometimes find themselves restricted.

Appealing chiefly to young families and older motorists seeking the customary 4x4 qualities of good visibility, bad-weather traction and security along with manoeuvrability, space and all-round practicality, the Terios 4x4 should prove no more expensive to run than a small hatchback. Relaxing to drive and easy to live with in town and out,
it's not surprising that so far this year Daihatsu has enjoyed a 53.3
per cent increase in sales. As we are now experiencing unseasonal rainfall, perhaps now would be a good time to zip down to your
nearest dealer and test drive one!

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Daihatsu Terios 1.5 SE | 14,995
Maximum speed: 93mph | 0-62mph: 13.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 31.7mpg | Power: 103bhp | Torque: 103lb ft

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