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Used car review Daihatsu Sirion 1998-2002

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Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used Daihatsu Sirion 1998-2002, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you are buying it.

In this day and age when fuel economy is such a hot issue the Daihatsu Sirion looms as a real contender for anyone wanting cheap and reliable transport. The Sirion was never one of the hot sellers in the small car segment, it tended to fly under the radar, but those who took more notice found it was a well built and well equipped little car that delivered on its promise of reliability and fuel efficiency.

MODEL WATCH

The Sirion’s looks are a matter of taste, and opinion was certainly divided when it was launched in 1998.

Its overall shape was rounded and rather dumpy, not at all sleek or svelte like its rivals at the time. It had large headlamps that gave it a boggle-eyed look, a large oval grille, and an odd offset licence plate.

The use of chrome was also somewhat at odds with the look of the day, which was rather more sombre with body-coloured bumpers and the like when the little Daihatsu made use of bright chrome finishes.

But at the end of the day styling is a matter of individual taste and there is little doubt that some will think the Sirion cute and cuddly.

Looks aside there was plenty to like about the five-door Sirion hatch. An offshoot of Toyota there was no disputing the build integrity of Daihatsu, even though it was a budget brand.

Let’s be honest, the Sirion was never intended to be a family car, at best it was a car for singles or couples without kids who only needed the back seat for their dog or occasionally transporting friends. That’s not a criticism, simply an acknowledgement that the Sirion is indeed a small car.

It was small by all measures, but still had reasonable head and legroom considering its small overall size. The boot was also quite a good size, largely because Daihatsu used a space-saver spare wheel.

The engine was a tiny 1.0-litre three-cylinder double overhead camshaft fuel-injected unit that turned out a modest power peak of 40 kW at 5200 revs with a mere 88 Nm at 3600 revs.

You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that it didn’t have sports car-like performance, but that’s not what it was about. On the road you had to work hard to keep up with the pack, particularly if it was loaded with a full complement of adults, and that meant constant use of the gearbox. It struggled when faced with a hill, and overtaking required planning and patience, but if you were prepared to let the pack go you could enjoy a more leisurely drive and save fuel at the same time.

At launch the front-wheel drive Sirion was only available with a five-speed manual gearbox, the four-speed auto wasn’t added to the range until 2000, but that only served to accentuate the Sirion’s performance limitations.

While not being sports car sharp the Sirion’s ride and handling were quite acceptable. It had a small turning circle, which made it very manoeuvrable around town and in parking lots, but it didn’t have power steering and that made the steering quite heavy.

Despite its modest price the Sirion was quite well equipped. Included on the standard features list were central locking, power mirrors and windows and a split-fold rear seat. Anti-skid brakes and air-conditioning were options.

Fuel consumption was one of the Sirion’s most attractive features and it was possible to get 5-6 L/100 km on average when driven around town.

Before rushing in it’s important to remember that Daihatsu left the market early in 2006 making the Sirion something of an orphan, although Toyota has made a commitment to provide ongoing support with parts and service.

ON THE LOT

Prices are a little depressed following the departure of Daihatsu, but that means the buying is good if you’re prepared to gamble on being able to get parts if needed.

Pay $4000 for an early car, $7000 for a later one.

IN THE SHOP

Solid build quality means there are few problems showing up with the Sirion so it’s vital to check each car thoroughly. Despite the lack of common problems individual cars can have problems and these need to be identified.

The trade reports the odd instance of engine and gearbox oil leaks, and cooling system leaks, the latter possibly caused by a lack of maintenance.

It’s important to use the correct coolant in the system, and to follow Daihatsu’s recommendation for changing it. Unfortunately it is often overlooked and this can lead to problems.

Look for signs of abuse inside and out from an uncaring owner, and check for crash damage.

IN A CRASH

Dual frontal airbags provide pretty decent crash protection for a small car.

Anti-skid brakes were an option so it would be wise to look for one fitted with them to enhance the active safety package.

LOOK FOR

• Quirky styling

• Reasonably roomy interior

• Good boot size

• Modest performance

• Brilliant fuel economy

• Few mechanical problems

RIVALS

• Mitsubishi Mirage – 1996-2001 – $5000-$7500

• Toyota Echo – 1999-2003 – $8500-$11,000

• Suzuki – 1994-2000 – $3000-$6000

THE BOTTOM LINE

Small in stature, sedate in performance, the Sirion is a winner at the pump.

RATING

80/100

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 10 comments

  • still have a 2003 model manual ,sirion is a car that needs close attention on engine otherwise cheap on fuel or parts if you need any

    capalau Posted on 11 May 2013 8:43pm
  • I have a 2000 red GTVi. Love it love it love it. Reliable, fast, zippy and oh so easy to park and do U turns in it. Great for zipping up between parked cars and trams that even Pulsar sized cars can not fit. Makes me smile everytime i leave them all behind. Radio is crap. Seat is too high and can not be lowered but thats about it. It sill looks like a brand new car even though it is coming up to 13 years old. Great small first car that is sooooo cheap to run.

    Will Konig of Preston Victoria Posted on 29 March 2013 2:23pm
  • I have a 98 MAN model, 280,000 km, have changed the battery once in 2008 and I top up the oil every 6 months. Change the oil filter every year or so and changed the air filter once, tyres last 100,000km cause the car is so lite and I drive carefully. does shudder a little when I brake, minor detail...I fill it up with 25-30 Liters of unleaded every 2 weeks. Biggest trip was Cairns to Maroochydore last year 1700 odd km's in one day (24hrs straight driving) I drive it like the go kart that it is, no worries!

    Hayden Mokaraka of Near Nambour, QLD Posted on 27 February 2013 2:19pm
  • Have had a 1999 model for 10 years. Great runaround town car. Runs on the smell of an oily grease rag, reliable plus and parks on a five-cent piece. Met with its sad demise this week on a roundabout... :(

    Leigh of Coffs Harbour Posted on 21 August 2012 9:18pm
  • you wouldnt have one

    Jord Posted on 10 August 2012 5:56am
  • My dad has one and the front passenger seat is extremely hard and uncomfortable :/ even so, it does feel quite punchy.

    Naomi Hellaway of VIC Posted on 06 July 2012 3:37am
  • l have a 1998 model and it has been the best car l have ever owned smile love it and still have it smile

    cindy allen of port macquaire nsw Posted on 12 June 2012 11:44am
  • I am like Brian Shoebridge as I own a GTVi, mine is a 2001 model and I use it as a shopping car so my other vehicle doesn't get trashed at local shopping centre car-parks. What a great little car, 1.3l of racecar power, drives like a very comfortable go-kart. Brings a smile to my face everytime I am in it. Go Sirion.

    RP of Perth. WA Posted on 24 January 2012 7:07pm
  • I have a 2003 1L and as well as being privately used it is also driven for transporting elderly people to Dr appointments etc...It does an average of 9000km every 4 months and has NEVER let me down!!! Service it as per schedules and this little marvel will go on for ever....A great car.

    max matter of Sunshine Coast Posted on 05 August 2011 8:20am
  • I have a 2002 GTVi. It's a great little car. Quality is terrific for such a budget vehicle. Performance from the 1.3 is surprising strong and it just eats up roundabouts & tight bends. Because the styling didn't follow trends people still ask me if it's new. She (and the Sirion IS a girl) sips premium but only slowly. I absolutely LOVE it.

    Brian Shoebridge of Canberra Posted on 15 July 2011 10:36pm
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