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Daihatsu may return here as Toyota

The Toyota Rush compact SUV.

Toyota-owned badge Daihatsu retired from our market in 2005, but a void in Toyota’s line-up could see some of the Daihatsu product return in the form of the small Terios SUV rebadged as a Toyota Rush.

Toyota is keen to capitalise on a growing sub $25,000 compact SUV market segment. Sales are thriving, with a new Nissan Juke, Suzuki SX4, Holden Trax, Ford EcoSport and Fiat Panda all joining the Mitsubishi ASX in the search for a slice of the market. Toyota doesn’t currently have a competitor in this segment, with the bigger RAV4 starting at $28,490.

But Toyota has an advantage in this rivalry: It owns Daihatsu – Japan’s oldest car manufacturer and small car specialist. The first generation Daihatsu Terios sold in Australia between 1997 and 2005, creating the same compact 5-door SUV segment that is now thriving. But the current model never made it to our shores due to Daihatsu’s local retirement.

Toyota has successfully sold the Rush in overseas markets for over a decade, and the current model since its introduction in 2006. It is powered by an 80kW, 141Nm 1.5-litre VVT-I engine, featuring a five speed manual and four speed automatic. But unlike other cars in this segment, it has permanent four-wheel drive and a central differential lock, which combined with short overhangs, gives the Rush more offroad credibility than most of its competitors.

However, a two wheel drive version is also on offer, for buyers who prefer the extra height and space but not the extra capability of a small SUV. With a kerb weight of just 1180kg for the four wheel drive model, the Rush is a relative lightweight, which should help keep running costs low.

If Toyota Australia decides to tackle the compact SUV market with the Rush, it will be the first time a car manufactured by Daihatsu is sold in Australia since 2005. However, a new Rush is expected sometime next year, featuring improvements to power, safety and refinement. This means it’s likely Toyota Australia will wait until then to introduce the Rush into Australian showrooms.