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Daihatsu Japanese Minis

In this land of cheap petrol, ample streets and voluminous car parks, we have generally regarded cars in this class as simply being too small for our needs.

Yet a few inner city dwellers have seen the advantages in owning cars that can be squeezed into tiny parking spots and which are frugal to run.

The company withdrew from the Australian market in March 2006 with servicing of Daihatsu models now being handled by its parent company, Toyota.

Mira, Centro and Cuore are among the best of Daihatsu's mini cars and they have enjoyed a certain degree of success in Australia, mainly because of the company's excellent reputation for building reliable vehicles, with the larger Charade and Applause having won many admirers over the years.

The Mira was launched in Australia as a car in December 1992, though it had been here in van form for a couple of years before then. Mira vans were sold throughout the vehicle's life. The Mira van came with an 850cc carburettored engine and a four-speed manual gearbox.

Daihatsu Centro, introduced to Australia in March 1995, should correctly be called the Charade Centro even though it has nothing of any significance in common with its bigger brother, the “proper” Daihatsu Charade.

The duplication of the names was done as a marketing move to try to cash in on the reputation of the Charade. Australian buyers being a well-educated bunch didn't fall for the stunt and Centro didn't sell well, quietly disappearing from our market late in 1997.

These last cars will have a 1997 build plate, so be wary of the sales guy who insists it's a 1998 if it was first registered in that year.

As with the Mira, a few Centros also reached us in van form. Beware of vans that have had windows and a back seat added to try and pretend they are cars; they could have had an ultra-tough life as knockabout delivery vehicles. True Mira and Centro cars are either three or five-door hatchbacks.

The final version of the Daihatsu mini car was the Cuore. It went on sale in July 2000 and, after struggling on for a little over three years, imports ceased in September 2003.

Interior space in all three models is surprisingly good in the front, but the back seat is pretty cramped for adults. Boot space is fairly small, but can be increased substantially by folding the seatback down.

Ride comfort and general levels of noise are not good, though Centro is noticeably better than the older Mira. They are not too tiring around town when you are only spending moderate lengths of time at the wheel.

These little Daihatsus are not really suited to long distance Aussie country trips; as you have to work their little engines hard to keep them moving up hill and down dale. In a pinch they can run at 100 to 110 km/h on the flat bits but the hills really do knock them around. Be very aware that the car may have been driven too hard to the extent that it's worn out before its time.

 


Under the bonnet

Power for the Mira and Centro comes from a three-cylinder, fuel-injected engine of just 660cc. Low gearing and light weight means it gives more performance than you might expect, but you do have to work at the gearbox to get decent acceleration in undulating territory. The Cuore, introduced here in July 2000, has a bigger engine, a three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit. It's more suited to country driving than its predecessors but still struggles at times.

The manual box is a nice little five-speed unit but the automatic transmission only comes with three ratios and can be pretty buzzy if the going is fast.

 

Pricing Guides

$2,915
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$1,980
Highest Price
$3,850

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 1.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $2,420 – 3,850 2000 Daihatsu Cuore 2000 (base) Pricing and Specs