DAIHATSU Sirion is a well-built Japanese car that's right out of the ordinary in its styling in its latter models.
It was moderately successful in Australia and was intended to build on the success of the Daihatsu Charade which had sold here for many years.
However, Daihatsu got into financial trouble in Japan during the early 2000s and was taken under the Toyota wing.
The two companies had worked together for many years, but when Toyota Australia was given the job of selling Daihatsus in this country it seemed to lose interest and discontinued imports at the end of 2005.
Daihatsu continues to build cars in Japan and Toyota stocks spare parts and provides service and repairs for the Sirion.
So, there are some bargains in Daihatsu Sirions as they are regarded as orphans and have suffered in resale value because of this. Despite this they can be kept on the road with a minimum of fuss in Australia.
The new Daihatsu Sirion, released here in April 2002, was substantially bigger than the first-generation model that was launched in Australia in1998.
There's decent interior room and a boot that can handle a fair amount of luggage.
The older models are smaller and probably best left to couples and singles, but the 2002 model can work as a family car.
The first series Daihatsu Sirion used an interesting three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine of the type the Japanese marque had made famous for many years.
With the larger model of 2002 Sirion, power came from a more conventional four-cylinder, twin-cam unit displacing 1.3 litres.
The latter produced a relatively modest 64 kilowatts, but variable valve timing meant it has strong torque throughout most of the rev range, peaking at 120Nm at a reasonably low 3200rpm.
Transmission choices are five-speed manual and four-speed automatics. Autos don't take as much out of the performance as you might expect as the Sirion is relatively light.
But our gearbox of choice would be the manual unless you're doing a lot of commuting in traffic. The manual's gearshift is light and easy.
The Sirion is well equipped, with air conditioning, a four-speaker CD stereo, power door mirrors, lap-sash safety belts in all five seats and dual airbags.
A model worth chasing down is the Sport. Wth alloy wheels, a front body kit that includes foglights, a sportier design of rear lights, colour-coded door handles and ABS brakes, it provides a lot of small car for a pretty reasonable price.
Handling is competent enough without being exciting.
There's a reasonably neutral feel at everyday road speeds, but understeer comes in too early for those who like a bit of enthusiasm in their motoring.
A good set of tyres can give it a better feel and provide grip that pleases beyond the normal range of cruising speeds in a car of this type.
As it's a relatively small car the Sirion doesn't have a lot of underbonnet space so can be irritating to work on.
Having said that, the layout is simple and home mechanics who don't mind the odd scraped knuckle will be able to do quite a bit of their own work.
Workshop manuals are available and are recommended unless you know this marque well. Don't tackle any safety related items unless you're an expert.
Insurance costs are generally towards the bottom end of the scale and we don't know of any major company that charges extra for the Sirion Sport, probably because it's a dress up variant not a real sporty design.
What to look for
Rust is rare in Daihatsu Sirions but if it does get a hold it can run through the car quickly. Look in the lower body areas, as well as the doors and hatchback. Also check the floor of the cabin and the boot.
Look for signs of crash repairs, minor repairs correctly executed are to be expected in older cars that spend a lot of time in city/suburban driving, but if you think one has been in a major crash have it inspected by a professional as substandard cars can be dangerous.
The engine should start quickly even when cold and should have a relatively smooth idle from start-up. Four-cylinders engines are smoother than the threes.
Check there is no smoke from the exhaust tailpipe when the engine is accelerated hard after idling for a while.
Gearchanges should all be light and easy, with the clutch taking very little effort to operate. If the gearbox baulks or crunches when you do a fast change down, there could be expensive troubles.
If the clutch is heavy, or sticks during its movement, it could be due for an overhaul but this isn't an overly expensive job.
Drive the car at low speed with the steering on full lock in one direction and then the other and listen for a clicking sound at the universal joints. Not an overly expensive repair, but take the cost into account when haggling.
Look over the complete interior, paying special attention to sun damage on the dash top and rear shelf. Check for tears in the seats and damage to floor and boot mats.
Budget on paying from $1500 to $3000 for a 1998 Daihatsu Sirion; $2500 to $4000 for a 2001 Sirion; $3500 to $6000 for a 2002 GTvi; $5500 to $9000 for a 2005 GTvi; and $6500 to $9500 for a 2005 Sirion Sports.
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