Bigger... and a big improvement
To say the outgoing Daihatsu Terios did nothing for me would be an understatement. It wasn’t attractive, and it didn’t handle that well – tall and narrow with cheap suspension equals rock and roll. And lurch and sway. Seasick? You betcha. The only real plus was it was cheap – but so’s the Suzuki Jimny, and that did a better job of it.
So I wasn’t holding my breath for the new car. My mistake, for it’s a wee cracker. The old Terios was going for nine years – no wonder it disappointed. This one’s taken several pages from Toyota’s book. Indeed, its looks are reminiscent of the last generation RAV4 – the funkiest of the breed. Thus it’ll appeal not just to frugal types but to people who think the RAV has got too big and boring. Though not up to old four-door RAV size, this Terios is larger than its predecessor in every direction. Wheelbase is up 160mm, length 210mm, width by 140mm and track a bit more, to give it a more stable stance. Better yet, boot space is up by 81 percent to 380 litres with all seats in use, and row two split-folds and tumbles out of the way. Beneath it you’ll find a pair of cubbies for secure storage. Despite the does of steroids, the Terios is still smaller than most compact SUVs – the Suzuki Vitaras and Kia Sportages. Nevertheless it’s got a bigger engine than before, and it’s taking the city market to heart – with a version driving just the rear wheels for people who want the looks but don’t need the extra grip, or the mechanical complexity and increased thirst for fuel that goes with a 4WD system. Like that idea, but don’t want to seem a wuss? There’s no way the neighbours can tell from outside – the two versions look the same, bar the diff lock button on the dash.
So, to the details. All Terios models get a 1.5-litre engine with variable valve timing – sourced from Toyota? No-one’s saying. They’re too busy trumpeting this as the most powerful motor ever fitted to a kiwi Daihatsu – at 77kW it offers 22 percent more power than the outgoing car, and at 140Nm, 17 percent more torque. Yet thirst has barely increased. The 1.3 manual’s claim was 7.6 litres/100km, the auto’s 8.0. This new larger car claims 7.5 litres/100km for the 2WD version, and 8.1 for the manual 4WD. Frugal for an SUV. Suspension’s similar to the outgoing Terios, tweaked to take up less space. The 4WD cars get a full-time system with a centre differential gear lock mechanism and a centre diff lock. A limited slip diff is standard except when stability control is fitted, and it’s a clever little unit that can vary rotational speeds to right and left wheels to prevent lock on cornering. Decent approach and departure angles combine with 200mm ground clearance and light weight, so the Terios may go further off-seal than you’d expect. Not that our brief taster offered much opportunity to try it. Three-up we found the interior spacious enough for comfort. Pleasant, too – the driver appreciated seat height adjust, and there were the nice minor design touches you used to get in RAV – like the little dimples along each door handle. Road manners on-seal were infinitely better than the old car’s; the 4WD scampered along the gravel and dived in and out of muddy puddles with abandon; and the 2WD – followed behind. With greater care, obviously, and the driver felt less confident on gravel than in the four-paw version. But on road? In the dry, you wouldn’t know the difference.
So, first impressions are good – and underlined by the decent spec. ABS brakes come standard, as do four airbags. The SX adds front foglights, leather trim, alloy wheels, an extra pair of airbags and roof rails. The 4WD cars offer stability control as an option, including hill-start assist and hill descent control; add $1650 to the manual, or $1950 to the auto, factory fit. The limited slip diff of course drops, as it’s no
longer needed. Quibbles? Despite the 1350kg tow rating Toyota can’t yet fit a tow bar. The Europeans have developed one to fit – Toyota NZ’s negotiating. Price? This is a Daihatsu, so it undercuts Toyota’s range. Asking price starts at $27,500 for the 2WD manual (there’s no 2WD auto) and ends with the 4WD SX at $31,000.
Having reluctantly returned the Terios we were introduced to Toyota’s new Yaris sedan. Again, forget its predecessor, the Echo sedan. That was an unattractive beast with very little to recommend it over the hatch, hence the embarrassing sales figures. This car’s better-looking and much more spacious. Wheelbase is up 180mm, overall length by 120mm. It’s wider yet lower, so the stance looks more grown-up. Boot space is up only six litres to 475 – taking it to 10 more than a Commodore from a car more than 570mm shorter and over 150mm narrower than the big Holden. The same 1.5-litre engine as the hatch is a tad thirstier, the manual’s claim now 6.1 litres/100km.
There’s an all-new chassis with rear torsion beam suspension and front Mac strut; ABS brakes with EBD and BA are standard, as are front airbags; and – oh. There’s a standard speedo/odo, not the rather nice digital set-up of the hatch. Apparently that’s because the sedan’s aimed at the conservative US market, the hatch at the funky Europeans. Never mind. The pay-off is the asking price, which has dropped, no doubt in response to the predecessor’s poor sales – to $24,170 for the manual, and $26,080 for the auto.
Also new at Toyota is the Previa front-wheel-drive, 2.4-litre MPV. At first glance it doesn’t look much different from the old model, but this is a new body, there’s a bit more power and torque from the tweaked engine and the interior, we’re promised, is more versatile. The auto gearbox now gets sequential shift, there’s more power and torque for the engine – but no five-speed transmission on the horizon, which is a pity, as it could use it. Only two airbags come standard – add $2300 for the safety pack which includes front side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, vehicle stability control and a pre-crash system which reels in the seatbelt if it thinks a crash is coming. Add $2000 for the executive pack with its roof rails, alloy wheels and parking sensors. Otherwise the new car has the same $55,900 asking price as the old. Fair enough, but the Previa’s a sensible car, as is the Yaris sedan. You might buy the Terios for sensible reasons, but its style comes as a bonus.