Daihatsu Materia: the lowdown
At last, a Daihatsu with at least some street-cred! This is the new Materia mini-MPV, due to go on sale in July. It borrows the slammed-low, urban styling pioneered by cars such as the Nissan Cube and Honda Element, but this one will be imported officially into the UK. The choice of engines isn’t a choice at all – you get a 1.5-litre petrol with 102bhp and a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox. Standard equipment is generous and includes power steering, ABS, air-conditioning and six-speaker radio-CD. It’s refreshing in this day and age to find only one factory option available: metallic paint at £325.
That design seems familiar...
Elsewhere in the world, the Materia is sold as a Daihatsu and a Toyota Bb, so you might recognise it from foreign shores. But there are definite echoes of the Nissan Cube (sold only in Japan) and the Honda Element in the boxy design. Daihatsu isn't trying to hide it either, admitting that the squat stance, flared wheelarches and minimal overhangs look has achieved a ‘cult-following’ in Japan, with several manufacturers struggling to keep up with consumer demand. Who is Daihatsu targeting with the Materia? It reckons European customers will be in the market for a Renault Modus and Vauxhall Meriva, and the Materia is undeniably cooler looking than either. But only time will tell whether Europeans will stomach the toy-town looks and shun the more conservatively styled MPVs they’re used to.
What’s inside the box?
The squared-off edges are designed to maximise interior space, so the quirky looks have a function - creating a spacious-looking cabin. The funky theme continues inside, with front and rear seats capable of being fully reclined to form a bed. And the rear tailgate opening is flush with the load floor, presumably useful for your bedside light and book. No less than eight bottle holders, blue illumination on the front door armrests, and a glossy black finish to the stereo and air-con vents are amongst the efforts to spruce up the otherwise dull-looking interior; we can't help feeling that these first photos reveal a car with all the plasticky appeal of other humdrum Daihatsus.
How much then?
For £10,995 on-the-road in manual form, and £11,795 as an automatic, the Materia represents reasonable value. The 0-62mph times of 10.8sec for the manual and 13.7sec for the auto won’t set your pulse racing, but 39.2mpg for the manual should restore the smile to your face. So, a funky, refreshing design from Daihatsu that represents good value for a small family car. If it’s the lack of performance that’s holding you back, it shouldn’t be more than several months before the quad-turbo, 300bhp modified versions start arriving from Japan...