But this looks just like the last Copen? What's new about it?
The latest incarnation of the cheap 'n' cheerful little roadster from Daihatsu hasn't changed at all on the outside apart from an '80's-style 911 rear spoiler; what's important is under the quirky skin of this, the cheapest proper roadster on sale today. Out goes the old 660cc screamer, and in its place comes the 1.3 twin-cam from the Sirion supermini. This transplant means the Copen loses its genuine K-car status (lenient tax laws in Japan for micro cars under a certain length and with titchy engines under 660cc), but it should provide more performance - and for less cash. Don't forget the Copen is now £1500 cheaper than it was in 2004. But is it any good?
What’s so fun about it?
Fans of traditional British sports car should look favourably on the Copen, because it serves up the same thrills as MGs and Austin Healeys of the 1960s: small car, small engine but nippy and charismatic to boot. Only this one has a folding metal roof to convert it between a proper coupe and an open-air roadster at the flick of a switch. The Copen is far from the most macho car around, but it’s quite capable of slapping a grin across the face with its emphasis on no-nonsense simplicity at a bargain price. If only there were more sporty cars with a similar attitude...
Fair enough. So talk me through the changes to the Copen then
Despite the same cutesy looks the new Copen is mechanically quite different. As we mentioned, the old 660cc turbo is gone in favour of the 1.3-litre twin cam engine from the Sirion. Along with the doubling of capacity, power has gone up by 19bhp and performance is improved in all areas: top speed rises by 6mph (to 112mph), the 0-62mph dash is cut by nearly two seconds (down to 9.5sec) and economy improves by 3mpg to a new average of 47.1mpg. And the gearbox has been tinkered with for longer gearing to improve cruising (allegedly). These mechanical changes are instantly apparent. The accelerator is responsive and the engine loves to rev. The Copen 1.3 isn't hugely torquey, but it loves a sprint through the gears.
So it's nippy, then?
Nippy is definitely the word. Around town the Copen is excellent, you'll beat most things off the lights and those tiny K-car dimensions (it's only 3440mm long and 1475mm wide) make it a cinch to thread through city streets. The gearchange is snickety and precise - you'll enjoying stirring the engine with the stubby chromed gearknob. Something you'll have to do a lot of to get the best from this engine. The chassis is well balanced when you dive into a corner, the Copen feeling confident and planted in bends; you'll often be surprised at its cornering powers after a quick glance down at the speedo. The ride is quite bouncy though, and you can feel like you're pogoing from corner to corner. It might be at home in the twisty stuff and around town, but this car is no cruiser. Tread on the throttle at anything over 70mph in fifth and very little happens. Apart from a lot of noise. Daihatsu might have extended the gearing, but the Copen feels like it could do with a sixth gear.
Not quite an all-rounder, then?
Not really, no. The cabin could hardly be called roomy. Those even approaching 6ft tall will struggle for headroom and the seats don't provide much in the way of back support. And the steering wheel adjustment (rake only) is desperately short of movement. On a lengthy motorway trip this car becomes very irritating, very quickly. The Copen's focus on sporty driving means that you feel every bump and undulation in the road to the point that you start to avoid them for fear of disrupting your nether regions.
How about inside?
After being dazzled by the (£500 optional) bright red leather on the seats, the rest of the interior comes across as remarkably bland. Cheap and nasty black plastic coats the dash and centre console, but the sporty Momo leather wheel provides a tactile and fun flourish. The rest of the dash is easy to use, but the big heater controls and cheap, snappy indicator stalks don't exude quality. Just remember that cheap price tag and you won't be too disappointed. Dangle your arm down next to the handbrake and you'll find the switch for the folding hard top. Daihatsu claims that it takes just 20 seconds to retract, but it feels like longer when you're listening to the loud whirring and clunking going on behind your head. Roof down, the Copen is transformed into a classic roadster and a tiny glass rear screen minimises buffeting; and any headroom complaints finally disappear!
The Copen's not exactly comfy or classy, but it's hard not to come away impressed by this fun roadster. Few cars on the market for under £11k are capable of bending a grin into anyone's face like the Copen. The interior might not feel like a penthouse suite, but it does the job and there's a surprising amount of kit for you cash (that electric roof, 15-inch alloys, remote locking, air-con, electric windows and a rather shabby CD player). If you plan to cover lots of motorway mileage or if you're very tall, then avoid this car. But if you're on a budget and up for a blast, then there’s not much that can touch the Copen on the value for money front. It's a natural successor to the MG Midget.