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Daihatsu Materia (2007) review

Published:09 August 2007

Daihatsu Materia (2007) review
  • At a glance
  • 2 out of 5
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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

This looks like a Japanese-market mini or a US Scion...

Bingo! That's exactly what the Materia is. It's sold in Japan as both a Toyota and Daihatsu, and it's not even new to mainland Europe, where it's been sold for a while. But the UK importer has finally seen fit to bring the distinctively boxy mini over here to take advantage of the growing trend for a) small cars and b) edgily designed models. And this certainly doesn't look like your average Renault Modus - it's more of a Honda Element at the budget end of the market. There's only one spec of Materia on sale at £10,995, but you can order an auto gearbox for £800 more. We drove the manual - and you can click 'Next' to see if it's as good as it looks...

Good-looking, you say? Come on. Just look at that podgy derriere!

You're right, the Materia is an opinion divider. Slammed Californian mean machine, or squat and butch Postman Patmobile? You can make your own mind up on that one, but suffice to say we think it's a distinctive, daring alternative to its heartland rivals, the Renault Modus and Vauxhall Meriva. And one handy byproduct of those upright looks is a surprising amount of interior space. Even though the bluff aerodynamics do attract some surprisingly loud splatting from any unfortunate flies headbanging the near-vertical windscreen. You'll be filling up the screenwash a lot on this one...

How big is the small Materia inside?

This is one of the Materia's ace cards. It really is roomy in there, with plenty of room for four adults to sit in comfort on long journeys. There's a sliding and reclining rear bench, liberating limo-like legroom for back-seat passengers when slid fully back, although that will obviously pinch space from the boot. The bench is pushed fully forward - by 160mm - in this shot above, and the boot is minuscule when extended all the way back. But like other tallboy rivals, the Materia is big on space for heads and legs and arms; it's a very roomy car, and that will appeal to young families or city dwellers who need occasional space for extra passengers.

What's the Materia like to drive?

There's only one engine choice in the Materia, a 102bhp 1.5 petrol, the same unit you'll find under the bonnet of a Sirion. It's no fire cracker, but it's well mannered enough and its 97lb ft of twist keeps apace with buzzing town traffic. Venture out of its urban comfort zone and the Materia feels a little breathless, the four-pot humming loudly when revved. The ride is comfy enough around town, but you'll be jolted and thrown if you try and throw it around on your favourite B-road. But let's be realistic here; you're not going to buy this car for back-road thrills - it's a fashionable and functional city transport for those who want something different.

Ok, so the Materia's top speed is less important than its economy. Right?

You got it. Buyers in this class won't be fussed that the manual Materia takes a yawning 10.8sec to reach 62mph (a siesta-inducing 13.7sec in the auto) or tops out at 106mph (102mph). Far more important is a moderate thirst, averaging 39.2mpg on the combined cycle and 169g/km of CO2. Not especially good figures for a 3800mm long, 1035kg mini, but not terrible either. Daihatsu only expects to sell a few hundred every year, but admits it could expand sales easily by importing the cheaper, lower-equipped 1.3 if the Materia took off with UK buyers.

Verdict

So much of the Materia is exactly what you'd expect of a Daihatsu. Take the interior, for example. It smells, looks and feels like every other Daihatsu cockpit - slightly cheap finishes and a 1980s ambience, but with good, solid quality underneath. The dials are stacked in the middle and you get several design flourishes such as circular, piano-black speakers straight ahead of you, and electric-blue lighting effects on the door trims. All very space-age Japanese street culture style. And that, in a nutshell, defines the Materia. It's an oddball choice. But a rather refreshing change from the European norm. It's not quite cheap enough, or sharp enough to drive, to trouble the best-sellers over here, but it deserves to find a niche of its own. We rather like it...

Specs

Price when new: £10,995
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1495cc 4cyl, 102bhp @ 6000rpm, 97lb ft @ 4400rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual (four-speed auto optional)
Performance: 0-62mph in 10.6sec, 106mph, 39.2mpg
Weight / material: 1035kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3800/1690/1635

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  • Daihatsu Materia (2007) review

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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