The SUV segment of the new car market in South Africa is fiercely contested one, and you only have to peruse the pages of new car directory to notice that almost every manufacturer competes in this segment.
However owning a full bodied SUV is, for the most part the preserve of the well heeled and deep pocketed – aspired to by most, but affordable to few. The commanding driving position and flexible seating and loading arrangements found in an SUV are an attractive quality sought after by many and as such manufactures have responded by carving varying niches in the market to cater for this requirement. Think Crossover or the medium SUV like Nissan’s Qashqai, Hyundai’s iX35 or Kia’s Sportage.
However even these ‘affordable’ SUV’s are in almost all cases well over a quarter-of-a-million Rand most even closer to R350 000 and thus unaffordable to a large portion of the market.
Enter Daihatsu’s dinky mini-SUV, the Terios. Daihatsu are small car specialists and in the Terios’ case small is the central theme. Don’t be fooled though, as I soon found out, the Terios’ diminutive dimensions belie what is quite a large vehicle, at least by Daihatsu’s standards.
Although initially ambivalent to the Terios’ styling after a week with in my case the short wheelbase top spec 4×2 model supplied for testing, I grew quite fond of its chunky and cheeky styling. Those aspiring to larger SUV styling will not be disappointed, and the Terios has all those boxes checked. A squared off front bumper incorporating low level fog-lamps and featuring large swept back headlamps which extend into the middle of the front wheelarches, featuring smart alloy wheels wrapped in high profile rubber – perfectly suited for an off-road sojourn or a typically pock-marked South African B-road. Large side glass on all four doors and sleek wrap around glass seamlessly extends into the rear doors glass, very reminiscent of the Toyota Fortuner. Very useful is the side opening rear door, with requisite spare wheel attached which is far easier for accessing the rear load area than a more traditional hatchback style, top opening door. Roof rails and darkened rear glass round off what is quite a butch styling effort, yet not butch enough to ward off the fairer of the sex, judging by the number of women I see driving them.
Jump inside courtesy of central locking and you’re immediately greeted by more space than you would’ve thought. The Terios stands proudly at 1740mm tall, subsequently ingress is not a step-up and swivel affair and once seated the high roofline affords the occupants plenty of headroom.
Like the exterior, the interior features chunky and simple styling with all necessary controls housed in a central console, finished disappointingly in a rather tacky faux aluminium plastic which looked like it might scratch easily. Radio controls along with the climate control functions were simple and intuitive to use and the buttons easily distinguishable to their desired function. I’ll be honest I did feel a little claustrophobic seated in the Terios and felt closer to the front occupant than I’m used to, but I am larger than the average South African. Rear legroom is a adequate and the rear most load area is not by any means gargantuan, and with large families the Terios will be found wanting (the seven seater LWB will help here), smaller families however will be happy.
Daihatsu’s belief of ‘smaller is better’ extends to their choices of engines, and is one of few criticisms of the Terios. Under the bonnet you’ll find a minuscule 1.5 litre power plant which in all honesty not really up for the job, of hauling the relatively heavy Terios around. With its 4×4 biased running gear and suspension, the lack of power sees the driver having a pretty hectic driving routine, having to plan carefully and quite far in advance, accompanied a downshift or two, any overtaking manoeuvre. A small capacity diesel mill would be far more ‘up for the job’ in the Terios, and would provide that little extra grunt needed for a more relaxed driving experience.
The Terios’ high center of gravity narrow dimensions and forgiving 4×4 biased suspension set-up endowers the Terios with a large dose of body roll and ‘spongy’ feel, when pushing into a corner. This is of course when driven on tarred roads where the Terios will spend most of its life, however on dirt roads, and mild off-roading of say, a game reserve, the Terios will really come into its own with its decent ground clearance. Daihatsu do make provision for the wild at heart and offer proper 4×4 ability on a separate model in the range and I am led to believe that they will raise an eyebrow or two when taken off road.
Low-rent interior and underpowered engine aside, the Daihatsu Terios is capable family fetcher with chunky SUV looks and a flexible interior which looks well up for the job of catering to the hardships of baby and toddler mishaps. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the Terios’ starting price tag of R209 900 – considering the car you’re getting for your bucks – should be a bargain in anyone’s book.
Terios 4x2Manual – R204 995.00
Terios 4WD Manaul – R224 995.00
Terios 4WD Auto – R234 995.00
Terios 4WD ‘Off-Road’ – R249 995.00
Terios 4×2 Manual, 7 seater LWB – R219 995.00
Terios 4×2 Auto, 7 seater LWB – R229 995.00
Terios 4WD, Manaul, 5 seater LWB – R234 995.00
Terios 4WD Manual, 7 seater LWB – R239 995.00
Prices quoted here include hard spare wheel cover and 3 year/75 000km Service Plan
Thank you to Daihatsu SA for the use of their test unit.