Daihatsu Materia (2009 - 2011) review

By Andy Enright

Introduction

Until very recently, buying an MPV-style vehicle meant sacrificing any semblance of style. Sitting behind the wheel of a bloated testament to lost youth is never particularly appealing, so many manufacturers have thought of ways of making the experience a bit cooler. At the smaller end of the scale is Daihatsu's Materia, a car that shows it's hip to be square. Affordable when new and now extremely tempting as a used buy, here's what to look out for when shopping for one.

Models

5-door supermini MPV (1.5 petrol) Until very recently, buying an MPV-style vehicle meant sacrificing any semblance of style. Sitting behind the wheel of a bloated testament to lost youth is never particularly appealing, so many manufacturers have thought of ways of making the experience a bit cooler. At the smaller end of the scale is Daihatsu's Materia, a car that shows it's hip to be square. Affordable when new and now extremely tempting as a used buy, here's what to look out for when shopping for one.

History

The Materia was launched in the UK back in 2007 but already had some history behind it. It's the second generation of a vehicle that had been on sale in Japan badged as a Toyota and in the United States under Toyota's youth-orientated Scion brand. Daihatsu is a Toyota-owned company these days and the Japanese also have a Daihatsu-badged version but where we know ours as the Materia, they call theirs the Coo. Whatever you want to call it, there's no denying that the Materia was an unusual sight for UK eyes with nothing looking quite like it - at least nothing having made it over here through official channels. Nissan tried a toe in the water approach with its Cube but that failed strike a chord with British buyers. The Materia's crack at the British market was scuppered by exchange rates. When it was first imported, it carried a competitive asking price of under £11,000 but the change in the strength of the yen versus the pound and euro meant that by 2011, it was completely uneconomic to sell it in Europe at anything approaching a sensible price and still make a profit. Daihatsu pulled the plug on its entire range of cars, ostensibly giving a date of 31st January 2013 for its withdrawal, but with no new stock being imported, the Materia effectively ceased to exist as a new car at the start of 2011.

What You Get

Daihatsu claimed that the vehicle established a cult-following in the markets where it's offered for sale and it's easy to see how it did. The squared-off lines and dramatically flared wheelarches are extremely distinctive with the car maintaining a low, ground-hugging stance despite being taller than supermini MPV rivals like Vauxhall's Meriva and Renault's Modus. The squat look is further enhanced by the narrow glasshouse and the high window line that rises up towards the rear of the car. Recent Daihatsu products have ditched the traditional wafer thin plastics and cheap detailing of a budget Asian brand in favour of Toyota-sourced switchgear and sturdy build quality. The Materia continues the theme with a classy look and feel to its cabin which, incidentally, is as spacious as the boxy exterior would suggest. The rear bench slides fore or aft adjusting the ratio of rear legroom to boot space and at the back, the load floor is flush with the tailgate so hefty objects can be easily slid inside. Entries and exits are made simple by the deep door openings and there are some impressive detail touches about the cabin including the liquid black finish of the plastic stereo surround and the spooky blue illumination of the armrests in the front doors. There's only one factory option on the Materia (metallic paint for £325) but standard equipment levels leave very little to the imagination when you remember that we're talking about an £11,000 car. There's air-conditioning, a CD stereo with MP3 compatibility, remote central locking, a split folding rear seat, alloy wheels and front fog lamps. Safety kit includes twin front and side airbags as well as ABS with EBD.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

The Materia's mechanicals are largely sturdy and there have been few reported issues. Check that the automatic gearbox engages cleanly and will hold firmly when the car is in park. The rear seat folding mechanism has been known to get rather sticky, so check that these are still smooth. Locksmith's powdered graphite is the best thing to use to lubricate the mechanism. Inspect the wheels for kerbing and check for parking dints in the bodywork. Despite being a compact size, the high rear end of the Materia can make reverse parking a little hit experimental. All Materias were sold with a five year/unlimited mileage warranty, so there's no excuse for a vehicle to be in poor mechanical order.

Replacement Parts

(based on a 2008 Materia 1.5 excl VAT) A clutch assembly costs £130, while a complete exhaust system will see change from £180. A pair of front brake pads are just over £40 and a replacement headlamp around £95.

On the Road

Daihatsu's links to Toyota loom large yet again in the Materia's engine bay where you'll find the 1.5-litre variable valve timing petrol engine that's also seen service in the Toyota Yaris as well as Daihatsu's own Terios. The unit develops its maximum of 102bhp at 6,000rpm and peak torque of 131Nm at 4,400rpm. It all means that, in common with most variable valve timing petrol engines, the Materia's installation gives its best in the upper reaches of the rev-range. At lower engine speeds, expect good refinement and a smooth delivery of what power there is but no fireworks. The 0-60mph sprint will take 10.8s in the five-speed manual car or 13.7s if you opt for the four-speed automatic. Top speed a modest 106mph. The Materia's handling characteristics have been tweaked for European tastes with the addition of a front anti-roll bar that the Japanese market manages without and firmer springs and dampers. At the rear, there's a semi-independent torsion beam set-up and the steering is through a rack and pinion system with hydraulic assistance. The stubby nose helps deliver a tight 9.8m turning circle.

Overall

Just because the Daihatsu Materia wasn't for everyone, doesn't mean it won't be for you. It seemed to appeal to either very young families attracted by its sharp styling or very old buyers attracted to its value for money and ease of access. It was the big bit in the middle that the Materia seemed to miss out on, but there is a fairly healthy stock of used vehicles available and despite pulling out of the new car market, Daihatsu maintains that the supply of spares and after sales service will continue. Because Daihatsu in the UK is part of the IM Group, which also imports Subaru and Isuzu, we see no reason why that shouldn't be the case.