BY STEVE WALKER
Not all 4x4s are gigantic gas-guzzling road hogs crushing family pets beneath their chunky oversize tyres and accelerating the planet towards a dust bowl future with every revolution of their thunderous engines. The Daihatsu Terios, for example, is actually quite cute. 4x4s often get a bad press but you can't group them all together under one banner, accusing them en masse of environmental assault. Daihatsu's Terios is a compact 4x4 that can hold its own off road and is powered by a modest 1.5-litre petrol engine, it's hardly public enemy number one.
Models Covered: 5dr 4x4, 1.5 petrol [S, SX, SE]
The Terios used to be an absolutely dinky thing, the kind of miniature 4x4 that looks like it should come with pedals rather than a petrol engine. The model we're concentrating on here is the Mk2 version which is far more substantial but still resides at the more compact end of the compact 4x4 market. Daihatsu's link-up with Toyota in 1999 has yielded substantial dividends for the marque and one of the most significant boons was Toyota's donation of the platform from its Mk2 RAV4 to form the underpinnings of the Mk2 Terios. The little Daihatsu seems to go up in people's estimation when they realise that there are Toyota mechanicals whirring away under the surface and there's no reason why it shouldn't. This Terios hit the streets early in 2006 with a limited model range comprised of three trim levels and a single engine. Buyers could choose from S, SX and SE derivatives. An automatic gearbox arrived later and became the sole transmission available with the range-topping SE trim.
What You Get
Fully 142mm longer than the original Terios and wider too, this model creates opportunities that Daihatsu were completely unable to pursue with the first generation car, offering space for young families and enough style to suit twenty and thirtysomethings looking for a leisure-oriented vehicle. The interior is clean and unfussy with materials quality that's a long way removed from the old Terios and the cowled instrument panel is a very nice touch. If you're familiar with the Toyota RAV4 donor car, you'll have a sense of dej vu in here.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The lack of a diesel engine limited its sales potential and meant that few buyers chose the Terios for the towing and off-roading duties that some compact 4x4s are purchased for. Most Terios models have had a reasonably easy time of it as a result and the reliable Toyota-sourced underpinnings shouldn't give much trouble. Should the previous keeper have decided that off-roading a Terios seemed a good idea, then do check the underbody for signs of damage. Concentrate on the suspension, exhaust and chassis, and make sure the steering and differential are still serviceable. Otherwise, the usual reminder to obtain a service history applies.
(Estimated prices) A clutch assembly is around £240, a full exhaust system around £800 (with the catalyst), front brake pads are around £45 and rear brake shoes are around £40. A radiator is about £240, an alternator around £180 and a starter motor about £195.
On the Road
To extract the maximum performance figures for the 0-60mph sprint and the 103mph top speed, gears need to be held as the 1.5-litre engine produces maximum power at 6,000rpm. The engine's high-revving characteristics mean you can drive in a sedate manner for improved fuel economy or press on a little harder when you feel like it. Fuel economy of 40.4mpg is possible on long motorway trips if you're reasonably prudent with the right pedal in the manual model, while the automatic gearbox is slightly thirstier with a 39.8mpg extra urban average. This isn't bad considering the hefty 4x4 transmission the Terios is lugging around and the less than ideal aerodynamics produced by the slab-fronted off-roader shape. The engine is quite flexible for stop start urban motoring with a smooth power delivery and maximum torque of 140Nm at 4,400rpm. Large 4x4s with real off road prowess tend to ride and corner like the QE2 on choppy seas but the bouncy suspension and high riding chassis enable them to cope with the big knocks that off road vehicles are required to take. The Terios is much smaller and nimbler on the road with ride and handling impressively car-like. Body roll in the bends has been successfully curbed and on the flat, you shouldn't be reaching for the travel sickness pills. It's one of the few 4x4s that you'd take for a drive on tarmac just for the fun of it. The penalty for all that nimble handling is off road ability that's decidedly modest. With a mere 17cm of ground clearance, the Terios isn't the ideal tool to take out into the wilds, but wheel articulation is surprisingly good and although the little Daihatsu will adopt some rather dramatic angles of lean through a gnarly off road test course, it'll manage to keep its belly from scraping too badly. Compared to a big Volvo XC90, the Terios is a good deal more useful in the mud. If you can keep the Terios on smooth surfaces, it'll do surprisingly well, although tyre choice is obviously very important, but without a dedicated low range or hill descent system, really hilly terrain is beyond its scope. The short front and rear overhangs allow good manoeuvrability although the exhaust system is rather vulnerable when the modest ground clearance is exhausted. Still, the Terios usually feels composed and the steering is a good deal quicker when you need to flick it from lock to lock in a bid to help front wheel grip.
The Daihatsu Terios isn't the most obvious of compact 4x4 choices but its compact shape and good ability both on and off-road make it a desirable option. It's certainly not a gas guzzler and if you like the look of 4x4s but don't want to be plagued by environmentalist do-gooders telling you what you should be driving, the Terios is a good compromise.