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Web Spin: Daihatsu Terios DX manual. 


Terios To Adventure


When a timid Daihatsu Australia launched their new baby 4WD to a gathering of jaded motoring journos at a glitzy Gold Coast venue, they unveiled their idea of a sexy urban runabout for trendy young with-its.  

Not swayed by the dancing girls and flashy stage show, Rod Eime, like most of the critical gathering, said "bullshit!" 

Now, I've driven a few of Daihatsu's little cars and 4WDs recently, including the Feroza and Rocky, and some things are to be counted on. They are almost always well designed and built, incredibly economical, reliable and usually quite "zippy". 

Just why the brand is in a doozy of a sales slump, only Daihatsu Australia knows. So a certain amount of hope is pinned on this pint-sized jigger to get them back on the map. 

We've all seen The Avengers' Emma Peel look-a-like escape her Clockwork Orange captors in Terios's curious TV adaptation. Well, that just irked us over the edge. Time to put it to a real test! 

Our annual Malalla sortie is a traditional 4WD test drive for The Motor Web, and this was to be no exception. Like a minor military operation, maps, jerry cans, survival gear, GPS and two-ways were all packed for the desert crossing. 

Loading the vehicle became a precision exercise in itself. Even with the rear passenger seats folded, there's no room for the inefficient traveller. Although, with some care, we did get all our gear in without over-stressing its stated 540 litre capacity. 

The westward leg comprised mainly highway and by-way touring where tiny "Teri" was run out on long stretches of back road. It became clear straight away that the 61kW 1.3 SOHC engine was going to have a very busy 3000 kilometre trip buzzing to 4200rpm at just 110 km/h. Although, it should be noted that high revving powerplants are a Daihatsu trait. 

That considered, we still did better than 8.0 litres/100km quite easily. Yet, despite its frugality, range from the little 46 litre, city-sized tank was always going to be limited, typically less than 500 km. 

Now, my passenger and I are only averaged sized blokes and we completely filled the front passenger space, often finding we were rubbing shoulders in the twisty bits. If you're over 180cm and any more than about 85 kg, this is not the car for you. Perhaps this enforced intimacy is a selling point for the young, wild hormone set? 

On the return journey we introduced the Terios to a little bit of Australia's great outback. Just out of Pinnaroo, we headed south east, crossing the border some 10 km south of the highway, then east to link up with the Murrayville-Nhill track. We swept south, down the wide graded corridor that splits the Big Desert and Wyperfeld National parks, the Terios flinching briefly in the numerous sandy bogs, but otherwise was quite happy to scoot along at around 100 km/h.

Just past the oddly named Moonlight Tank, there's an easterly deviation that would normally go unnoticed if you weren't on the lookout. Here the going gets considerably tougher, with the deep ruts in the narrow grassy track obviously made by a vehicle with considerably wider track than ours. We're obligued to run with one wheel on the centre, the other on the verge in order to avoid scraping the undertray. This is slow going. 

It's here we start to highlight some of the compromises built in to satisfy the perceived urban market. Springs and shocks would need to be tightened if the Terios was going to take on regular off-road duties. Although quite good for most circumstances, the bumpy track and a fullish load alerted us to the minimal suspension travel. 

Further in, the track wound around low scrubby dunes with deep dry sand in many locations. A potential hazard for many larger, heavier 4WDs, the flyweight Terios, with its ultra low (4.06) first gear and centre diff. lock, ripped through the bunkers with just the standard road tyres. 

The rest of the leg was uneventful, albeit slow, taking the entire morning to get from Murrayville to Lake Albacutya. We did stop, however, at the landmark Milmed Rock and sign the guestbook initiated by Eddie Perkins (yes, Larry's dad) in 1970. 

All up, the Terios turned out to be a far more capable off-road vehicle than even its distributors would appear to believe. Its full-time, all wheel drive format makes it a very safe and practical machine, although there are areas that could be better. It was fun and nimble despite being under-powered and could carry two people and their luggage with comfort. 


  • Economical. 
  • Well balanced with good handling. 
  • Lightweight. (Kerb weight: 1035kg) 
  • Fair luggage space for two people. 
  • Capable 4WD ability within limits. 


  • Underpowered. (61 kW @ 6100) 
  • Could use slightly higher top gear. 
  • Passenger area not adequate for larger persons. 
  • No left footrest, nor room for one. (manual) 
  • Short range. 
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