The not-too-tame Terios
The Daihatsu Terios isn’t renowned for bundu-bashing, but the new Off-Road version might just change that, says Jon Minster.
Daihatsu Terios 4x4 Off-Road
The new Daihatsu Terios doesn’t look anything like a Terios. By that I mean it doesn’t look like a Charade crossed with a Datsun bakkie.
This car has feline headlights and it bulges in places where other cars don’t even have places. It stands tall on alloy wheels and grins at you from behind a chrome nudge bar. I must have been asleep for the past couple of years, because the new-generation Terios has certainly grown up.
The marketing guys like to call this type of vehicle an SUV, which conjures images of suburban streets with clipped lawns and women in print dresses smiling at their children in the rear-view mirror. But that would be unfair to the Terios Off-Road. It looks more like a serious 4x4 than a people carrier.
What makes the Off-Road different?
The Off-Road is a normal short-wheelbase Terios that Daihatsu has modified for the South African market. It comes standard with a tow bar, chrome nudge bar, spotlights, step-up rails and a built-in Garmin GPS navigation system.
To improve off-road abilities, the Terios was lifted by 5 cm toa respectable 25,5 cm ground clearance; a stainless steel free-flow exhaust has been added to give the engine a pleasing purr (and add a few kilowatts of power); and the rear wheels have a limited slip differential (the 4x4 okes nod appreciatively).
What’s it like inside?
Simple and practical – this is a car that doesn’t mind getting dirty. Heavy-duty seat covers come standard on the front seats and the dash is dominated by a big touch-screen unit, which can play CDs, DVDs and the radio (duh) and is linked up to the Garmin GPS.
The Off-Road has five doors, which makes getting in and out of the back a breeze. And with the back seats folded down, you could easily transport enough camping paraphernalia for a week-long holiday for two.
What’s under the bonnet?
Not much choice here. The Off-Road comes with a 1.5-litre petrol engine that delivers 87 kW of power (with the pimped exhaust) and 150 Nm of torque. For the school lift club and for leisurely weekends on back roads the engine is perfectly adequate, but it struggles on the open road and I found myself having to rev it to the limit in fourth gear to squeeze past a truck on the N7.
But a frugal engine has its benefits in these cash-strapped times: Daihatsu claims fuel consumption of just over 8 ℓ/100 km – not bad for a petrol car.
Driver and passenger air bags, ABS, Isofix baby seat mounting points (Isofix is an international standard for these mounting points) and a system that cuts the fuel supply during a collision.
Does it live up to its name?
Most modern SUVs look like they can circumnavigate the Gobi Desert, but in reality they aren’t designed for anything more hectic than an average dirt road. Not so the Terios Off-Road. With permanent four-wheel-drive, two diff locks (a central one that can be turned on and off by pressing a button, and the automatic limited slip diff at the back) and no-nonsense suspension, the Terios is intended to leave the tar.
I tested its suspension on a rocky trail in the Cederberg, drove hundreds of kilometres of gravel road and then surfed through a series of inland dunes near Lambert’s Bay. Although I had to rev the engine hard in first gear, the Terios made it through unscathed. Obviously, low range would have made a huge difference, especially on steep, rocky sections and in very soft sand, but it’s comforting to know that the Terios Off-Road is capable of going just about anywhere.
The 1.5-litre engine is obviously a compromise between power and efficiency, but it occasionally feels too pap. A 2.0-litre petrol option would have been nice, or maybe a torquey diesel…
The best part?
The price. For R219 000 you get a capable, practical 4x4 that doesn’t guzzle fuel, with standard “extras” that would usually cost thousands more. You can travel all over South Africa in the Terios.
Which competitors should be worried?
If you want a bit more cabin luxury or a more powerful engine, have a look at the Honda
CR-V (starting price R286 000), the Toyota RAV4 (R283 000) or the Hyundai Tucson (R226 900).
But you’ll still have to add the cost of a GPS, a nudge bar, seat covers, off-road tyres, raised suspension…
Go! says: You don’t need a big 4x4 to go to Botswana and Namibia. Besides, vehicles like the Terios are economical and pleasant to drive in city traffic.
(Note: Prices accurate in November 2008)