THIS was the second of Daihatsu’s Sirion range to be introduced into South Africa, the first having been on sale from 1998 and having totally different styling that most would agree was rather ugly. In 2005 the funky new range arrived with just two offerings, a base model and a Sport version. The Sport boasted a sportier front bumper and headlamps, front foglamps, side stone guards, a rear spoiler and chrome interior door handles over the base model, which added around R10 000 to the basic price of near-on R100 000.
Initially only one engine was available, with outputs from the 1,3-litre, d-o-h-c, four valves per cylinder unit quoted as 64 kW at 6 000 r/min with 120 N.m of torque at 3 200 r/min. Gearboxes were five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The basic specification offered an impressive array of standard features including ABS, dual airbags, air-conditioning, electric windows, mirrors and a factory- fitted audio system. The interior is classy with a touch of sportiness in that the rev counter sits in its own pod on the facia.
In October 2007 the now well-known 1,5-litre engine was fitted to the Sport version, providing peak outputs of 76 kW at 6 000 r/min and 132 N.m of torque at 4 400 r/min. The price of a new Sport in 2007 was a few rands under R120 000, with the automatic R9 000 more. Boot size allows for 192 dm³ of luggage and a decent utility volume of 1 000 dm³ with the rear seat folded. Unusual at this price level was the inclusion of a two-year service plan.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
A few owners reported that their cars were rather easy to stall but there were no other issues. Of particular note is the fact that these units have chain-driven cams and not the more common but less robust belts, so there’s no need to panic about being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a ruined engine.
One owner experienced poor gear selection, so the clutch was replaced under warranty. This improved matters, but first and reverse remained sticky. A gearbox bush fault was reported and another had a noisy clutch cable. Another clutch failed at 55 000 km, but this seemed to be linked to an oil leak from the gearbox.
SUSPENSION, BRAKES AND WHEELS
One owner reported receiving second-hand rims on a brand new car and having to fight with the dealer to sort out the matter. Otherwise moans were restricted to the very common squeaks from front brake discs. These are difficult to eradicate on many cars. Sometimes a copper-slip compound on the metal-to-metal surfaces behind the pads helps, otherwise new pads do the trick. Sometimes the discs themselves are badly worn and require replacement.
A knocking noise in the steering rack worried one owner, while another reported rattling noises from the front which persisted through the first two services. Then the steering rack was replaced just before the warranty expired. After further complaints about the steering, the column was declared faulty and replacement was advised at a cost of over R30 000 for the owners account! Another owner noticed a handling problem at only 7 000 km. Diagnosis was the steering rack, which was fixed, but after covering a similar mileage the same fault recurred. The owner was worried that, after the warranty expired, he would have to fund any future repairs (about R7 000 on each occasion).
A case of misfiring on long trips was noted and an EFI fuse blew fi ve times on another car. The fuel injection relay was said to be getting very hot, so this was possibly a high current flow fault.
Many praised the interior space as being better than that of close rivals. One indicator stalk failed. A few problems were experienced with sound systems, including faulty speakers.
One owner thought that the air-con was not strong enough, but this appears to be a report from a very hot area. Another had rattles emanating from the rear doors. There were couple of gripes about the heating system not being up to standard.
There was a complaint about easily chipped paintwork and fading interior brightwork. Another owner noted that the indicator lamps had fogged-up with condensation.
Back in 2006 we pitted seven cars costing under R100 000 against each other – these being the Sirion, Fiat Panda, Ford Ka, Proton Savvy, Kia Picanto, Renault Clio and Toyota Yaris. To quote the bottom line: “the Sirion comfortably wins this shoot-out”. There is much more competition these days, which is good for motorists but does make a choice more difficult. Some owners did complain about dealer service and parts prices but there seemed to be fewer than is usual with these surveys.
Still a good buy brand new today, this spirited Japanese represents a solid purchase with some owners reporting no problems at all over the years.