2008 Daihatsu Materia 1.5 petrol from UK and Ireland


Well built, but the quirky styling distracts from a flawed package


Nothing - as I expected for Daihatsu.

General Comments:

Bought as a replacement for one of our 2008 Sirions; we kept the other one (see 2008 report/comments "Easily the...."). I will add to this report with various comments as the time passes, but for now a few observations.

We would never have bought one new; I looked at them when they were first launched and ended up buying a new Fiat Doblo (see 2007 report/comments "Dated, but..") instead as I thought the Materia was too thirsty and too expensive for what it was, and was not clever enough inside like the Nissan Note, for example.

My thought was that Daihatsu should have offered it with the 1.3 engine, ESP (fitted to Japan spec) and a sub-150g/km emission level at about £9000 new-not with the thirsty 1.5 unit and the high list price; that was a mistake.

We bought this one simply because it was so very cheap, plus we needed a larger car for the baby plus four adults and we are totally convinced by Daihatsu reliability and build quality after owning a Copen and two Sirions.

The deal was our 2008 Sirion 1.0S plus £1030, plus road tax of £170, so if you took the Glass' guide price for the Sirion as £5090, it cost us £6290 for an 11 month old 3,000 mile ex-demonstrator Materia from the main dealer with the five year warranty and breakdown cover transferred, metallic, protection pack and half a tank of fuel - very cheap indeed! At this price it is a good car, with an excellent warranty and superb equipment levels together with granite-hewn build quality and Japanese reliability.

It is a Marmite car and provokes very strong reactions from other people who either love it or laugh/shake their head at you - it is not a car for the shy! I like the sturdy looks and strong character of the car, and the sense of occasion you feel driving it, which is lost in other mainstream cars. When suggesting this as our next car, my wife stared at the brochure in disbelief, laughed nervously and said "are you JOKING?", but warmed to it in the flesh and liked the drive. She has total faith in the brand, like me, after our five star experience of Daihatsu so far, so when the low price came into the equation, thought it was a good purchase.

She now likes the car very much, and the mixed reactions of our peers have strengthened our liking of the quirkiness of it. Comments so far:

It looks like a dog with its nose pushed against a window...!

How cool is that? What is it?

Postman Pat's ride got Pimped...!

Did you import it? Never seen one - crazy!!

What in the name of GOD is THAT you are driving this time?

Is it an armoured car?

Well, erm, it's, er, very, erm, quirky. Nice day isn't it?

I think controversial best sums it up - I love the style, but I love many strange things and prefer not to blend in, therefore I enjoy the drama of it. My wife found the wild staring of passers-by unnerving for a while, but has got used to it now.

The styling is the most obvious thing about the car and hides a fairly sensible, simple Japanese car based on the Sirion, with a fairly bland interior and no hot technology or leaps forward in anything, really. I feel the interior was a lost opportunity as apart from a sliding rear seat there is no MPV cleverness - no underseat drawers, no front Isofix, no centre armrests, no overhead shelf in the front, only one seatback pocket, poor cupholders (all 8 are not deep enough!) and so on-plus the black interior, fabrics, plastics and headlining coupled with the standard privacy glass makes it a very dark place to be.

Compared to my 2008 Sirion, it loses the fuel computer (probably due to high consumption) the clarity of sound of the stereo, plus the mute button, it has a smaller boot than the Sirion with the rear seat slid back and a ridiculous rear fabric parcel shelf, which is far too low, does not rise and clips into (or out of, frequently) the rear headrests - it is the worst thing on the car. The seats are not as comfortable or well shaped as the Sirion either, and the drivers seat is already mis-shapen after 6,000 miles.

The kit level is high, though, with four electric windows, electric mirrors (no heated mirrors or blindspot curve), a six speaker 180 watt stereo (disappointing sound clarity whatever setting used), reversing sensors, very nice aluminium wheels, front fogs etc.

The centrally located speedo is a gimmick and has an annoying oversight - the trip reset button is NOT the button under the trip display - that one resets the clock - it is the one on the opposite side of the console, bizarrely and results in me resetting the clock by accident frequently... Why no mpg display?

The stereo looks good, especially with the blue ILLUM button depressed so the front speakers and door handles light up blue, however the blue light is distracting when you brake and move your leg off the speaker making the cabin light up on a dark road. I am disappointed with the stereo sound, which cannot hold a candle to my base Sirion's two speaker set up, even if you can get more bass. Whatever setting/ graphic preset or manual adjustment of sound/loud/treble/bass/fade I use, it is not a satisfying sound - not enough clarity or punch and the volume button is too slow geared with over 50 volume levels, which means about three full turns from quiet to loud. No remote or steering wheel controls either.

I will add more later, but driving it is reasonable apart from the very close ratio, low geared gearbox, which is awful - fifth is like normal third and gets very tiring on 60mph+ roads, plus fourth and fifth are virtually identical and I always seem to be in the wrong gear in it - unlike the Sirion which has an excellent set of ratios. The auto we drove on demo had a higher top gear, but a ponderous change and horrific economy, but the manual is hard work.

Handling is startling in the way that it corners very well indeed and sits down hard into a tight bend or island, rather than leaning as you would expect a tall, square car to do, and it corners very well indeed - the most surprising aspect of the car to date. The trade off is a very hard, bumpy ride, which is tiring and makes no sense in this type of car.

It suits smooth twisty B roads best as the engine revs eagerly and the car loves being flung at bends, with great brakes and good grip. The low gearbox ratios give it surprising acceleration, and I am amazed by the capability on these roads. The brakes are sensitive and the gear ratios odd, so town driving it's not so good, and anything over 60mph makes me long for my Sirion, due to the Materia's wind noise, road noise, high revs, me constantly trying to change up to a non-existent higher gear, then sighing plus the high consumption and flat seats.

I am reading my report back and it appears negative - I suppose the many flaws of the design are hard to live with, namely:

Rear shelf, gearbox ratios, fuel consumption of 30ish mpg, tiny boot (low boot height is biggest issue here-the pushchair drops into Sirion and JUST scrapes into Materia), lack of cleverness in the interior, lack of interior flair to match exterior, all pervading cave-like darkness inside and the feeling that design opportunities have been missed throughout, along with the mismatch of certain parts - why a revvy 1.5 engine with low ratios, plus hard suspension in a car better suited to cruising than thrashing?

On the plus side, it is very spacious inside, all doors open to nearly 90 degrees and door apertures are large so easy to put baby seat in, rear legroom is staggering as a six footer can lock their knees straight in a car shorter than a three door Clio, it handles very tidily, build quality is excellent, the exterior lights are well crafted and look great along with the lovely grooved alumininum wheels, great warranty and breakdown package, will be reliable too.

We've not had it very long, yet already I like and cope with it in equal measure. The sad fact is that it is not nearly as well thought out or as well developed as the Sirion. It feels like they designed the outside first, then used in whatever Sirion parts they could fit to make it run, then rushed the rest of it to make it available before the design went stale.

Whereas all the parts in the 1.0 Sirion come together like an orchestra and work in harmony; the engine is outstanding with perfect gear ratios and offers instant acceleration coupled with huge economy, the interior is cleverer - eg rear seat bases, stereo is superb and instruments first class - the Sirion feels thoroughly tested and shaken down; the Materia feels like a prototype with mismatched parts - or five youth orchestras tuning up at the same time... The Sirion thrashes, scratches and cruises equally well and caters for all driving needs, the Materia has odd bits that would work well in isolation or in another car, but do not mesh well with each other in this model.

We paid £6290 for our Materia, which is under a year old with over four years warranty and breakdown remaining, air-con, reversing sensors, ISOFIX etc - at this price it is a good car, but the new price is truly ridiculous and I could not recommend it due to the competition being much better. I have seen new Materias at £8495; I would buy something else even at this price, as the 30mpg and 9,000 mile service intervals, plus huge depreciation, will catch up with you quickly.

If you need to carry four large adults and love the styling of the car, and never go long distance or use the motorway, buy one if the deal is right, otherwise look elsewhere; the boot is too small, the ride/gearbox/revvy engine/wind noise/flat seats are tiring and there are just too many compromises.

Even as a Daihatsu fan, I cannot recommend it and prefer the Sirion over the Materia. It may come as surprise, but there is very little difference in size between them (the Sirion has a bigger boot!) and the minute difference in cabin space is outweighed by the poor driving experience and much higher running costs.

Even the 1.0 Sirion is a pleasure to drive 500+ miles comfortably in one day, but the fact is that I want to get out of the Materia after about 50 miles and have a break from it.

The two cars sit side by side on the drive - the Sirion is for work use and the Materia was meant for family use, however, I rarely use the Materia unless we all go out together as it seems daft to use nearly double the fuel using a car I don't enjoy driving nearly half as much.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 14th January, 2009

17th Jan 2009, 11:41

Interesting and informative review, Geoff - well up to your usual standard!

Although the gearing of the autobox obviously improves the drive, I don't think I'll be trying one.

Apart from the looks, which I'm afraid are just a bit too far out for an old duffer like me, you've highlighted too many other compromises.

I'm currently looking for a Sirion replacement though. Have tried the new auto Jazz (just reviewed) but wasn't impressed unfortunately. Have yet to drive the facelifted Note, which is in the showrooms (spacey and comfortable although dismal cabin) but no-one has a demo!

Cheers - Peter.