The Daihatsu Sirion's specs on paper are less than impressive - 40.5kW @ 5200rpm / 88Nm @ 3600rpm however with fuel prices being $1.30 - $1.40 in Sydney I thought I should at least give one a test drive. I ended up buying a manual Sirion with 112000 km for $4500 Australian dollars.
I was pleasantly surprised. Although only 1.0 litre it has has EFI and DOHC and since it does not have that much to carry it easily holds it's own in traffic. Even with 4 adults in the car it is difficult to see any difference in performance compared to driving alone. Low range torque however is lacking - starting on very steep hills was unnerving when I first bought it, but some nighttime practice has made it easy enough now. But generally it is quick and goes hard - it almost keeps up with my brother's '91 automatic 3rd gen Prelude.
I am 185cm (6ft) tall guy and find headroom to be fine, though anyone taller may find legroom lacking. I comfortably drive with the driver's seat pushed half way towards the back, though my left thigh touches the steering wheel slightly when bringing the clutch to its fairly high friction point. Doesn't bother me as most of the cars I've driven have been on the smaller side.
Cabin comfort is nice - comfy seats, lots of velour, and feels secure. The ride can be bumpy on rough roads, which you expect from a small car.
Power steering is an option on this car and mine doesn't have it. Bit of a shock moving from the Prelude's power assisted 4 wheel steer to the Sirion, however I'm either used to it or my arms have become stronger :) Being a light car it makes no difference at over 20kph - it actually feels really nimble, but when taking a roundabout slowly or when parking you're going to use your arms more than with power steering.
The stock sound system is terrible - two poor quality speakers in the front and a tape deck, but at that price it is to be expected. I have had a pioneer head unit, 6.5" split speakers installed in the front and 6.5" speakers installed on the top of the boot behind the rear seats - no problems at all and it sounds fantastic.
Fuel efficiency is one major reason to go for this car - a full tank is 30 litres and I've been getting 500km per tank, that's city driving with no motorways etc, and I don't exactly drive gently.
Not many cars in this market segment have 4 doors, nor do they have decent crash ratings from the NRMA (the motoring association in NSW). The Sirion has both, and has dual air bags.
Stock theft protection is non-existent - not even an immobiliser. I've had an immobiliser and alarm package and remote central locking installed for $470.
Basically I love this car - it's fun to drive and amazingly cheap to run and aren't expensive to purchase. But no power steering or air con on some models (like mine) may take getting used to for some people - try before you buy is the best advice.