The Applause was introduced by Japanese automaker Daihatsu. Japan’s oldest car manufacturing company, Daihatsu, launched the Applause in 1989. Searching for a replacement for the long-selling Charmant, Daihatsu looked for ways to innovate in the compact sedan market. What they found was released in the form of the Applause. While this car appears to be a normal four-door sedan, it is in fact a five-door hatchback, complete with a tailgate and a 412L trunk.
When it first debuted, the Applause made waves for its notable styling and layout. It was popular in both Japan and abroad when it first came out; however, declining sales due to its dated appearance and small size led to Daihatsu phasing out the Applause in the year 2000. The Applause was succeeded in the Daihatsu line-up by the Altis, basically a rebadged version of the Toyota Camry.
The inspiration for the unique five-door design came from a desire to capitalise on the popularity of sedans while still giving buyers the convenience offered by a five-door body. First shown at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show, the Applause generated considerable buzz; however, in its first year on the new car market, the Applause came under tough scrutiny. It was revealed after just weeks on offer that the Applause had a manufacturing defect whereby gasoline could squirt out of the vehicle when placed under high air pressure during refuelling. The press quickly seized on the Applause for being unsafe, and the Japanese automaker was faced with a serious marketing problem. Reacting quickly, Daihatsu fixed the issue for the 1990 model, and rebranded the car as the Applause Theta in order to distance itself from any bad press it may have accumulated in its first model year.
On offer for over a decade, the Applause stayed surprisingly consistent throughout its production run. A small facelift was given to the car in 1992, and the Theta was dropped from the name. Then, in September of 1997, reacting to growing complaints about the dated styling of their vehicles, Daihatsu gave the Applause a major facelift, re-launching the car at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Unfortunately, the revised look and feel of the car couldn’t help the slumping numbers, resulting in the Applause being phased out of production in the year 2000.
This particular Daihatsu is generally considered to be a reliable and sturdy vehicle. Easy to drive and great for fitting into tight parking spaces, the Applause won’t offer up any surprises to drivers. This FF layout car (front engine and front-wheel drive) is compact, offers good handling and basic kit, and can be found quite inexpensively on the used car market today.
The Applause never offered much in terms of power, but it always had the equipment to get the job done. For a time, the Applause was offered as a full-time AWD, however, that version was discontinued from production in 1994. Various models were offered with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 3- or 4-speed automatic version.
Throughout its run, the Applause featured a 1.6L Daihatsu straight four DOHC engine; however, various options were offered in terms of power and torque. For example, from 1992 to 1997, the Daihatsu was available with an output of 66kW and 123Nm, or 77kW of power and 134Nm of torque. Later, from 1997 to 2000, with the major facelift, the 1.6L engine was offered with an output of 73kW and 138Nm of torque as well as an increased compression ratio.
Because it was available in a wide variety of trims over the years (including XI, Executive, and RI Sports), kit varied greatly across Applause models. In general, expect Applause models to come standard with air-conditioning, power steering, radio cassette, cloth trim, power mirrors, and central locking.
Following a major overhaul in 1997, the Applause was given a more aerodynamic exterior, so models before that year tend to look a bit dated and boxy. These later versions are also slightly longer and larger than earlier models. All Applauses feature the hatchback fifth door that rises high above the car to provide increased interior space and flexibility for the owner.
The Daihatsu Applause faced plenty of competition in the compact sedan category. It was, however, one of the only cars available as a five-door hatchback, giving it an edge over some of its more traditional competitors. One of its main rivals was the Toyota Camry, always a big seller. Around the same time the first-generation Applauses were released, Toyota Australia released the first ever Camry manufactured outside of Japan. The base model of this particular Camry featured a 1.8L V4 engine with an output of 64kW. The Honda Accord was another competitor. Around the same time, the compact Honda was available in a number of different body configurations and engine options, including a 1.6L V4 base model with an output of 66kW and a 2.0L range topper with an output of 99kW.