The Daihatsu Charade is a super-mini car that was manufactured and sold by Daihatsu. It was introduced in 1977 and among the larger compact cars available from the Japanese carmaker, unlike smaller compacts like the Daihatsu Mira. It was designed as a replacement for the Consorte. The first generation was introduced in October 1977 as a front-wheel drive, five-door hatchback with a 993cc, 3-cylinder engine that delivered 37kW.
It turned out to be a surprise bestseller in the Japanese domestic market, prompting Daihatsu to release it in other markets as well. The Charade would be named the Japanese Car of the Year in 1979. By 1982, new models of the Charade were launched with square headlights (older models had round headlights).
Daihatsu introduced the next generation of the Charade in March 1983, but this time, it was available in three-door and five-door models. It got different variations of the same 1.0L, 3-cylinder engine that powered the first generation. The base models had naturally aspirated versions while higher-end models had turbocharged engines under their bonnet.
These models, called the Daihatsu Charade Turbo and DeTomaso, had engines with a small IHI turbocharger that increased power output to 50kW. Because of the small size of the turbocharger, there was no need to fit an intercooler. The second generation also got better and slightly stiffer suspension systems, thick anti-roll bars, and improved alloy wheels. The turbocharged models of the Daihatsu Charade were available in either body style.
The third-generation Daihatsu Charade was introduced five years later in 1987. The car was originally available with the same carburetted 1.0L engine or with a 1.3L 4-cylinder engine. For the first time, the car got a fully independent suspension in the front and rear. The body styles remained unchanged with customers being offered either three-door or five-door hatchbacks of the Daihatsu Charade. This particular generation was also larger than the previous two. The 1.0L engine would still be available locally, but it was discontinued in all other markets and replaced by the 1.3L engine. By 1994, a sedan version of the Daihatsu Charade was introduced with a brand new 1.5L engine and an optional 4WD.
The Charade went out of production during the late 1990s, but it would be resurrected in 2003 as a rebadged Daihatsu Mira. This time, it was put in a higher market segment than previous generations. This particular version came with a 1.0L, 4-cylinder engine, but it has since been discontinued, marking an end to the Charade.
Despite its size and rather strange name, the Daihatsu Charade is quite a competent car. Its 1.0L, 3-cylinder engine gels quite well with the light body, and it comes across as surprisingly responsive. The earlier engines were able to get about 72Nm of torque and 38kW of power. Post-2003 models with the 4-cylinder engines are even more competent, even with their 4-speed automatic transmissions. They boasted a significant improvement with 89Nm of torque and 40.5kW of power. These last models could easily reach cruising speeds on open roads. The early models, though, lag a bit in this department, especially with the base 1.0L engine.
From the second generation onwards, the Daihatsu Charade offers a progressively comfortable ride despite its light weight. It can be controlled with good accuracy, and the car does not fidget or lose balance on rough roads. Large road bumps are a problem for pre-2003 models, but none of the generations could go through severe potholes without a few jerks and bumps. In terms of speed and dynamism, the Daihatsu Charade delivers just as well as any other compact car of the same price and practicality. It handles well, but body lean occurs when pushed too hard around a corner. Models after 2003 got better Bridgestone tires for road grip, which does give a little more stability to the car.
Steering is one of the weak points of the Daihatsu Charade. Although the car is light and very easy to steer around the city and while parking, it lacks response and feels a little lifeless. Nevertheless, those who are looking at the Daihatsu Charade only for practicality would not be disappointed too much by this aspect. One of the strongest points of the car is its mileage. The engines are all very energetic and frugal at the same time. Post-2003 models can be expected to deliver a mileage rate of around 5L/100km.
Considering that the Daihatsu Charade was a low-budget small car for most of its life, it only makes sense that there was only some basic equipment available for the car. Older models lacked many safety features and equipment that are present in post-2003 models, like standard dual front airbags, side intrusion bars, and front seatbelt pretensioners. The steering column of the later models was designed to collapse in the event of a frontal crash to better protect front passengers. Customers also got self-locking doors that lock automatically when the car moves from a standstill and unlock in case of a crash, which also cuts off the fuel supply system.
Most Daihatsu Charade models received rear drum brakes, and for the most part, they work well because of the light weight and limited speed of the car. None of the models come with ABS standard or as an option. Towards the end of its run, the Charade added front guards, wiper pivots, and bonnet hinges that were designed for minimal pedestrian damage in a collision.
The Daihatsu Charade had little competition considering its size and price. However, post-2003 models competed with other compact cars like Daewoo Matiz, which had a similar look but slightly less torque at 68Nm. It also competed with the slightly larger Mitsubishi Mirage, Toyota Echo, and the likes, but these cars were costlier than the Daihatsu Charade.