The SUV market has been one of the fastest growing segments over the past few years with most mainstream manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon to offer their customers some crossover-utility type vehicle of different shapes and sizes. Although the Terios should be an expert in this market due to its longevity, there`s no doubt the competition is tough.
The second generation Terios though has seen a big improvement in the style department compared to its pioneering father. It must?ve been difficult to give such a small SUV rugged looks, but with the big wheel arches, chunky proportions and large sparewheel cover on the rear door you won?t mistake it for a city slicker. With the nose section conjuring up images of a cute puppy and the rear closely resembling a RAV4, the design is simple and easy on the eye. Other details include indicators built into the wing mirrors, roof rails and a rear spoiler which seems a bit unnecessary. So the overall design won?t win any art prizes, and also won?t hurt your eyes, but compared to the competition it looks a bit ?last season?.
Speaking of last season, the interior of the Terios takes you back to a more innocent period when terrorists were only seen in Rambo movies. Yes, the cabin might outlast a nuclear attack, but quality is disappointing. The plastics are hard and cheap, while the graphics of the trip computer, radio and clock are outclassed by modern stopwatches. The dashboard controls are easy to read and use (there are only a couple) and you do get radio controls on the steering wheel, but you do feel that Daihatsu could?ve invested more into the cabin. One could argue that their main markets for the Terios are developing countries where expectations of quality might not be that high, but one would expect better from a company owned by Toyota. They should watch out or the Chinese will give them a run for their money in the quality stakes. The budget was obviously tight, but then you should rather stay away from badly faked aluminium and chrome. While we were fiddling around the cabin the ashtray just fell out! Unacceptable ?
In terms of storage space you get storage for sunglasses, cupholders in the doors (front and rear), but the glovebox is on the small side, and there is no covered centre console. Legroom for the second row of seats is not bad, but you?d have to be the child of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to fit into the third row of seats. With these seats down you only have 200 litres of storage in the rear, but with the bench folded forward it increases to a more acceptable 700 litres. It?s a pity you can?t remove the third row of seats without a set of spanners. On the bright side you do get air conditioning, electrically adjustable wing mirrors, electric windows front and rear, and good visibility thanks to the high seating position. What would?ve been nice is a footrest or just some space to put your left foot while driving, and auto-locking doors. With so many cars having auto-locking doors you sometimes forget to check whether the doors are locked.
The Terios is only available in a rev-happy 1.5 litre petrol engine using VVT technology. This delivers 107bhp at an ear popping 6000rpm and 140Nm at 4400rpm. It is common for normally aspirated petrol engines to deliver maximum power at high revs, but there is almost no insulation to speak of, so the buzzing of the eggbeater enters your brain the moment you go over 3000rpm. And to maintain proper momentum you have to keep it on the wrong side of 4000rpm.
In town one can still short shift the Terios to keep noise levels down, but on the open road the engine will scream for mercy at 4500rpm when you?re doing 75mph and shout at an even higher pitch at 5000rpm when doing 90mph. They should throw in a set of earplugs to protect you from this irritable noise. If Daihatsu swears by this engine they should consider using a six speed gearbox to reduce revs at higher speeds, but a diesel engine would suit this car much better as it will have more torque and a wider spread of power across the rev range.
While on the noise topic, the gearbox whine is also noticeable during acceleration (a high pitched whine) and deceleration (a lower pitched whine). I remember this sound from Datsun?s of the early eighties and never thought I would hear that sound from a ?modern? car. The Terios actually doesn?t pull that badly, but runs out of steam the moment you show it a hill, so it will definitely struggle with a full load. Gear changes are fairly smooth and the clutch is conveniently light for town driving, but the accelerator is a tad sensitive. The small engine does however get affected by the aircon, as you can feel the drop in power when the aircon is in use. Claimed fuel consumption is 38.2mpg, but with maximum torque only available at high revs you?ll find it difficult to match this figure.
The ride of the Terios is a different story. It is so bouncy over the bumps that you feel like one of those nodding dogs which you find in the rear window of some cars. Over bad bumps the Terios gets bounced off line, and can be quite dangerous if you?re not concentrating. Strong winds can also push the little Terios around, so it?s best advised to keep both hands on the steering wheel in these situations. Head for a corner and you can prepare yourself for a handful of understeer and boat-like bodyroll. So don?t be brave, keep it slow and steady in the corners. What makes it more challenging is the lack of feel from the steering. It really makes you uncomfortable not having an idea which way the wheels are pointing and how much grip is available. The steering circle is nice and tight for parking, but requires 3.75 turns lock-to-lock, so it gives your arms a good workout in town. Safety features include ABS with EBD and airbags for driver and front passenger.
Where this Terios makes most sense is out on a two-track farm road where you will trundle around at 20mph enjoying the sights and sounds of the country side. This is basic motoring almost exclusively for town and farmroad use, but not very well executed. Its shortcomings are very clear once you hit the motorway or sweeping corners. The seven seater Terios doesn?t have any natural competitors. The Suzuki Jimny is a closer match for the five seater Terios, while the Suzuki Grand Vitara (only five seats) comes with bigger engines and a higher spec. You might also consider the Skoda Yeti or Suzuki SX4, but they don?t offer the good ride height and number of seats of the Terios, while the Nissan Qashqai +2 is in a totally different class in terms of quality and price.
If you can?t see yourself buying anything else, you?d be better off buying the 4×4 version (which comes with an electronic centre diff lock) as it will allow you to drive on rough or muddy roads with more confidence. Unfortunately Daihatsu announced that it is pulling out of Europe in 2013, and no new stock will be imported into the UK until then, so you?ll have to find a second hand one. This second generation Terios is five years old, and is falling behind in terms of interior quality, noise levels and chassis setup. A replacement can?t come soon enough.