Daihatsu’s striking new – and considerably larger – Terios 4×4 sport utility goes on sale in early May, heralding an exciting new direction for the Japanese compact car specialist.

The Terios follows on from last year’s new Sirion in offering a strong European flavour to its styling, packaging and dynamics. As a result, Daihatsu aims to boost European sales from the 32,000 of 2003 to 80,000 in 2008. And so confident is parent company, Toyota, of the new Terios’s appeal that it plans to sell 1,500 per month of its version in Japan, badged ‘Rush’. The home-market Daihatsu equivalent is named ‘Be-go’ with a monthly goal of 500 units.

Traditionally its best seller, Daihatsu expects the new Terios to regain this position although there are already worldwide supply constraints due to its success in Japan.

The new Terios UK line-up will comprise the Terios 1.5 S – initially available in Black Mica only at £12,995 on-the-road, the higher-spec 1.5 SX at £14,295 OTR – expected to be the best-seller – and the 1.5 SE automatic at £14,995 OTR.

The latter two models are offered in Black Mica, Blue Mica, Grey Metallic, Silver Metallic or Red with these colours becoming available on the Terios 1.5 S from August.

A low insurance rating of Group 7D for the Terios 1.5 S and 8D for the SX and SE will further add to its appeal.

Arguably the most stylish small 4×4 on the market, the totally new Terios has a dynamic, fun-to-drive appearance with strong off-road styling cues yet short front and rear overhangs, a long wheelbase and especially wide tracks and body width.

Its roomy, four-door, five-seat body succeeds in being compact yet practical, avoiding the bulk, high fuel consumption and negative image of some 4x4s.

Designed to appeal to young families and older people seeking the traditional 4×4 qualities of visibility, bad-weather traction and versatility, the new Terios also offers small car running costs and manoeuvrability.

Its turning circle is a tight 9.8 metres (kerb-to-kerb) for the S and SE and a still hatchback-like 10 metres for the bigger-tyred SX while the SX body length is between that of the new Renault Clio and larger Megane.

Compared to the previous model, the new Terios 1.5 SX is 230 mm longer at 4,075 mm and a significant 190 mm wider at 1,745 mm. It is 45 mm higher but purely because of its standard roof rails. The entry-level ‘S’ model – which lacks roof rails – is actually 5 mm lower than before.

Greatly boosting the new Terios’s tough, stable stance are front and rear tracks measuring 1,450 and 1,480 mm respectively – a massive 145 and 170 mm greater than before. Meanwhile, the wheelbase – at 2,580 mm – grows by 180 mm.

Complementing this are especially large 16 ins wheels for all models with either 215/65R tyres for the entry-level Terios 1.5 S manual and higher-spec SE automatic or beefy 235/60R tyres for the manual SX.

The versatile interior offers mid-sized hatchback passenger space with a clever split fold-and-tumble rear seat which liberates a 1,290 mm maximum floor length – long enough to take a mountain bike.

Even with the rear seat in use the 380 litre capacity boot is capable of taking four 45" golf bags, four vertically-stacked mid-sized suitcases or a typical baby buggy. Most models also have load-floor securing hooks.

Typical of Daihatsu’s attention to detail in order to make the new Terios practical to own is the floor design.

This features a small drop between the carpet and sills, making it easier to brush out dirt during cleaning. The sills themselves are wide, reducing the risk of sandals or high-heeled shoes from getting caught when entering or exiting the car.

Another common-sense idea is the rear passenger door hinges which open in increments of 41, 60 and 77 degrees. This allows people to get in and out more easily, especially in tight spaces or when holding a child.

The luggage compartment floor height is 640 mm which – helped by the wide-opening side-hinged door, allows luggage to be loaded and unloaded without having to bend the knees or waist.

Based on the Sirion’s 1.3 litre DOHC 16-valve petrol engine, the new Terios has a larger 1.5 litre capacity, producing 105 PS at 6,000 rpm and a flexible 103 lb. ft of torque at 4,400 rpm.

Its standard Dynamic Variable Valve Timing (DVVT) enhances low-speed pulling power and high rev throttle response by maximising combustion efficiency. It also boosts fuel economy and lowers exhaust emissions.

The new Terios’s engine – with the same 72 mm bore as the 1.3 litre but a longer 91.8 mm stroke – is both lively and flexible, requiring fewer gear-changes to make sprightly progress.

For example, its torque curve is virtually flat between 3,200 and 4,000 rpm – the most frequently used rev-range in normal driving.

Top speed for manual models is almost 100 mph and over 93 mph for the automatic, while the 0-60 mph times are 12 seconds for the Terios 1.5 S, 12.2 seconds for the 1.5 SX and 13.6 seconds for the automatic 1.5 SE.

The Terios 1.5 S manual records 29.1/40.4 and 35.8 mpg on the Urban/Extra Urban and Combined Cycles.

Not far behind is the Terios 1.5 SE automatic at 26.6/39.8 and 33.6 mpg on the Urban/Extra Urban and Combined Cycles.

Both manual and automatic models have a low CO2 reading of 186 g/km and 196 g/km respectively.

In fact, the Terios 1.5 S has the best CO2 reading of any four-door 4×4 – diesel included – and comfortably beats rivals such as the Suzuki Grand Vitara, Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin and Honda HR-V.

The short-throw five-speed manual gearchange is light and slick, while the four-speed automatic is both quick-reacting yet capable of selecting a higher gear during more gentle driving, aiding fuel economy and refinement.

Meanwhile, all new Terios models have a full-time 4WD system with a fixed 50/50 front to rear torque-split and centre differential which eliminates axle wind-up – the phenomenon of the steering becoming increasingly heavy on full-lock.

Because of this 50/50 torque split, high-speed stability and slippery surface traction is greatly enhanced compared to most rivals. These models are usually rear-wheel drive with selectable 4WD or effectively front-wheel drive, only calling on 4WD when sensors detect wheelspin.

A fascia-mounted switch activates the electronically-controlled differential-lock. This further aids traction in mud or deep snow, while short front and rear overhangs and a 190 mm ground clearance also signal serious off-road ability. The new Terios has a front approach angle of 38 degrees with a rear of 37 degrees.

The compact engine is mounted in-line, followed by the gearbox. A centre differential transfers torque to both the front and rear axles via two separate propeller shafts.

The new Terios benefits from a totally new monocoque platform with a revised chassis tuned for car-like, confidence-inspiring handling with vastly improved ride and stability compared to the previous model.

Aided by its considerably wider front and rear tracks, the new Terios features front MacPherson struts, lower wishbones and an anti-roll bar.

The five-link rear suspension has variable-rate coil springs and near vertical rear shock-absorbers which improve damping and therefore comfort, pitch and roll.

Compared to the old Terios, the front anti-roll bar is of a new design, the revised hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering gear achieves excellent accuracy and feel, while the bump stops better control axle articulation.

In addition, an increased shock-absorber rebound stroke improves rough terrain driveability.

At the rear, a new lateral rod reduces axle squirm and benefits refinement, a newly-designed upper control arm enhances stability, a new shock-absorber reduces brake judder and a
longer suspension stroke improves ride comfort.

Other rear suspension improvements include a more compact design resulting in a lower boot floor and a new design of spring and lower control arm which reduces rear differential noise.

The new Terios has outstanding safety measures with in-house tests giving results equal to an NCAP 4-Star occupant protection and 3-Star pedestrian protection.

Crushable structures are used at the front and rear of the body with the cabin itself made stronger to minimise occupant injury. To protect from side-impacts, the front floor cross-member, tunnel, sills, B-posts and roof-side rails are all strengthened to secure occupant survival space.

As for pedestrians, the front bumper and bonnet are designed to minimise injury to the head and thigh with a shock-absorbing structure built into the bonnet.

High-power seatbelt pretensioners are standard while special pads are installed to reduce injury to occupant knees, torso and lower legs. The pedals are also designed not to intrude during an impact.

Both driver, passenger and side airbags are fitted and the standard four-channel anti-lock brakes (ABS) also feature electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) which maximises stopping power and minimises skidding.

Every new Terios model has an outstanding equipment tally with the entry-level Terios 1.5 S featuring air-conditioning, power-steering, ABS with EBD, full-time four-wheel drive with centre diff-lock, driver, passenger and side airbags, three rear-seat three-point seatbelts, radio/CD player, four electric windows and reverse parking sensors.

Expected to be the best-seller, the Terios 1.5 SX adds, for example, alloy wheels with 235/60R tyres, two-tone wheelarch extensions and side-skirts, roof rails, multi-information display, front fog-lamps, smoked ‘privacy glass’ for the rear side doors and rear window, leather trimmed steering wheel, electric windscreen de-icer and door mirrors and various AC sockets and load-restraint ties.

The automatic transmission-only Terios 1.5 SE has a similar equipment level to the SX but features a different design of alloy wheel with 215/65 tyres and has colour-keyed side skirts.

The multi-function display on both the Terios SX and SE is especially convenient. By using a single button, the driver can switch the display to the clock, average fuel consumption, current fuel consumption, maximum possible travelling range, outside temperature and altitude.

Like all Daihatsus, the new Terios enjoys the protection of a three-year unlimited mileage warranty with roadside assistance plus an eight-year anti-perforation warranty.