- We like...Cool blue cabin lighting
- We don't...little wheels, jolty ride
Bonkers small hatchback has the looks of a 1950s street racer that's shrunk in the washHad enough of me-too motors? Ever tried to unlock someone else’s car because it’s the spit of yours but parked next door?
Buy Daihatsu’s Materia and we promise that’ll never happen. Part-Smart car, part-‘50s street rod, this is delightfully, fantastically odd. Take it in: those chunky alloys and darkened rear glass lend bad-boy chic. It looks hard, menacing even... until you step back and clock its Noddy-car proportions.
The Materia may only be as big as a Nissan Micra, but you’ll grab attention, even if most is of the ‘what the heck is that...’ kind. Its looks deceive, though.
Step past the bonkers outside and what’s inside is roomy, practical and...erm, dull. The dash is fashioned out of the hard, battle-grey plastic as found in mid-1990s Nissan Sunnys. There’s the usual glove box but also a poky little storage hole by your right knee, the lid held fast by a cheap-looking catch. The seats are in dark fabric and are too flat to hold you through a bend, although the rear ones each have a full three-point belt. The luggage cover fixes to the rear head rests using flimsy-looking clips. The boot carpet is coarse and school-mat grey.
Still, there’s the odd touch to delight. There are huge speakers in the front doors and smaller ones aimed straight at you from the dash. A big shiny-black stereo sits dead centre, governed by a vast and obvious on/off and volume knob. And – this one we really loved – a button that all Materias have, low and to the right, marked just ‘illum’. Press it and – wheee – the speaker surrounds in the front doors glow a cool blue while the door pulls beam a soft dribble of light, too. That’s all it ds. Utterly pointless, but terrific fun.
And the car is huge inside. There’s room for five adults, and the rear bench slides to and fro to barter legroom and boot space. Even with the seat slid fully back, the boot remains sizeable and, of course, the rear chairs tip to free a big load area. There’s only one model on sale here, and the only choices to make when buying are whether you need an automatic gearbox, or metallic paint. Air conditioning, remote central locking, front fog lamps and alloy wheels all come as standard.
The Materia’s little wheels work against whatever smoothness over bumps the designers intended it to have, while the engine is noise and sounds coarse when revved. But it is at least sensibly economical, and its square shape makes it easy to park and steer along narrow city streets.
Should you buy one? With a car this cute (or ugly), it’s never going to be a rational decision. But it is cheap for what you get and its mechanical bits are, mostly, already proven in other Daihatsus while insurance and other running expenses promise to be within bounds. The one drawback comes when you tire of it. Unless you buy another Daihatsu, we can’t see many dealers offering much for it second-hand. So it’s best to buy because you love it, to keep for ages.
- 0-60 mph10.7sec
- Insurance groups8
Motors.co.uk value verdict: