The Daihatsu Terios Diva gets Ryan Bubear in touch with his, er, feminine side…
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Women. They're everywhere. And a whole bunch of them drive, too.
With this startling information in mind, the chaps at Daihatsu SA went about unearthing what they believe to be an almost entirely untapped market. And they intend on taking full advantage with a special edition of the popular Terios: the aptly named Diva.
All jokes aside, I'm not entirely convinced about the merits of marketing a vehicle exclusively to one of only two genders out there — thus effectively cutting your pool of potential buyers in half. But I can certainly see the thinking behind the move, specifically because — according to the figures, anyway — the vast majority of South Africans buying the Terios are those without dangly bits anyway.
While a female-specific model may come across as somewhat condescending to certain women, there are undoubtedly others who will lap it up. If you are indeed a member of the fairer sex, feel free to drop a comment below and outline your stance on the issue — it'll make for interesting reading.
How does the Diva differ?
So, on to the actual vehicle... The standard Terios is a breeze to drive. The clutch is softer than Liberace in the Playboy Mansion, and the gearshift action is easy on the left arm, thanks in part to the delightfully stubby lever. The steering is light, the turning circle small, and visibility is fantastic, thanks to the combination of a high seating position, thin pillars and bucket-sized side mirrors. Of course, the Diva gets all this too.
The big question is this: what sets the Diva apart from its androgynous Terios siblings? Well, the first thing you notice is the decals. While not everyone's cup of tea, they certainly do stand out. My test vehicle sported grey paintwork, with bright orange graphics on the front, back and sides. As a man, spending time in traffic with the word "Diva" emblazoned across the side of your compact SUV certainly makes for some awkward moments and strange looks... But I survived.
Inside, Diva-branded carpets (to protect your precious heels, says Daihatsu) do duty alongside orange-stitched leather seats, which are actually rather comfortable. Like all of the Diva-specific features, a comprehensive multimedia centre has been retrofitted here in SA, with the common-and-garden Terios still being built over in Japan.
This media centre — which I suspect is available with certain Toyota products, seeing that the Japanese giant owns some 51 percent of Daihatsu, and that it says "Toyota" on the user manual — fits neatly into the dash and has more features than you can shake a stick at. It makes use of a touchscreen interface, and boasts a built-in navigation system. It can play CDs, MP3s, radio, and even DVDs — although the on-board nanny thankfully prevents the driver from watching the latest Grey’s Anatomy episode once out on the road.
An auxiliary socket and a mini-USB port (along with supplied mini-USB to USB cable) boost the system's flexibility rating even further, while a tiny built-in hard-drive rounds things off. Oh, and cellphone addicts will be pleased to hear that Bluetooth also made the cut. All of these fancy features can, of course, be controlled via either the multifunctional steering wheel or the remote provided.
Flick the gearlever into reverse, and the touchscreen display transforms into a monitor hooked up to a reversing camera. While all of these elements are undoubtedly impressive, and actually pretty handy in the real world, a couple of things do feel a bit forced — most notably the out-of-place aftermarket microphone stuck to the inside of the A-pillar and the small camera screwed to the body just above the rear numberplate. As mentioned, these items are retrofitted, but they shouldn't feel that way.
Also on the list of Diva-specific benefits are a couple of "organisers". The seat organiser hangs over the back of the front passenger seat, and can hold all manner of items — from shoes to bottles to, well, whatever it is women carry in those seemingly bottomless handbags. The collapsible boot organiser is a simple idea, but actually proves very useful for separating items after running the weekly shopping gauntlet.
The luggage compartment is still the little SUV's trump card — a feature that has attracted buyers since the launch of the Terios back in 1997. The side-hinged door and distinct lack of a loading lip allow the compartment to swallow surprisingly bulky objects. With the rear seats folded flat, the useable space is remarkable, and made even more so by the fact that the spare wheel lives on the outside (under lock and key) and not under the boot floor.
Of course, the Diva also benefits from a decent standard specification list, including alloy wheels, fog lamps, roof rails and colour coded bumpers, as well as electric mirrors, electric windows, air conditioning and a whole bunch of cupholders.
Out on the tarmac, the 1.5-litre petrol engine performs admirably in urban areas, making full use of its 77kW and 140Nm. On the freeway, however, it really does sing, and would benefit from a sixth gear. On a flat road at a steady 100km/h, the tachometer reads over 3000rpm, with that number hitting almost 4000 at 120km/h. This translates into a bit too much engine/gearbox noise out on the open road, and obviously doesn't do good things for fuel consumption figures either.
The Terios boasts a four-star Euro NCAP safety rating thanks in part to driver and passenger airbags, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, smash and grab safety film, ISOFIX mounting points, a crash-sensing fuel cut-off system, and a high-level brake light. A three-year or 100 000km warranty is also included.
So, will the Diva succeed in convincing even more women to pick a Terios over a conventional hatch or sedan? Is it "the ultimate vehicle for women", as Daihatsu suggests it is? Perhaps I'm not best qualified to answer that question...
One thing I am sure of, though, is that the Terios is still a damn practical, easy-to-drive mini-SUV, adept at whisking its owner around the city in style and comfort — whether it sports Diva decals or not.
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Click through to page 2 for specs and pricing.