Daihatsu Charade

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Daihatsu Charade

1981 -
3 cyl.
993 cc
41 kW
5 spd. man
Top Speed:
140 km/h
Number Built:
0 star
Daihatsu Charade
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


For 1981, Japan’s newest and most innovative energy crisis car was unquestionably the Daihatsu Charade, a five door hatchback that proved exceptionally economical.

The diminutive Charade was the star performer among petrol-engined vehicles in the 1980 Australian Total Oil Economy Run, achieving a staggering 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres over the 1600 km course, which included mountainous conditions and had to be negotiated at high average speeds that required some energetic driving, especially by crews of the smaller cars.

It shouldn’t have come a huge surprise, the Charade being designed from the ground up to ensure exceptional fuel economy.

In fact, Daihatsu employed extensive computer research when adopting the unconventional 993cc three-cylinder engine for fitment to the Charade – and they certainly got it right – so much so that the engine offered an astonishing 10 percent better power output and 15 percent better fuel economy than a four cylinder engine of similar capacity.

The more compact size also enabled the engine to be mounted transversely in line with a five speed gearbox. Weight was kept to a minimum, it weighing in at a very modest 600kg.

The attention to detail allowed the Charade to set new standards in the mini car class, it competing well above its station.

Acceleration was not one of the greater points, the Charade taking 19.5 seconds to reach 100 km/h from standstill, although it did have a top speed of 140km/h, allowing it to maintain highway cruising speeds without too much effort.

But it was in the city where the Charade shone, the tight turning circle and relative comfort making it a popular option as a new car at a price point normally reserved for second hand vehicles. Passenger room was limited in the rear, while luggage space was also rather small. There were three models, the basic sedan, the XO and the top of the line XTE.

All came equipped with a laminated windscreen, front disc brakes, steel belted radial ply tyres, childproof rear door locks, reclining front seats, rear mud flaps and a radio. The XTE also came with a tachometer, rear window wiper and washer, a clock, cloth upholstery and an AM/FM radio. Owners could further option their cars with air-conditioning.

The clever design, combined with then modern mass-production manufacturing facilities that allowed Daihatsu to market the Charade at a very competitive price. So efficient was the production line that one rolled out of the factory every 38 seconds, allowing a combined output of some 10,000 cars per month.

At the time, the Charade was the least expensive “freely available” sedan in Australia, although availability was severely restricted by the import quota’s of the day. But after waxing lyrical over the little Daihatsu, it was not without its foibles. Excessive understeer and a pronounced lurching motion when driven quickly through corners tarnished the drivability of the car, and when combined with the harsh and irritating engine vibration and flimsiness of the build quality, many soon forgot the cheap price.
1987 Daihatsu Charade

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Also see:

Daihatsu Car Production 1963 - 1979
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Posted Recently
I had one of these, a 1980 petrol eng model, and yes it was the most economical car I ever owned, mainly thanks to its low weight.
I got more like 6.8l/100km though consistent hard city driving.
I ended up fitting a/c to mine later.
It was also one of the worst handling cars I have ever owned, I put this down to the fact that the lower arms were anchored into the body rather than a proper subframe which would have added more weight.
You cant have it all. I spend alot of time and effort trying to correct the handling to no avail
The clutch was massively undersized also, another big problem
by the G11 model the clutch (and to some extent the handling were sorted)
I used a G11 camshaft in my G10 with great sucess, the car's fuel consumption dropped to 6.4l/100km and the power increased 20% with most of that between 5000 and 7500rpm making the car very pleasurable to drive (in a stright line at least)
Rust was another issue on the G10 my two front doors rusted out so badly that I had to send the car to the metal recyclers in 1994 after 350,000km, the engine was still in great shape.
Posted Recently
Chris, there aren't many, if any, of todays vehicles that will return that economy in YESTERDAYS traffic when the charade was produced.
My Mother owned a XTE in the late 80's - excellent little car which far out performed my mini in a straight line. If only they'd sacrificed a little of the comfort available for some slightly better handling and road holding and we'd all still be driving them today.
AS it happens I'm actively searching for an early 80's charade XTE or diesel turbo in the UK... let me know if you have one anyone ;-)
Posted Recently
I have owned many Charades over the years and have found them to be a brilliant compact car. Considering the 1980s technology of the 3 cylinder, SOHC 2valves/cylinder carburettor engine, it still offers extrordinay economy that equals many current hybrid vehicles. Which cars today can you buy for less than $2000.00 which return 5.4l/100k in todays traffic?
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