THE NEW Daihatsu Charade proves that new technology does not cost the earth but could save it.
Launched last month, the successor to one of Daihatsu's most popular small cars is brimming with features and performance which sets new standards for city cars.
There are two body styles, a single engine, choice of transmission and two trim levels, beginning with the EL at under £6,000.
It is not only the most economical petrol powered four-seater on UK forecourts, but it has the lowest emissions, will set you back a modest £75 in road tax and boasts best-in-class performance. Insurance is also expected to be among the cheapest when confirmed.
Even the EL gets advanced anti-lock brakes, twin airbags, speed sensitive electric steering, front windows, mirrors and locking as well as a CD player. Pay £1,000 more and you gain side airbags, alloy wheels and air conditioning in the SL.
It is an awesome package to strike fear into rivals who are struggling to sell less well equipped and poorer performing models now showing their age.
The boxy shape of the new Charade is immensely practical and offers a lot of cabin room for four with a five cu ft boot behind. Oddments room is modest but visibility very good.
Up front the very willing three-cylinder engine is extremely free-revving and only becomes noisy at higher speed. The gearchange is slightly sloppy but the Charade has an easy clutch, and underfoot the brakes slow it quickly and with good control.
I found the steering delightfully nimble around town and the turning circle is tight. It generally rides well in town and smooths out most bumps, except the deepest potholes, but this city car's character is not suited to more open roads or poorly surfaced sections. It proved susceptible to cross-winds and in damp conditions it skipped about on the road in a not very reasssuring manner.
On the credit side, there are barely any rattles or unwanted vibrations and the doors and boot all close with a quality feel.
The new Daihatsu Charade SL sets a new benchmark for city cars, but its dynamic qualities are, perhaps, not so outstanding.
Daihatsu Charade 1.0 SL 5-dr
Mechanical: 58.5bhp, 989cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-spd manual gearbox
Max speed: 99.4mph
0-62mph: 12.2 secs
Combined mpg: 59
Insurance group: TBA
CO2 emissions: 114gkm
BiK rating: 15%
Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited mileage; 6yrs anti-rust