What Were They Thinking: Daihatsu Materia

The Daihatsu Materia looks like something cartoon legends the Anthill Mob would have driven in a race with Penelope Pitstop – if you want something totally original then this is it. I remember the first time I saw the Daihatsu Materia, I was at Dudley MOT getting my car serviced and I’d genuinely never seen a car like it. 

Daihatsu Materia (3)

Daihatsu Materia Car Review

Lets face it, Daihatsu aren’t exactly known for making good looking cars, take the Daihatsu Charade for example, she’s not exactly a looker, however the Materia, depending on your taste might just be a winner.

The Daihatsu Materia is way out on the edge when it comes to modern car design. It represents a whole mini MPV-worth of individuality that makes a big impact wherever it goes.

Want a head-turner then this is the car for you with a boxy shape that does not fit into any of the regular boxes normally ticked by motor manufacturers.

The Materia is one of the latest expressions of 21st century style from Daihatsu which has always been a specialist in smaller cars.

It is quite big and powerful for a Daihatsu featuring a lively 1.5-litre petrol engine that returns a reasonable average fuel economy figure.

It is a phenomenon in Japan and it is gaining a cult following in the USA. In our humble isle it draws gasps of surprise wherever it goes.


The Daihatsu Materia has four doors and a surprising amount of rear leg room. In fact it has roughly the same amount of interior space as a large family car.

On the road, the lofty driving position is a big bonus and the seats are extremely comfortable.

The ride on this car’s small wheels can be quite harsh on some surfaces. The central position of the instruments is also an acquired taste forcing the driver to move his head instead of just his gaze. They would be better placed directly in front of the driver.

The rear seat both slides and reclines and features a 60/40 split that allows awkward loads to be accommodated. The front passenger seat back can also fold almost flat if required creating a large nearly flat load bay. The loading lip is usefully low as well.

Plentiful headroom makes this car feel big inside although narrow side windows and a dark interior don’t help create an airy atmosphere.

Life Style

The Daihatsu Materia’s boxy style with upswept styling line and tapering rear windows gives it an unforgettable visual image – helped by a high bonnet and near vertical drop front.

It is marketed to appeal to younger style-conscious families but it is also hoped to appeal to older people who will like its ease of access and deep doors.

In terms of price it is no bargain but a five-year unlimited mileage warranty is a big pull. The plastics used in the interior aren’t the best in the world but most edges are well finished and everything seems solidly put together.

As far as the environment is concerned the Materia’s emissions are high for a mini MPV.

It’s no warm hatch but the Materia does handle competently with precise steering and little body roll – a surprise given its height.

Security and Safety

The Daihatsu Materia has anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution fitted as standard. It also has twin front and side airbags, but no curtain airbags and no stability control. That said it does have ISOFIX child seat mountings, while central locking and an engine immobiliser deter those with sticky fingers.

The Finishing Touches

The guy who loves opposite used to have a second hand Daihatsu Sportrak, and it would offend my eyes of a morning. The Materia on the other hand is a different story. There’s just one trim level for the Daihatsu Materia, and while none of the kit looks particularly cutting edge, much of it is fitted as standard including the rear privacy glass, electric windows, a CD/radio system, front and rear foglamps and rear parking sensors. The only cost option is metallic paint.