Daihatsu Applause Xi Sports Car Reviews | NRMA Motoring & Services

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Daihatsu Applause

Daihatsu Applause

Xi Sports Car Review

Author: NRMA Motoring Date: 9 May 1997

In terms of Japanese car model life. the Daihatsu Applause must be considered a veteran. The Applause appeared on our roads for the first time back in October 1989 and despite a series of upgrades. model realignments and specification changes. the car remains basically unchanged today. That’s a long model run in anyone’s language; even more so for a Japanese manufacturer.

The fact that the Applause can still compete against much newer models demonstrates the soundness of its original design. its competitiveness in areas such as space. performance and equipment. and the excellent reliability record it has built up over the years.

Attractions of the Applause include high standards of finish, generous equipment levels. a large and versatile luggage area. good performance and creditable fuel economy. The seating and ride combination gives the Applause a very good class rating on comfort and it would have to be one of the easiest cars around to drive and handle.

In fact. except for the limited rear leg room when the front seats are set right back, some steering vagueness at higher speeds and a couple of minor points like the rear windows not winding fully down and slight engine harshness at higher revs, the Applause is hard to fault.

Several models and limited edition versions have come and gone during the Applause’s eight year run and the current line-up comprises Executive and Xi models, with a Sports Pack available for the Xi.

Prices are probably more competitive now than they have been for many years and the Applause range starts off at $19.990 for a manual Executive. The Xi manual costs $23,436 and the Sports Pack adds another $1,824 on top of this. Automatic transmission costs around $2,140 and air conditioning is $1,850.

Options for the Xi include a driver’s airbag, $1,587; CD player. $759; electric sunroof. $1,803 and power windows. $721.

Features and equipment

Though electronic fuel injection and four wheel disc brakes are more commonplace these days. the Applause was ahead of the game in having these features standard back in 1989.

The Applause’s multi-valve 1.6 litre engine has just a single overhead camshaft, but its power output is competitive with most other engines of the same capacity. The standard transmission is a five speed manual and from August 1991. the automatic transmission has been a four speed unit.

Being the base model. the Executive misses out on many of the Xi’s fittings. but it does have power steering. remote openers for the hatch and fuel lid. front and rear mudflaps, side protection mouldings. a driver’s footrest, a tachometer and a folding rear seat.

The Xi model adds desirable items such as a rear window wiper/washer, rear seat head restraints. central door locking, tilt steering wheel. electrically adjustable exterior mirrors. a 50/50 split fold rear seat and a four speaker sound system.

Order the Sports Pack and you’ll get a rear spoiler. alloy road wheels, sports-style front bucket seats. power windows, colour-keyed bumpers and door handles, and an automatic radio antenna.

With no special security features, the Applause rates down near the bottom on the list of cars evaluated in the NRMA’s assessment programme of new car security.

Body and finish

From first glance, the Applause looks much like other small sedans, with smooth flowing body lines. however it differs in one important aspect. Though it has the outside appearance of a sedan. the rear window and boot lid open in one complete section to give the loading versatility of a hatchback with a sedan’s advantage of keeping valuables out of sight and out of the sun.

As with most current small cars, the Applause is lightly built, however it has an excellent standard of finish, especially in areas such as paint coverage and gloss. body panel and trim fit. The quality of the carpet in the luggage area could be better. though.

Comfort and space

Though approved to carry five occupants, the Applause (as for most cars in this class) is best suited to say, a family of two adults and two or three smaller children. Long legged drivers like myself may find the seat cushion too short to provide good thigh support and also that their knees get tangled up under the steering wheel (despite its tilt facility).

When the front seats are set right back. adults will find rear leg room restricted and head room is just barely enough for adults. Rear seat width is best for two. rather than three.

On the subject of seat comfort, the Xi Sports Pack model’s wrap-around sports seats are fairly firm, but offer good lateral support when cornering and good shoulder support with the high seat backs. In the rear, comfort is good in the two outer positions and fair in the centre.

Many cars (even more so with the smaller models) can exhibit increased ride harshness when equipped with low-profile 60 series tyres, but that’s not the case with the Xi Applause. It maintains a supple ride over varying road surfaces and overall, rates better than average for a 1.6 litre sedan.

Air flow through the ventilation system is good. even without the blower fan in operation. but these smaller cars with large glass areas can get rather hot in sunny weather. The air conditioning option is certainly worth consideration. One aspect that may irritate rear occupants who like plenty of fresh air is the fact that the rear side windows don’t wind right down.

The Applause is a winner on load space and design. The equally-divided rear seat can be either folded flat when carrying longer items or reclined for greater passenger comfort. The rear seat cushion folds forward as in a station wagon to form an almost flat load area.

Easy loading is ensured with the rear panel being cut down to bumper level. Whether the rear seat is up or down, the Applause rates as, better than average on load space for its class.

Behind the wheel

Apart from restricted knee space under the steering wheel for long-legged drivers like myself. I found the driving position in the Applause to be both comfortable and user-friendly. I particularly like the driver’s seat height in relation to the steering wheel, controls and dash-top, the clear view of the instruments and the convenient location of most controls.

I say ‘most’ because the sound system controls are a bit of a stretch, located as they are low down and over to the left. away from the driver.

The combination of power steering. compact turning circle and good vision in all directions makes the Applause an easy car to manoeuvre and park. Vision is also good for general driving, with no significant blind spots.

On the road

Daihatsu Applause

The Applause is no road rocket-particularly when driving in fourth and fifth gears out on the open road-but generally the engine turns in a good performance for a SOHC 1.6 litre fuel-injected unit. With maximum torque (pulling power) produced at relatively high engine speeds, the manual Applause rewards drivers who are prepared to make good use of the gearbox.

Any vehicle that turns in fuel consumption figures better than 9.0 litres/100 km in general running is economical in my book and the Applause certainly fits into this category. At 8.9 litres/100 km overall, the test vehicle compared well against others in its class.

Though the engine starts to become a little harsh when taken into the higher rev ranges, sound insulation is obviously effective in the Applause because interior noise levels are as low as anything in the class. This quietness of operation, plus the smooth ride, makes travel more pleasant for occupants and gives the impression of being in a larger car.

The wide, low-profile tyres generally provide good grip overall, but the manual version will readily break front wheel traction if too much or too sudden acceleration is applied. You learn to be gentle on the throttle in wet or slippery conditions.

A second criticism of the Applause’s on-road behaviour is that the steering is a little vague. The steering effort is quite light and I would prefer a slightly heavier feel in return for a more precise response on the open road.

These two criticisms aside, the Applause actually has quite good overall open road handling and once you get used to the steering lightness. it can be hurried along with confidence. It’s never easy in a light car to come up with a suitable combination of spring and shock absorber damping to obtain good handling, without the suspension being too stiff and compromising ride comfort, but Daihatsu has done a good job with the Applause.

Though four-wheel disc brakes may not seem all that necessary on a relatively light. small car like the Applause. the benefits of such a system show up readily under hard use. After ten consecutive stops from 80 km/h, the test car’s brakes didn’t become hot. and pedal effort remained the same as it was at the start. In emergency braking tests from 80 km/h, the car pulled up straight each time in relatively short distances.

The manual gearbox is a delight to use. with smooth. easy changes. Combined with the light clutch operation. it’s certainly not a chore to drive the Applause in stop/start traffic.


Apart from some crowding around the accessory belts end of the engine and the fact that the oil filter is obscured by the air conditioning compressor when so equipped (though the filter can be reached satisfactorily from under the car). access to routine service check items is good.

Service is at the usual intervals, the first being carried out at 1000 km, then every 10,000 km or six months, with more frequent lubrication services scheduled for cars operating under severe conditions.


Though it’s getting a bit long in the tooth alongside some of the more recent releases with their contemporary looks the Daihatsu Applause still ably stands comparison as an appealing, well designed and highly practical small sedan that’s hard to fault.

Even today the Applause’s body is a winner on versatility, with its sedan appearance, its hatchback versatility and its wagon-type load carrying ability.

Add Daihatsu’s excellent record for reliability, a long warranty and some recently sharpened pricing, and you have an attractive buy tor those who put practicality and value ahead of being up with the latest fashions.

Test vehicle supplied by Daihatsu Australia.

Daihatsu Applause
Daihatsu Applause
Daihatsu Applause
Daihatsu Applause
Daihatsu Applause
Daihatsu Applause
Daihatsu Applause
Daihatsu Applause
Daihatsu Applause

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