Daihatsu Copen | CARkeys

27 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Daihatsu Copen | CARkeys
Daihatsu Copen

Daihatsu Copen

review

My colleague looked between his shoes at the Daihatsu Copen and expressed some doubts . Like me, he was constructed during a boom period in the motoring journalist parts supply industry. The Copen, in contrast, was one of the smallest cars we had seen, and the laws of physics seemed to be against us. Either of us could probably have carried a Copen in our jacket pocket, but getting in was another matter.

Especially inviting and intimate was the description of the cockpit in the press release, and it certainly looked it.

Will I be able to drive this? my colleague asked anxiously. I had just got out of the thing and was confident that there would be no problem. Sure enough, he folded himself in half, slid inside, unfolded himself again and found that there was far more room than initial impressions had led his to expect.

One of the few similarities between the Copen and the smart city car is that both appear to have been constructed entirely from interior space. There is very little ahead of your feet or behind your shoulders, but most people up to about six feet in height should be able to get themselves comfortable (at six foot three I’m possibly slightly too tall, though it’s not a great problem).

Forget about carrying much with you. The boot is absolutely tiny even when the metal roof is in the up position. The roof can be stowed away (a semi-automatic process which Daihatsu says takes about 25 seconds – weather conditions persuaded me not to investigate this) but this uses up pretty much all the boot capacity and the glove box becomes the primary luggage area.

Copen sounds like a word that Edward Lear would have invented if he had been stuck for a rhyme in one of his nonsense poems. There are various explanations of how it was devised, the most convincing being based on the fact that in its concept days the car was actually called the Kopen. The derivation of this was K Open, the K referring to a motor industry sector which is almost unknown in the UK but is hugely popular in Japan.

K cars are tiny and must by law have an engine capacity of no more than 660cc. The four-cylinder, 16-valve, all-aluminium Copen unit scrapes under this at 659cc, and there’s a turbocharger to help it perform as if it were much larger than it actually is.

With a specification like that you might imagine that this engine is a revvy little blighter, and indeed it is. It revs and revs and revs and revs, then it revs some more, then it revs again, and it doesn’t stop revving until the electronic cut-out brings the action to a halt at just short of 9000rpm, by which time it’s sounding like the pit straight in a MotoGP race.

But it would be easy to misunderstand the Copen by driving it at high revs all the time. The engine produces its maximum power of 63bhp (the official limit for K cars) at just 6000rpm, and although I haven’t seen a power curve I imagine it must start plummeting not long after that. By 7000rpm most of the fire has died out, and from there to the revlimiter all you’re doing is producing noise.

The best way of making progress in the Copen – I can hardly believe I’m saying this about a car with a 659cc engine – is to make use of the mid-range torque. With a suitable amount of throttle, the turbo whoops into action from well below 2000rpm, and it’s the combination of the boost it gives and the lack of overall weight that makes the Copen a very decent little sports car.

I even spent a few minutes driving with a self-imposed rev limit of 3000rpm, and was quite happy with the performance. The only trouble was that it gave the car a maximum speed of 50mph. You’ll gather from this that the gearing is very low, though Daihatsu is talking of raising it for UK production to make the motorway experience less frenetic.

Daihatsu Copen

On country roads the Copen handles quite nippily, though the front suspension doesn’t have the scope to let you use as much power as you would necessarily like. If you do want to push along it’s advisable to use the highest gear possible on every corner – the front end reacts sharply to any changes in throttle input, and the more revs you use the more this effect tends to dominate what you’re doing with the steering wheel.

It’s partly a balance thing. The front-wheel drive layout means that there is too much weight at one end of too small a car. Ideally there would be a longitudinally-mounted engine up front and a transaxle at the rear, but then there would be no luggage space at all and you’d have to leave the roof at home if you wanted to enjoy some open-top motoring.

I suspect most people will buy the Copen as a fun car and not worry too much about ultimate roadholding, so there are unlikely to be many complaints.

CARkeys was given a Japan-spec Copen to test for the simple reason that there are no European ones yet. The engine doesn’t meet our emissions regulations, so the ECU will have to be reprogrammed for the UK market. Daihatsu may also fit a slightly larger turbo, though again this is for emission rather than power purposes.

Performance is unlikely to be affected.

Not that it really needs to be. The Copen is already pretty quick, with a 0-60mph time of under ten seconds and top speed of around 105mph (according to Daihatsu guesswork – there are no official figures yet). More power would not necessarily make it a better car, and in fact would probably require a serious re-think of the suspension.

UK sales, which were confirmed on the day we drove the test car, will start in November, though the specification has not yet been decided. In Japan it’s possible to buy a pretty basic Copen (as well as an automatic transmission one, which won’t be coming here). There’s quite a long list of options, and most of them were fitted to the car we tried, including a limited slip differential, ABS, heated leather seats, Momo steering wheel, air-conditioning, electric windows and door mirrors, central locking and a radio/cassette/CD player.

Standard UK spec will probably include all of these, but until the package has been finalised Daihatsu can’t confirm a price. The range of possibilities goes from £12,000 to £14,000, so the Copen may end up being either less expensive than the basic Ford Streetka or more so than the luxury version.

The Streetka is the Copen’s most obvious rival. The concept (budget Audi TT, as it were) and the performance are very similar, even though the two are worlds apart technically. The battle for the toy sports car market is hotting up.

Daihatsu Copen
Daihatsu Copen
Daihatsu Copen
Daihatsu Copen
Daihatsu Copen
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