Two adults and two children is a full load for Daihatsu's Pyzar, writes David Morley.
Sometimes the conservative approach seems to work best. And you only need to look at Daihatsu's offerings in the mid-1990s to know that much.
When you compare the fashionable four-wheel-drive Terios with the more mundane-looking front-drive Pyzar, you can see how the pursuit of trendiness can go awry.
Without labouring the point, the Terios isn't very good at all. There's a variety of reasons for that, all of them fundamental. But the Pyzar, while far from perfect, at least makes a decent fist of the job for which it was designed.
There's no hiding that the Pyzar was aimed at transporting a small family, with all (or most) of the versatility of a full-sized people mover.
It might look small but the Pyzar is actually one of Daihatsu's bigger vehicles. It's based on the Charade passenger car, which is obvious from its specification and the way it drives.
The big problem is that the Pyzar is only as wide as a Charade, and rear-seat width is at least as much a determinant of people-moving abilities as legroom or wheelbase.
The bottom line is this: put two adults in the front and two average-size kids in the back and the Pyzar is full. Two kids and a child restraint in the centre? Sorry.
The first version to arrive here did so in 1997 (codenamed G303), with the Charade's underpinnings and 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine.
With just a single overhead camshaft (although it did have four valves per cylinder), the engine cranked out 66kW and a meagre 119Nm of torque. Those figures make the five-speed manual vastly preferable to the four-speed automatic, which hunts for a gear even when the car is lightly loaded.
So it was no hot rod, but what the bald numbers hide is that even though the peaks aren't terribly exciting, the engine doesn't feel stressed in most situations because it tends to produce a fair chunk of what it has to offer low in the rev range.
This means it doesn't need to be worked too hard in most suburban situations.
The Pyzar was facelifted in late 1998 (G301 model) and with it came an engine enlarged to 1.6 litres. It was still the same basic design, with power raised just a single kilowatt, but torque was boosted to 126 Nm, more of which was available down low.
It still hardly made for exciting transport; the Pyzar will keep pace with most traffic at metropolitan speeds, but it can struggle on the freeway.
That's made worse by a full complement of bodies and luggage, and overtaking in such situations can require forward planning. Once again, the five-speed manual is the gearbox of choice, even with the bigger engine.
Two trim levels were offered when the car was launched in 1997: the base-model GRV and the upmarket GRVX Xi.
Since it was just $1500 or so more than the base-model, plenty of buyers chose the Xi and gained alloy wheels and two-tone paint, which was typically a combination of soft metallic colours.
The facelifted model in 1998 saw the demise of the Xi, with just the GRV model soldiering on in the face of modest sales.
One thing in the Pyzar's favour is Daihatsu's enviable reputation for reliability. Drivelines in particular seem well put together and there aren't too many problems cropping up in service.
The biggest potential drama is a car that hasn't been serviced regularly with due regard for its oil-change intervals. The engine needs fresh oil to keep internal sludge at bay, and ignoring that will soon see the oil galleries clog up and the top end of the engine wear out.
So a service record is a terrific thing to find in any used Pyzar, and any car without such a document should be viewed with at least some suspicion.
Timing belts and tensioners need replacing about every 100,000km, so any Pyzar with that many kilometres should also display some evidence of this work having been done.
What to pay
Prices are now comfortably less than $10,000, which is reasonable for something that is probably only a handful of years old. With that in mind, you're better off paying the small extra amount asked by owners of the facelifted version with its bigger engine.
Given the Pyzar's demure dimensions, there are plenty of small station wagons that will probably do a similar job. Mitsubishi's Lancer wagon is one possibility, as are vehicles such as the five-door Nissan Pulsar, which blurs the line between conventional hatchbacks and wagons. Either of those will provide better performance than the Pyzar and almost as many accommodation options.
Prices and details correct at publication date.
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