Avanzato: The biggest name in small cars

The Avanzato. Or to give it the full name treatment, the Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato TR-XX R4. A huge name for a car of miniscule proportions.

Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato
Fun size car, Multi-pack fun

I can trace my obsession with the Daihatsu Avanzato back to the first week in February 2010. At the time I was just starting my search for a Defender 110 and so naturally, one’s attention would  turn to a 660 cc Kei car. I probably spend far too much time trawling the classified for cars I neither need or have the means to buy.

Normally, as I excitedly pass the MacBook to Mrs MajorGav, I’m either greeted with a flat “no”, an intolerant laugh or stone-cold silence. But on this occasion, as I gleefully presented an ad for an Avanzato, the response was markedly different. I immediately emailed the seller, but woke the next day disappointed to see the word ‘SOLD’ accompanying the ad. Dammit.

But like a dog with a bone, almost as if my life depended on it, I decided I’d find another. As my unfortunate followers on Twitter will testify, I made no secret of my desire to find one. But weeks of fruitless searching almost had me considering other options, so I placed a wanted ad on PistonHeads. Within 24 hours, I was amazed to receive three emails from prospective sellers. But there was one which stood head and shoulders above the others. A one-owner, 22k mile Avanzato, in white and in excellent condition. From that moment on, I had to get that car. So to cut a long story short, almost a week to the time of placing the wanted ad, I sit here with a one-owner Avanzato sat in my garage. This is the story so far…

Collecting the car from West London meant a train journey on the Cornish Riviera. Being a Saturday, I took advantage of the option to upgrade to First Class for an extra £9. Brilliant decision – a quiet and relaxing experience sat in extremely comfortable leather seats. Although to be fair, they did remind me of the kind of seats you’d get in a mid to late 80s Vauxhall or Renault luxo-barge. Comfy, squeaky and totally inept at holding one’s posterior when travelling around corners.

It was about the time we passed through Frome that a feeling of horror washed over me. As I glanced at the countryside thundering past me, sat in calm comfort, armed with coffee, I realised that I’d be doing each and every mile of the return leg in a 660 cc Matchbox toy. Should I change at Reading and head straight back home? Like hell I should.

I was picked up from the station in the Avanzato and immediately treated to a display of the car’s talents. As test drives go, I was probably smitten by the time we reached the first mini-roundabout. A deal was done and I tentatively made my way into the Saturday afternoon traffic to begin the 200 mile journey home.

In all honesty, first impressions weren’t all that great. Like a first date, there was an almost uncomfortable feeling as I got used to the car. Indicating left resulted in the wipers coming on. Flashing a bus out a junction resulted in an impromptu wash of the windscreen. I needed to get used to Japanese spec motoring once again. Once the miserable Saturday afternoon traffic was cleared and the fuel tank filled with V-Power, it was time to hit the M3. Things were about to get worse as the heavens opened and I entered the seemingly endless stretches of 50 mph limits complete with evil yellow tripods housing cameras watching our every move. Lorries either side of the Avanzato, a ‘giant’ MK5 Golf in my rear wheel – all in a car I’d only owned for 10 miles.

Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato at the pumps

As I pulled into Fleet Services, the rain eased off. A couple in a German registered Hyundai Atoz promptly took photos of my new purchase. Now they’ve either never seen a fun-size Impreza before or they were simply amazed at the sight of a 6ft 3″ man unravelling himself from one of the world’s smallest cars. I guess I’ll never know.

Venturing on, I exited for the A303 at Basingstoke. It was about this time when something seemed to click. Free of motorway traffic and with rain making way for welcome sunshine, the experience totally changed direction. This was highlighted in no greater way than the first roundabout you come to just past Amesbury. The way this car devours roundabouts is delightful. Imagine yourself being 2cm tall and strapped into a Scalextric car as it takes a bend. This must be how it feels. As you plant your right foot before exiting the roundabout, the Avanzato digs in and quite literally catapults on to the next circle of fun. I was beginning to enjoy myself.

It is at this point that I feel I must apologise to any other drivers on the A303 between the hours of 5pm and 7pm Saturday evening. If you were put off by the sight of a gormless idiot grinning like a Cheshire cat, that was me. But not just any Cheshire cat. No siree. A Cheshire cat that got the cream, lives in a world made totally out of catnip and has just found out that a Home for Female Cats is moving in next door. To say I was enjoying myself as much as my first weekend in my VX220 is probably over egging it a little, but bear in mind the difference in price, specification and performance. This Avanzato is brilliant.

Prior to February My knowledge of the Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato couldn’t have been written on the back of a fag packet. I knew nothing. I’m guessing that I might not be alone here, so let me give you some facts. The Avanzato has a tiny 660 cc engine, but this engine is coupled with a turbo and intercooler that produces some 64 bhp. OK, so not blistering, but bear in mind this car weighs just 650 kg and has permanent four wheel drive and LSD. Things start to get interesting, especially when taking into account the fact that this thing redlines at 8,500 rpm!

Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato rev counter

Some 80 to 120 Avanzatos were officially imported by Daihatsu UK between 1997 and 1998. Some of these were immediately converted to rally spec and competed in numerous British events. At the time of release, Car magazine likened the standard Daihatsu Cuore to the original Mini. This subsequently led them to the conclusion that the Avanzato could have been the modern-day equivalent of the Mini Cooper.

As I made my way across the Blackdown Hills as night fell, I could quite believe the comparison. What it may lack in genuine feedback, it more than makes up for through a willingness to deliver an outright joyful driving experience. Switching between left and right hand bends with aplomb and delivering a tenacious appetite for acceleration. Based on the figures, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Avanzato is so capable at off-the-line acceleration. What is surprising though is the way it delivers acceleration between 50 and 70 mph. Without even thinking of dropping a cog, the Avanzato rockets away even in fifth gear.

As the journey drew to a close, the long and dull stretch along the A30 towards home had me thinking that the fun was over. How wrong could I be? My short but engaging eight mile trek off the A30 and across the Moors has never been so much fun. My jaw was aching through the permanent grin delivered through a stretch of road I know so well. The frantic, hilarious, rewarding and downright captivating experience can perhaps only be summarised by the performance of the lead singer in the Dutch prog-rockers Focus in the early 70s. Watch and listen and you will see what I mean. Just wait until the first minute for the full effect.

Barely a day into ownership and with just 202 miles under my belt, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to life with the Avanzato. Waking up this morning, I wasn’t overcome with a feeling of “what have I done”, but a feeling of happiness that a car like the Avanzato exists. The sheer pointlessness of it should be applauded. Further more, even at standstill, it makes me smile and I like that. Thank you Avanzato.

Daihastu Cuore Avanzato
Setting sun over a son of the Rising Sun.

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Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. March 29, 2010
    Tweets that mention Avanzato: The biggest name in small cars « MajorGav’s PetrolBlog — Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Leighton, MajorGav PetrolBlog. MajorGav PetrolBlog said: My new car is here and already a star of my blog…Avanzato: The biggest name in small cars: http://wp.me/pOCWo-4e #daihatsu […]

  2. March 29, 2010
    James Clark


    Congratulations. Prior to your obsession I didn’t know these things existed either but the idea of a turbo-charged, intercooled, 4WD pocket rocket with a wheelbase shorter than Ronnie Corbett’s slippers just makes me smile. What an insane machine. Clearly step two is to have a pair of blue Dodge racing stripes painted down it?

  3. April 17, 2010
    David Smailes


    I am so pleased that my cousin’s car has made its way to such a loving owner. You write with such passion it brings a tear to my glass eye.
    Enjoy the experience and I trust that your 6’6″ frame is not experiencing too much discomfort, afterall Dominic is only 4′ 6″
    Enjoy the moment
    Cousin David

  4. April 17, 2010
    Richard Rixson

    My nephew whose Porsche is slower than Dom’s new Renault special sports , is underestimating Dom’s height which is all of 5 foot seven ! I am pleased to see his car has gone to an owner who would appreciate it, he did offer it free of charge to his Mother who unwisely refused it in favour of an Almera!

  5. October 26, 2010

    Hi Gav, good to see these wee cars are still finding fans. I rallied two of these things a few years ago, and ran one as my road car for a long time, it was one of the most fun cars Ive ever had. – don’t be too worried about the bacofoil bodywork – they can take quite an impact or two and survive.

    Loved your blog, made me tempted to start looking on ebay for another one. If you run into problems with getting access to parts, there is a busy wee community of owners on the Daihatsu Drivers Club website who have tracked down some of the hard to get parts, and know the location of every scrapped one in the country.

    Enjoy the wee car, and if you decide to sell it……



    • October 27, 2010

      Thanks for getting in touch. I heard whispers of a Dave who raced and rallied an Avanazto, so it is good to hear from the legend himself! I will very shortly be writing a long term review of the car as sadly I sold the little thing last month. The car was an absolute joy to own and as I’ll report in my feature, will always remembered by me in a positive way. I hope you find yourself a new one Dave, you know it makes sense!

  6. January 14, 2011

    Hi Gav,
    Why did you sell this little car???
    I think the same one was for sale in Bath last weekend.
    I didn`t have enough money to buy it at the time & it was sold.
    Out of interest, was anything wrong with it.

    I picked myself a 63,000 miles, 2 lady owners with full service history one up today 🙂
    Sweet as a nut & drives perfect.
    I`m looking forward to having a proper play with it tomorrow 🙂

    • January 15, 2011

      Good man – you’ll love it! Great little toys.

      I just sold the Box of Frogs to try something different. I like to get through a few cars every year and so the Avanzato’s time was up. I was aware that it was up for sale again – I hope it went to a good home. There was nothing wrong with it when I sold it!

      Enjoy the ‘zato.

  7. February 22, 2011

    Hi Gav,
    Thoroughly enjoyed your review of the ‘Zato. As a former owner of a later S-reg model with larger front bumper (pic of it on my blogspot at the bottom), I can totally relate to your experiences. I owned mine for just over a year, it had around 55k miles on it, but closer inspection after a hurried ebay purchase revealed a few “hidden extras” such as the failed transfer box, meaning it was stuck in FWD mode only and an oil leak from the gearbox (A known weakspot on these cars apparently). Neither problem I had the means or know-how to resolve. A sad end to what was such a frantic little car. I did chuckle at your “bacofoil” reference, as that is a comment my mates used to use when they tapped on the outsides!

    • February 22, 2011

      Hello Rhod! Thanks for getting in touch – good to hear that there’s plenty of love out there for the Box of Frogs! I sold mine after six happy months. Had the same concerns as you really – the fear that if something went wrong, I wouldn’t have a clue what to do! Cheers.


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