Cuore Avanzato: modern life in fun size

It is fair to say that when I picked up my Avanzato a month ago, I was pretty much like a child on Christmas morning. You remember the days when you hurriedly unwrapped the biggest present under the tree and whooped in delight at what you found?

I’m not ashamed to admit that I did unleash a couple of unprompted hoots of glee as I made way back along the A303 that evening. The problem with even the best Christmas presents though is the novelty factor. Novelty has a habit of wearing off, with presents so gratefully received, pushed to the back of the cupboard when something new arrives on the scene. So four weeks in, is the Avanzato still top of the tree?

Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato at play
Fun size A-road

For a car that had covered just 22k miles in 12 years, I’ve given it somewhat of a workout over the first four weeks. The 200 odd miles from London should have been a warning for the Avanzato – time to wake up! With the odometer clicking over 23.3k this evening, the box of frogs, (as the car is affectionately known), has travelled the equivalent of six months motoring already. Hibernation well and truly over Kermit.

Let’s start with the positives. The Avanzato has quite literally made the unthinkable… er… thinkable. I actually enjoy the cross city commute now. Previously, the daily run to the office had been a tale of two halves. 50% twisting moorland B-roads and 50% hellish city traffic.

Now, the city section is a joy, with each roundabout, traffic light, corner and speed ramp simply a component of an obstacle course to rival that of Total Wipeout. Without the water or the Man from Morrisons with the big hair. The fact that the car is so at home in the city should come as no surprise given that the Japanese created it for this very purpose.

But it so blindingly brilliant at tackling the city that it is wonder that nobody else has caught on yet. Imagine starting and finishing your working day with 30 laps at your local karting circuit? That’s pretty much how the Avanzato feels in the city. The perfect combination of lightness (660kg), power (turbocharged 64bhp) and grip (4WD/LSD) also means that the fun is delivered well within the legal limits.

Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato sunset
Fun size B-road

The fun is also delivered at fun size prices too. Road tax is just £115 a year and the insurance is a lowly £200 fully comp. And with petrol prices seemingly on a never-ending upward curve, the fact that £20 will take you 200 miles is a real tonic. Unfortunately, I will need a new set of tyres shortly. Fortunately a new set of Toyos will only set me back £120 including fitting. Nice.

So clearly everything is rosy in the garden of Avanzato then? Well, not quite.

For starters, driving a car called the Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato TR-XX R4 is going to do very little for your street cred. For someone who drove a Capri to college long before they were cool and chose a VX220 over an Elise, being cool isn’t necessary high on my agenda. But, you have to explain to everyone what the car is and what it is capable of.

By the time you’ve gone through the list, the person you were in dialogue with has either stuck pins in their eyes, walked off or slipped into a coma. Sometimes all three. The Avanzato is also likely to be hovering around the Seriously Uncool section of the Top Gear cool wall. I mean come on, Kristin Scott-Thomas is not going to be impressed being picked up in a box of frogs, even with phenomenal off the line grip.

Then there’s the interior, which isn’t going to win any prizes for design or quality. The plastics are of a quality that makes the average Kinder Egg seem positively well engineered. The level of kit can perhaps best be described as adequate, although having air conditioning is a welcome treat. But in true Avanzato style, there’s just two levels of coolness – mild or cool. Brilliant! I feel strangely enlightened by the simplicity.

In a world that demands climatic control variances to the nearest 0.25 degrees and different settings for each person in the cabin, I like the fact that I’m free to enjoy the drive. After all, everyone is doing their damnedest to strip away every last layer of what we regard as fun driving.

But back to the negatives and I’m almost convinced that my Avanzato is made out of BacoFoil. In an effort to offset the weight of the 4WD system, air conditioning unit and the most oversized aerial in the world, the guys at Daihatsu turned to BacoFoil to ensure the car stayed light.

OK, so BacoFoil might be OK to transport your Saturday night takeaway back home, but in my experience, it isn’t the best choice for a car when you’re dicing for position with the average Audi Q7, BMW X6 or Skoda Yeti. The doors shut with all the reassurance of the Severn Bridge made from rice paper and opening the petrol filler cap reminds me of a door on a value Advent calendar. Without the sickly chocolate or illustration of Mary and Joseph.

Finally on the subject of bodywork, there appears to be absolutely nothing between the rear arches and the back seats. Driving home in a mild downpour on Friday was pretty much like being stood 100 yards away from the foot of the Niagara Falls. I honestly thought I was being chased by an angry fireman with his hose locked on extreme.

Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato rally
Fun size rally stage

But absolutely none of this detracts what is fast becoming my favourite car I’ve owned. I could, (and probably should), be driving something a little more my shoe size, but to hell with convention. It has made me smile on more occasions than I can remember and these smiles often arise in the most unlikely of situations.

There’s also a certain amount of an anti-establishment factor to owning and driving it too. A 4×4 that doesn’t register on the radar of environmentalists or those who legislate against the motorist. Hot-hatch levels of performance with an mpg figure of 50+. And the ability to get into parking spaces that would make even an Aygo driver turn away in frustration. All of this for the price of deposit on a new car and zero depreciation.

One final thought. The Avanzato has taught me that the best present under the tree may not be the one in the biggest box. It could just be the small box in the corner that gives the greatest surprise. Riddip.

Daihatsu Cuore Avanzato
Fun size sunset

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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. May 5, 2010

    Hey Gav, glad to see some love for the ‘zato, Make a visit to, a forum dedicated to these little jap cars.

    • May 5, 2010

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’ll pay you guys a visit.

  2. May 5, 2010

    Hi MajorGav,
    Glad you like your Avanzato so much. You have got a high mileage one though! Mine’s covered under 5,000 miles on a ’99 plate 🙂

    • May 6, 2010

      Thanks for commenting. Based on the current rate, I’ll be approaching 105k miles on mine!

  3. May 8, 2010

    Gav, I have been following your posts on this on P-heads. I love the car and your write-up. Damn, where can I get one??? Can you post up your MPG and any true performance figs from a sat nav? 0-60, 0-100 etc…? Nice one :0

    • May 8, 2010

      Thanks Paul. I’ll see what I can do with the figures. The biggest challenge will be finding a sat nav unit that doesn’t obscure the complete windscreen! Currently getting between 45 and 55 mpg depending on how I drive.

  4. July 11, 2012

    Just discovered this story, I was fed up of the ever increasing price of petrol, I had had several Range Rovers and a Vitara previously, needing 4wd to get up to our home where the mountain goats live in the outskirts of Wolverhampton.
    I bought my Avanzato new in 1999, it’s the mira version with the aggressive front, I treated it to a full rust proof using many aerosols of dinitrol, a decent radio, fitted the door speakers properly and installed a dinky little rear fog light in the bumper, instead of the awful thing dangling under the bumper.
    After weeks of fun, I had to go to hospital to have the permanent grin removed from my face as the boss (er indoors) said I looked like an escapee from the local hospital.
    The party wasn’t to last, the boss was gathering mass, she looked as though she was sitting on a stool when sat along side me, I couldn’t change gear easily, or see out of the passenger window; the disabled motherinlaw couldn’t get in or out of it. The daughter complained the back seat had a lump in it and was uncomfortable; I think women are the wrong shape for cars, something to do with nature.
    Foolishly I traded it in against a 2002 YRV 4Trak, which was too slow to get out of it’s own way, but I had my revenge on those who shall be obeyed, the rear suspension was such short travel that every matchstick I drove over caused it it bottom out on the bump stops causing much back ache.
    Twenty months later I bought my Avanzato back, the grin returned, however I cheated on her with a lovely young 2.5L Subaru Impreza WRX; she now sits in the back of my garage staring at me with eyes of betrayal even though I promise one day we will give the roads an airing.

    • July 11, 2012
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      What a great story – beautifully told!

      I know what you mean about the Avanzato. I often think about mine and have similar regrets about selling it. The perfect antidote to the nastier side of modern motoring – mostly notable congestion and costs.

      I’d probably take mine back, given the chance.

      Get yours on the road – you know you want to!

      • July 13, 2012

        Hello Gavin.

        Thak you for that very complementary response, can’t get my hat on now.

        Further to my short story, the next one follows.
        Shortly after I bought the Subaru I noticed a very slight engine noise, which my experience as a motor technician and latterly lecturer, suggests crankshaft rattle; the dealer I bought it from couldn’t hear it, my brother inlaw an excellent mechanic couldn’t either, neither could the man from Subaru, whose “computer said no” and anyway it’s warranty is expired!
        Maybe the doctors are correct, perhaps I am obsessive (is that how you spell it). I’m sure the Avanzato’s glare is actually one of glee.

        Our local Subaru expert, whom was a student at the College where I used to teach (I don’t remember him) suggested lots of other expensive things which could go wrong.
        Since I bought the Subaru, the boss’s mass has increased, she’s as wide as she is tall, and definitely won’t fit in the Avanzato anymore, ooo! I didn’t see you standing there my love; (she’s just threatened to suspend me by the dangly bits).
        Looks like I need to do some serious groveling, the Avanzato needs some new tyres, insurance, MOT and tax, fortunately my wonderful wife has just won herself a new job that pays gazillions.
        Must away now to fetch her from her old job, I will use her awful Daihatsu Sirion, driving it is like being dragged along the road on a coal shovel; one of my late Grandma’s sayings.

  5. April 22, 2014

    Hello Gavin.

    Just a few lines to update.

    My Avzanzato is much to my embarrassment still resting in the back of my garage destroying batteries, probably out of spite as it’s still not back on the road.
    However the current thieves in power (sorry coalition) may have shelved the fuel tax escalator, but have sneakily introduced a RFL escalator, thus my Impreza’s RFL has increased from £405 to £475 in five years.
    I know the obvious answer, but I have become an adrenalin junkie, I cannot do without the quiet and startling performance of the Impreza.
    I don’t know if you caught the last episode of “chop shop”, where they “shoveled” the Impreza running gear into a VW Golf; I wonder!

    • April 25, 2014
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Tax is increasingly becoming a hidden cost of secondhand cars. Looked at a seven-year old XC90 the other day. The tax was approaching £500 per year!

      Keep me posted with the Impreza/Avanzato plans!

      • October 3, 2014

        Hello Gavin.

        Once again a few more lines to up date.

        No matter how I try, my designs for an Avanzato WRX won’t work the Subaru running gear is far too big damn it!
        However I have spent a few hours titivating my Avanzato touching up the lovely shiny black running gear, oh I didn’t tell you when I re-bought it in 2004 I unbolted all the running gear and stripped it back to bare metal, primed and painted using chassis black. I also had the wheels anodized, however they came out grey (because they’re not pure aluminium), the company said they could polish the faces, unfortunately they now don’t bare close scrutiny (knew I should have done it myself).I bought new kuhmo tyres, my tyre man said they have a broad tread, which they do; amazing a tyre man whom doesn’t lie.
        I was going to put it back on the road, but I think I will wait until the nasty weather has passed, meanwhile I will sit in the garage and gaze fondly at it, sad aren’t I.

  6. May 14, 2015

    Hello Gavin.

    Good news, the Avanzato is at last back on the road, the Subaru disgraced itself by letting the garage door pillar jump out and hit its nearside front wing as I was reversing in, so I’ve made it stand in the corner as punishment.
    The Avanzato decided to punish me with embarrassment as I drove it for MOT, it was holding back misfiring & kangarooing. My expensive new diagnostic machine wouldn’t talk to it. Removing the spark plugs I found one wet, I’m told there are no NGK BKUR7EK plugs available in the UK so I had to go 1 grade hotter, misfire still evident, same plug wet again, maybe fouled injector. I tried injector cleaner no improvement, is there no end to the Avanzato’s punishment, after some considerable time I needed to fill up with fuel, I had to sit down, only £21.50 to fill the tank!
    Problem cured Avanzato goes like a rocket complete with the sexy (standard) dump valve chirrup on change up.
    Forgiven at last!

    Regards. CeeJay.


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