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?
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.
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.
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.