The Daihatsu Applause is on the verge of extinction in Britain. Shocking as this news is, the harsh reality is that there are only 16 of these hatchbacks – yes, hatchbacks – roaming the streets today. It will soon disappear and not enough people will care. The Applause will exit the stage, receiving little more than a slow clap.
Should we care? Of course, because whilst the Daihatsu Applause may not have been a firecracker of a car, it had a pretty neat trick hidden in its boot. Open the tailgate and you’ll discover that, despite appearances, the Applause isn’t a saloon, but a hatchback. Clever stuff, Daihatsu. A round of…no, we won’t go there.
Did the world ask for a hatchback that looked like a saloon? Perhaps not, but you need to remember that back in 1989 – when the Daihatsu Applause was launched – buyers still liked the security of a saloon car. The Ford Orion, Peugeot 309, Rover 200 – just three examples of compact saloons that were strong sellers in the UK.
But the canny people at Daihatsu realised that people also loved the practicality of a hatchback, so they designed the Applause to offer the best of both worlds. For a select group of people, this was a mind-blowing development. Others were left dazed and confused.
History hasn’t been kind to the Daihatsu Applause. Had Audi come up with the boot configuration and given it a fancy name, the world would be falling at its feet and sending love letters to Ingolstadt. But because the idea came from poor, unfashionable Daihatsu, few people gave it a second glance.
To be fair, this is partly because the Daihatsu Applause looked so anonymous. Daihatsu had a small, but enthusiastic following in the 1990s, but the majority of these fans were only interested in the 4×4 models. A compact saloon-shaped hatchback, with a choice of either a 1.6-litre carburettor engine or a 1.6-litre fuel-injected engine was hardly going to drive new customers into Daihatsu showrooms.
Not that the Daihatsu marketing team helped matters. By rolling out headlines such as “Generous Applause”, Daihatsu was simply drawing attention to the frankly atrocious name. Generous applause? That sounds like the kind of appreciation shown when your football team has just scored a late consolation goal during a seven-one drubbing. Or when you’ve just listened to little Tabitha from year six, clumsily making her way through Pachelbel’s Canon on the recorder at the school concert.
Surely the tailgate and the 412 litres of boot space should have been the heroes of the ad campaign? After all, Daihatsu claimed you could fit four sets of golf clubs in the boot of the Applause, with the capacity to seat four or five adults in relative comfort. That’s enough room for four golfers, a caddy, the clubs, plus a glovebox full of tees and balls. With this in mind, couldn’t they have called it the Daihatsu Golf?
Oh, wait. Was that name already in use…?
Talking of which, even the current Volkswagen Golf can only offer 380 litres of boot space, meaning the Applause is more practical. Heck, it’s not too far short of the 430 litres offered by the Nissan Qashqai.
Naturally, PetrolBlog hankers after the simmering, XR3i-chasing 16GXi model, complete with two-tone paint and stylish BBS-esque alloy wheels. OK, so you’ll be spending a lot of time chasing and not catching the XR3i, but that’s not the point of the Daihatsu Applause. As The Supremes predicted back in the 1960s, with only 105bhp and 99lb ft of torque, you can’t hurry the Applause.
With only 16 cars left on the road, which incidentally, is quite a dramatic decline from the 2,154 cars in 1994, the chances of finding an Applause are slim. Finding one in mint condition is likely to be impossible. At the time of writing, there’s one for sale on eBay, an early car on a G-plate (shown above), which just happens to be an XI trim with an auto ‘box.
Do we want it? Absolutely. Even taking into account the 940-mile round trip, we want to rescue this £595 Daihatsu Applause and preserve it for future generations. Like Stonehenge, people will come from miles around to marvel at the innovative tailgate arrangement, whilst scratching their heads and asking why.
Which, metaphorically speaking, is just what Chris Goffey did when he reviewed the Daihatsu Applause for Top Gear. And yes, he even made a jokey reference to the car’s name, managing a small chuckle in the process.
Ladies and gentleman, put your hands together for the Daihatsu Applause. The forgotten saloon-hatchback. The car that put two fingers up at the Shatchback.
And for that, it deserves its generous applause. As Auto Express once said, “three cheers for Applause”.