Today, there aren’t many mini vans around, as this segment is pretty poor represented. But despite the sluggish sales there are a few manufacturers who dare to venture in this realm.
Daihatsu plays a pretty important role in this segment as it designed two iconic models namely the Hijet and Extol. The Extol is placed above the Hijet in Daihatsu’s hierarchy as is powered by a stronger engine which develops 84hp.
The Daihatsu Extol mini LCV was available in both panel van and chassis cab versions. Due to its compact dimensions and the limited payload, the vehicle is aimed especially to small business owners such as florists, electricians or caterers. The Extol was built between 2003 and 2006 and competed against models like theSuzuki Carry and DFSK Loadhopper .
The Daihatsu Extol features a pretty rugged and unrefined design. The build quality is also third class, with big panel gaps and poor fittings. The front is dominated by a rectangular grille which is flanked by two big headlights.
The truck’s nose is pretty, short as the engine is placed under the front seats to keep the center of gravity to a low level. To offer a decent load area, the van has a pretty tall height, making it look pretty boxy.
The cargo area of the van version measures 1.7m long, 1.3m wide and 1.17m high, giving a cargo volume of 2.2 cubic meters. The vehicle can carry a payload of up to 615kg, and the floor is placed above the wheel arches without intruding the load area.
To make loading and unloading as easy as possible Daihatsu has equipped the Extol with lateral sliding doors and a wide opening tailgate. The side doors also give access to additional storage space under the floor which could be used to deposit different things such as tools or other small items.
The bumper is bigger than usual and is made of a flexible plastic which is engineered to endure the punishment of hard working conditions without problems. While the bumper is pretty rudimentary, we like that it gels well with the rest of the body and enhances the rugged appearance of the truck.
As we are talking about a commercial vehicle, there was pretty odd that the Extol wasn’t fitted with any kind of side rubbing strips and no wheelarch protection, which left it pretty exposed to various scratches.
As it was expected, the rudimentary exterior style is carried over to the interior, where we find a cheap looking dash made of hard rock plastics. The build quality is slightly behind what you’ll get from the Piaggio Porter as is at par with the old Suzuki Carry. There are big panel gaps everywhere you look and the storage spaces are also pretty limited.
Leaving the build quality and plastics apart, the space available inside is also pretty cramped being affected by the compact exterior dimensions. The good part is that you won’t complain about the controls layout and everything is within easy reach. The floor mounted gear knob is also well placed and comes easy into hand. For increased comfort, in front of the gear lever there are mounted two convenient cup holders and a small cubby hole.
The instrument cluster is a bit small but you won’t need to struggle too much to get a clear read of the gauges.
The seats however, are among the worse offered in the segment and they also come with limited adjustments. The good part is that they will be usually used only for short trips; hence you won’t need to worry that much as only after a longer journey they will start to annoy you.
The upright driving position gives a good view of the road while the big exterior mirrors and the panoramic windshield keeps you well informed at any time.
The steering wheel’s dimensions were wisely selected and there are also height adjustments available for increased comfort. Despite its dated design, the steering wheel offers a strong grab and it’s not intrusive.
Engines and performance
Under the hood of the Daihatsu Extol was the same 1.3-liter engine that serves as the budget engine option in the Toyota Yaris, making the same 85 horsepower as in its more upscale sibling.
The 1.3-liter engine provided ample motivation, to move the vehicle around town without too much fuss, but we’d be lying if we didn’t say we wanted a stronger one. Doubling down on that disappointment was the transmission, which had a pretty rigid feel and was anything but smooth.
The engine however isn’t as refined as other units in the segment, but despite the fact that you directly on top of it, the cabin is pretty well isolated and at low speeds you won’t be disturbed too much of its metallic growl.
The engine doesn’t like to be hurried, especially when the vehicle is fully loaded. You also need o reev it hard if you want to extract its full power. Floor the go pedal and you’ll hit a maximum speed of 150 kmph, which is pretty impressive given the size and shape of the Extol.
Daihatsu Extol Engine Speicifcations
|1.3 liter||84@ 6000||120 @4400|
Ride and handling
The vehicle’s ride is pretty harsh, as you can feel every road bump directly in your spine. On the other hand, the Extol, is pretty easy do drive around town, thanks to its compact dimensions and the light steering. Though, at high speeds is a bit noisy but the steering offers a proper response and needs only small manual interventions to keep the vehicle on a straight line. The bad part is that the steering doesn’t offer any road feedback and has an artificial feel. We won’t advise you to get tricky around corners either, as the vehicle wasn’t built for drifts and will punish you with a pretty accentuated under steer effect.
The Daihatsu Extol is a fairly practical work horse. Despite its compact dimensions, it’s still able to carry significant loads without whining and its tight turning circle and the light steering make it easy to drive around town.
On the other hand, the interior isn’t as comfortable as other vehicles in the segment and the build quality leaves much to be desired. The good part is that Daihatsu is part of the Toyota group, which means that you won’t have too much trouble at the reliability chapter.