Death has a revolving door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen

Daihatsu´s Japanese production declines for the first time in 8 months…

2014 Daihatsu Copen concept

…but production overseas increased to compensate. And generally sales are down overall. Daihatsu gave up on Europe a few years back so the news that the Copen sportscar is to be revived may not do so very much to improve the sales picture.  Still, it´s nice to imagine. What sort of a range does the Copen fit into? There is the Terios hatchback in five and seven seater guise, the Sirion hatchback and the Gran Max van which also comes as a pick-up.  That make the Copen something of an outsider in a range of very practical vehicles, but it is still at least as small as the others.

The original Copen was conceived of as a 600 cc vehicle conforming to Japan´s Kei rules but over time it slipped these restrictions and ended up with a 1300 cc. Production ceased in 2012 leaving the ranks of very small and fun sportscars much depleted. Alongside the Honda Beat and Suzuki Cappucino, the small and humorous Copen offered an easy and safe way to have some driving fun; high quality, low speed entertainment if you like.

2014 Daihatsu Gran Max
2014 Daihatsu Gran Max

The revised Copen (dubbed either Robe or Copen-X) is likely to be based on the D-R concept shown a few years back. I would suggest that Daihatsu finds a way to offer the Copen through Toyota dealerships if it can´t return to Europe. Like the Twingo (Mk1) and Nissan Figaro, the Copen has a small but probably quite passionate customer group for whom a Mazda MX-5 is too big and unwieldy. Given the difficulties of high speed motoring I think the Copen offers quite a lot that is not provided by other cars, not least the sort of simple entertainment that pocket-rockets like the Triumph Spitfire and MG Midget offered – without the rust and Lucas electrics. What is different about the new Copen is that Daihatsu are pushing the possibility of switching body panels, allowing buyers to choose from 11 colours. What isn´t clear from the source is whether the revised car is an updated model based on the Copen that stopped in 2012 or whether it is substantially a new car. The article goes on to report that a another  version will be launched in 2105 with exchangeable headlights.

2014 Daihatsu Terios 7 seater
2014 Daihatsu Terios 7 seater

This particular bit of news chimes with our recent discussions of speed and cuteness. The Copen and its diminutive and deceased peers, the Beat and Capuccino, provide good evidence that you can design a convincing car even within the restrictions of the Kei rules. The fun factor is so very apparent that I think they don´t need to worry about criticisms related to their lack of toughness. Indeed, I think that it´s only a certain type of insecurity that would lead someone to feel it necessary to point out that these cars are not very macho and not very butch. What they are is a useful example of how to squeeze some fun into town driving, being as they are closer to bicycle size than even a Ford Fiesta. I could, at a push, imagine using a car like this for urban jaunts without feeling encumbered in the way a supermini might. I take my bike because it is light and easy to manage as much as for its planet-preserving qualities. The Copen is almost a bike-like car. The more I think about it, the more I could imagine having one of these. There is space in the boot of my current car to park it in.

2013 Daihatsu FC Deck concept interior
2013 Daihatsu FC Deck concept interior

Incidentally, Daihatsu shifted about 400,000 cars so far this this year. This was done without halo models, without anything very complex or stunning.   It shows perhaps what a remarkable job Alfa has done in deterring customers from what ought to be automotive catnip as these sorts of numbers easily beat Alfa´s.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “Death has a revolving door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen”

  1. This Copen lacks the cuteness of the original. That was obviously influenced by the Audi TT but, in such a good-natured way that you could almost imagine VAG’s copyright lawyers being told ‘oh, just let them get on with it’.

    Ever since the time years ago when my car wouldn’t start and I had to borrow a colleagues MG Midget to get to a Central London meeting, I’ve liked the notion of a small open vehicle in London. I’ve toyed with the idea of a Citroen Mehari, a Lotus 7, a Midget, an original Jeep and others, but the Copen with it’s metal top seemed almost ideal.

    I think your point about Alfa is interesting Richard. Is Fiat’s problem that it takes itself too seriously? When you analyse it, the Fiat 500 is a po-faced thing really, as genuine as pre-bleached and pre-torn jeans. Now that the Panda has bloated, there isn’t a single FCA vehicle that has any lightness of touch or is in any way ‘fun’.

  2. I don´t miss the Copen´s TT-ness. There´s one parked outside my daughter´s kindergarten and I´ve been studying it. I like it despite the TT cues. This car seems to be itself (as far as I can judge) and that helps it. The neat scale is what draws me and I like that Daihatsu haven´t overcuted the design.
    Regarding Fiat, yes, they have forgotten how to do fun. Without fun it´s hard to overlook the build quality deficiencies. Can it really, truly be that hard to buy some Japanese assembly know-how without building another Arna? In the same way the Koreans have muscled into the good´n´ordinay niche Peugeot once occupied, they have also built some very convincing small cars which are eating Fiat´s lunch.

  3. Even for a Japanese manufacturer, Daihatsu has a fine range of quirky names on its back catalogue including Tanto, Boon, Materia, Consorte and Leeza. My favourite is the Taft, an acronym for Tough Almighty Fourwheeldrive Transport. If I had more time I might start an appropriate acronym renaming competition.

  4. I saw a Copen in the wild yesterday – on the London-bound carriageway of the M20. It looked quite sweet but horribly vulnerable amongst the camions and SUV’s. If I’m honest, I find them a little cartoonish – the automotive equivalent of clown shoes. I’d feel a little self conscious in one, in a way I would never in a Cappuccino-flavoured Suzuki, Honda beat or indeed a Figaro – and I speak as someone who isn’t bothered by a bit of camp in his coffee.
    The new one however is a different proposition. It looks neat, compact and planted. It also avoids the giant invisible inverted commas that metaphorically surround the original. There’s only so much one wants to be thought of as ‘fun’.

  5. I understand your reservations especially in a very large town. Here in small Aarhus it seems to fit in very well. I might also imagine one serving a summer house along a bit of presently unspoiled coast.You need a car to go and get groceries in a place like that and such a car makes that chore a bit less profligate than if you warm up a full size family saloon. It also seems to have a place in sunny southern climes more so than in, say, Scotland. It´s not really for New York is it? Or even Berlin. I look forward to seeing the actual replacement.

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