I am faded feathers and old bones on her ladder, enchanted

The Daihatsu Wake is not new, launched in 2014 but might be new to many readers. How does 3.39 metres strike you?

2018 Daihatsu Wake: source

The car conforms to Kei-car rules so it’s tiny, an exercise in very confined creativity. The third side glass stands out as a detail hinting at the car’s robustness, apparently citing the Mk1 Discovery. Notice the way the glass is allowed to carry on up to the radius at the side of the roof, a little quality touch adding some expense and visual interest.

The design fuses two contradictory needs: to be small and to be tough-looking. It weighs in at under a tonne. The interior (see below) is designed to work as a base for outdoor activities and the seats can be folded fully flat making them into beds. The sliding door allows owners to treat the vehicle as a mobile camp: throw open the door and have a semi-alfesco lunch wherever you can bring the vehicle.

2018 Daihatsu Wake: source

The designers resisted the urge to black out the A-pillar, leaving a curiously long and thin pane, aft of which is the mirror. The radii on the A-pillar and bonnet are nicely integrated into the lamp.  Only the truncated zag of the bumper stands out as being a little forced. Overall, the form is tidy, strong and fun, very typical of Japanese design.

2018 Daihatsu Wake colours: source

The exterior colour palette is also there to emphasise good humour. I notice that there’s one boring colour, a grey white. The rest of them are candy hues meaning you will probably never see a boring Wake on the street.

2018 Daihatsu Wake: source

Turning to the interior we find a somewhat busy confection. Some imagination was applied to the instruments (below) which are three semi-circles jostling in a cut-out on the top of the dash. A useful shelf sits in front of the front passenger; square summarises the interior theme.

2018 Daihatsu Wake interior: source

A tour of the Daihatsu website shows only grey interiors.  I would have expected at least a warm brown or beige option.

2018 Daihatsu Wake: source

There is a little impression of driving it here: “What I found surprising from test driving this car was that the car felt stable and composed despite its ridiculous height. Its center of gravity is actually only 10mm higher than the Tanto and the front and rear stabilizers were retuned. Even when I accelerated hard and dove into a corner, the suspension absorbed the forces really well keeping it stable. Overall body roll is suppressed well and the movement is quite smooth. You feel secure behind the wheel with its surprisingly restrained chassis.”

2018 Daihatsu Wake interior: source

In this image you can see how small the boot must be. I could not find data: maybe 200 litres, at the most.  This photo (below) shows the 2013 Daihatsu Deca Deca concept which had much more interesting door skins:

2013 Daihatsu Deca Deca: source

I am not sure what is so radically unacceptable about those Deca Deca door panels. The production car lacks the fully open aperture; it has a B-post aft of the driver. Still, those interesting bagel shape (and the nice colours) could have been adapted for the car in production form.

2018 Daihatsu Wake: source

The Wake has a 4.4 metre turning circle. And TopGear saw fit to add to a list of ten Kei-cars they really liked. “There are 52bhp and 63bhp versions, and front- and four-wheel-drive options, while sliding doors and an extremely low boot floor make it exceedingly practical for its size. The colour scheme is also shared with a packet of Skittles. Beats a Yaris every day of the week.”

This is a regular and plaintive call, for some of these rather original cars to be sold in the EU. Presumably crash regulations militate against this. What we might learn is once again to make more entertaining smaller cars. The corresponding small vehicle from European manufacturers insist on trying to be more serious and grown-up than is required. Isn’t this the kind of thing Fiat or Citroen might have a go at?

Author: richard herriott

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

15 thoughts on “I am faded feathers and old bones on her ladder, enchanted”

  1. Now I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll add that this is exactly what FIAT should be doing/ have done with, say, the Panda. There are shades of the new Jimny in the ‘square’ design theme, don’t you think.

    It’s a pity the jolly paint jobs are not matched by a more imaginative palette inside. That aside, this beats most of not all the City cars I can think of and would get my money.

    1. Hi Padraig,

      It must be a picture for the sister company’s version, Toyota sells it as the Pixis Mega over there.
      This is what I was talking about the other day when recounting the badge-whoring ways of Toyota in Japan. It always striked me as odd to sell so many versions of one car in a tiny country. Not just for the Wake, there’s plenty of other badge swaps. Surely EVERYONE there must know about the sleight of hand.

    2. We can even get a glimpse of what a similar Fiat would look like because I’ve just discovered that the Daihatsu Cast is a dead ringer for the Fiat 500X from some angles….Iam shocked: Japanese automakers stopped doing outright copies of western cars a long time ago so this is all the more surprising for me. It could even be Chinese in its approach to plagiarism.


  2. Wish they had called it the Daihatsu Woke: “the car for those who reject the nonsensical aggression forced upon us by the patriarchy”.

  3. It’s ironic that the author wants Fiat to take inspiration from Daihatsu but judging by the ‘Cast’ it looks like all Daihatsu wants is to look like Fiat 😀

    1. I wouldn’t say the Cast is a dead ringer for the 500x, but there’s certainly a lot of Fiat in it. It’s more a weird fusion of the 500L and current Panda, with a MINI-esque front end thrown in for good measure.

  4. Very different and interesting, and perfectly suited to its intended use. That said, the height, narrowness and tiny wheels must make it feel like you’re driving around in a wardrobe.

    Given the absence of side rubbing strips, as Richard noted, I wonder what the little cartoon of the boy opening the door into a low wall is trying to tell us? If it’s just warning potential customers of the risk, then it represents impressive candour from Daihatsu!

    1. One presumably drives it as intended and the the height and narrowness won´t matter too much.
      Autocar did a road test of the Jimny and finalised by saying that it was probably very good off-road (test comes later). What was the point of that? If Suzuki were to be believed the new Jimny was supposed to do what the old one did. That means it was bound to be mediocre on-road. So, that´s a win for Suzuki. The Jimny is still an off-roader.

    2. According to that test drive link, it’s 1835mm tall. 1835mm! The wardrobe analogy is apt.

  5. Yes, it’s a little disappointing that the new Jimny is still mediocre on-road, but hardly surprising. Making a vehicle that small perform equally well on and off-road is probably impossible. The urban cowboys (and cowgirls) who buy one purely on its looks will pay an uncomfortable price for being so “on trend”.

  6. Sorry, Richard, I put the apostrophe back into my surname and the result is that my last two comments need moderation…strange!

    I’m thinking of starting a support group for those who, like me, are victims of apostrophobia from websites that don’t regard it as a valid character in a surname.

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