Daihatsu: Committed to cute since 1951.
When all boils down, Western culture leaves little room for anything other than the normative. If it isn’t masculine, it’s feminine (with slow acceptance of gender neutrality) but when parameters are so rigidly defined we must head to Japan for inspired creativity. The keijidōsha-car dimensions you have to play with are (all maximum) 3.4m long, 1.48m wide and just two metres tall. Go figure out a way to make it all, not only work but also manifest itself in a noticeably different manner to the competition. Not forgetting of course something Westerners too often forget: a sense of fun.
Japan as a car building nation contains a sense of Galapagos Islands to them; species developing into their own environments and whilst not to everyone’s taste, the results are often nothing short of spectacular. Take this diminutive example from the company who wish to Light You Up: Daihatsu. Known as the Mira Tocot, a name we’ll return to shortly. Instead consider for a moment the moniker this car’s predecessor enjoyed, one as warm and comforting as the feelings experienced while partaking – the Cocoa. Poles apart from the latest Nürburgring thrasher, in every sense.
The name TOCOT stems from the distinctive characteristics of the new model: “TO Character (expressing one’s unique character),” TO Comfortableness (ease of driving, and safety and peace of mind),” and TO Convenience (ease of use)” according to Daihatsu’s press launch information pack from June 2018. Bones are not made about the car being aimed squarely at both fairer sex and first time drivers, with 75% of the 3,000 per month anticipated sales. A project team of un-named women employees’ ideas steered the styling direction. That still leaves 750 of the opposite sex to head for coffee across town in one of the cutest exteriors on tarmac.
If the polarising headlamp/turn signal combination doesn’t charm its way into your heart, perhaps you’re looking to the symmetry busting roof aerial (red bow) location or, perhaps worse still the off centred number plate (to cover the mouth). Quite the quirk; Tocot’s DRG is wilfully happy, an automotive iteration almost from the pen of Yuko Shimizu, the creator of Hello Kitty.
The sides are effortlessly simple with mere hints of a wheel-arch blister alongside a rectangular recess spanning both doors. Another almost scored line heads front to back, splitting the door handle recess and topping the fuel filler flap. The rear, unadorned with a wiper cannot deviate too far from ninety degrees. The oblong boot opening gap is at least central and mirrors the number plate below, albeit smaller. The overall package is immensely appealing.
Inside sees Tocot loaded to its microscopic gunwales with safety kit. The A-pillars are dizzyingly steep allowing for a better view when driving. There are standard airbags front and side, seat belt pre-tensioners and sensors that cover those rounded corners. The world’s smallest stereo cameras assist with crash avoidance. Smart Assist III will bring Tocot to halt should it detect a vehicle or pedestrian in its path. A rear camera helps reversing manoeuvres with similar stopping power.
Tocot’s dashboard is functional over funky; a large speedometer and small digital display is all that’s ahead of the driver. The ubiquitous sat-nav/ radio is a reasonably sized display unit and thankfully some proper, manual controls see to heating. The white ceramic band is porcelain-like, smooth yet soft, welcoming. And to the brown/beige twill seats, which too can be heated for those chilly Japanese dawns. But notice the ambiance of the cabin; some grey plastic abounds (it is a cheap car) but not here the sombre black of many a European interior.
Helping maintain individuality, Tocot can be had in three trims along with three style packages. Sweet Style brings with it oyster pearl white door handles, wheel covers and door mirrors. Elegant Style changes these to a chrome silver whereas Cool Style is for those wishing to ape their European cousins by adding black accents to those areas just mentioned. This also includes a black pin stripe, above the scored line with the name Tocot placed in front of the rear door handle. Undiluted in finish.
Of matters hue, eight bright colours (and black) can be specified along with two-tone effects and, should one see fit, a wrap of textured weave similar to the seats can be applied to the roof, upper door sides and front bumper.
Transmission choice is limited however – CVT only and whilst invariably a city car, Tocot will take on the motorway schlep happily. In a car averaging just 750Kgs, the extremely frugal three cylinder, 653cc petrol unit manages 51bhp and should a U-turn be necessary, that turning radius is but 4.4 metres.
Considering the female influence and target audience, on researching this Pipistrelle palindrome of a car, the videos and write ups were all done by young men. Empowering their feminine side? Or plain curious as to what’s going on with the Chromed D brand? Daihatsu are known back home as a starter car or for those at least young at heart.
Having no access but internet and perceived wisdom, Japan appears a country rich in contradictions, formal in ways unfamiliar to the Occidental, yet frivolous to the extreme with many of their motor cars and all the better for it. The Tocot could have derived from no other place. But they can be imported. Surrounding the purlieus of my employment, an area quite liberal and with high levels of affluence, Daihatsu have yet to be seen but older Nissan Cubes and the occasional Figaro do the rounds – a Jimny school run. The Kei-car ordains a pygmy existence here.
The shires of Britain lost Daihatsu some years ago but could the Tocot not make an appearance considering that every European carmaker cites a whirlpool of diminishing returns on small, city bound means of transit? Surely safety isn’t the issue here – but size maybe is. A car a soupçon shorter than an original Golf may make prospective buyers blanche more than an embarrassed teenager asking for a date. A shame, for possessing just a little boldness can garner surprisingly pleasurable results.
 The three spoke wheel is pleasingly unfettered by a dozen or more parameters and also isn’t black!
 720 Kgs FWD, 790 Kgs AWD