Road Test - Daihatsu Sirion Recommended as

The Sirion’s name was one of the first to be mentioned when I asked a couple of the companies who do hand control conversions which are the most popular entry level vehicles for drivers with disabilities. The reason for this is apparently because it is good value for money.

Mercia and Karen from Daihatsu Centurion, were kind enough to let me test an automatic 1.3l Sirion for a day, and what a fun little vehicle it turned out to be. For a 1.3l automatic I was surprised by how gutsy and responsive it is. After getting a feel for its drivability, I went and visited a couple of friends who have to use wheelchairs, to get their opinion on the vehicle. The general consensus was that there seemed to be a lot of space inside the vehicle for such a small car, with a very versatile and “easy-to-change” seating setup. We also noted the size of the backdoor opening (780mm from floor to roof), and how low the “sill” was. The question that immediately came to mind was whether we could load a power wheelchair into the back of the car, up a ramp.

I knew who could help me test this possibility. I visited Lisa at Jolisa” (previously Prefect Pace Distributors). She willingly provided me with a set of ramps and a range of wheelchairs to try. The ramps into the boot fitted easily and so did the power chair – admittedly it did have a folding backrest. Due to the split folding rear seat, where 2/3rds of the seat can be folded down while the other 1/3rd can be left in position, we were able to strap the wheelchair in using the rear seatbelt, and still free up a single seat at the back. On this seat we loaded a rigid frame chair.

Two wheelchairs loaded easily into the back of a Sirion!! Even Lisa was impressed! After that we tried a standard folding frame chair which we managed to fit behind the back seat, and even close the door. It was a tight squeeze, and we had to remove the spare wheel cover, but it fitted. I checked out the size of the luggage compartment in comparison with the Getz, Citroen C2 and Kia Picanto. The Sirion has the largest packing area and door opening size, which enables easy loading and transporting of wheelchairs.

Next I looked at how wide the driver and passenger doors opened, and how easily a wheelchair could be loaded from the drivers position. The seat has manual forwards and backwards and tilt and height adjustments, however they only allow a fairly small range. I was able to move the seat back enough to create ample space to lift a wheelchair over my lap. The new Otto Bock manual rigid frame chair was a piece of cake to lift over the driver into the passenger seat. This was partly due to the internal space of the vehicle and partly due to this lovely wheelchair!

The door openings gave ample room for a wheelchair to get close, however the wide door frame makes it quite a long transfer to get from the wheelchair into the driver’s or passenger seat. The height adjustable driver’s seat made up for this by enabling me to adjust the seat to a similar height as the wheelchair seat.

It is a winner from the internal space and flexibility perspective, but what about the rest of the vehicle? The large and well designed windows give excellent visibility, which is important where a person may have reduced head movements. It has excellent safety features for a car in this price bracket, including fire blankets, impact absorption structures, pedestrian protection and passenger protection features such as 2 airbags. The brakes were phenomenal, and so they should be with both ABS and EBD (electronic brake distribution). With brakes like these, make sure that passengers are well strapped in, particularly if they do not have balance, and any wheelchairs or other luggage should be securely stowed or strapped down.

The Sirion is available in a 1.3 litre or 1.5 litre DWT petrol engine, with either an automatic or manual gearbox. This 4 cylinder, DOHC 16 valve, DWT engine gives a balance between environmental friendliness and performance with good fuel consumption of approx 5.8l/100km and low emissions which have been achieved with a compact, high performance engine. The 1.5l sports version offers nimble city driving and ample power for high speed cruising.

Current and average fuel consumption can be displayed on the LCD panel which will hopefully develop environmentally friendly driving habits.

It has a number of fun and convenient features which are all thrown in on the standard package deal. No having to pay extra for the front loading CD or air-conditioner. Some lovely features for drivers with disabilities are also thrown in on the standard package, including an electric mirror switch on the dashboard, height adjustable drivers’ seat and steering column and touch lights on the ceiling.

For drivers with limited hand function, the button on the gear lever for shifting from Park to Reverse and back could be difficult to press. The door handles may need some adaptations along with the switches for the electric windows. But these are minor adaptations compared with some of the benefits of this vehicle.

Other impressions were that it is extremely manoeuvrable with light power steering; very quiet and has clever little storage compartments conveniently located around the vehicle. Allin- all I felt that it is a very well designed vehicle, with features which make it exceptionally versatile for a vehicle of this size. With a price tag of
R119 995 (incl. vat) for us ‘able bods’, or R100 779 for those who can get their disability rebate sorted out, I have to agree that this vehicle is good value for money.

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