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Since the day they were first invented, a car has essentially been little more than a tin box on wheels. Admittedly things have changed quite a lot since the first mass produced cars and now some have nice alloy wheels and some look more like a bullet than a box, even some of the buses on the roads these days. But in the decade and a half since I became old enough to take control of such a vehicle, I have never driven anything that matches the description of tin box on wheels quite as closely as the Daihatsu Grand Move.
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. After all, it was a former Mobility vehicle, which meant it was low mileage, well maintained and only £5000 for a four year old family vehicle with only around twenty thousand miles on the clock. It might have looked like a tin box on wheels, but as it was replacing a 1985 Volkswagen Polo which was starting to show its age in any number of little ways, it was always going to be a step up.
The Grand Move is a step up in more ways that one. Although its quite boxy, this seems to be because the car isnt entirely sure what it wants to be. Marketed as a five door hatchback, the relative flatness of the rear door makes it seem more like an estate car and the high shape gives the silhouette of an MPV. The reason it had been a Mobility car and is quite a popular choice for that is that the high sides mean the seating position is a lot higher than in most family hatchbacks, although not as high as a 4x4 vehicle. This makes it easy to get into and out of, both for a driver and passenger with mobility issues, or to put children in the back.
The advantages of this higher seat position arent just apparent when youre getting into and out of the car. Once youre inside, you realise youve got a wonderful view of the road. Theres a huge screen in front of you and the pillars arent so large as to get in the way a great deal. Thanks to being so high up, you can see over the top of some vehicles, but your view is certainly not restricted by any part of your own vehicle. With the high angle of view, you can quite easily see where the front end of the car is and with the flat rear end, the back end of the car is pretty much where you expect it to be. With the car being sold as a hatchback, this means that whilst the car is very high sides, its not too big, being roughly the same length and width as your average family hatchback. Add this size to the heightened view and parking is a surprisingly easy thing to accomplish.
Of course, keeping the size small does impact upon the room inside. Head room is ample, thanks to the raised roof line, but in all other areas it is slightly lacking. The width of the car means that, like in many family hatchbacks, sitting three adults in the back is a bit of a squeeze, although it would be designed more for seating three younger people in the back. For much the same reason, rear seat leg room isnt the greatest, with it being cramped for someone of my size, even at less than six feet tall.
However, this is more than made up for in terms of luggage space. There are plenty of little cubby holes that small items can be put into, although nothing like as many as are now appearing in newly built family cars. The boot space is larger than most family hatchbacks, thanks to the shape which almost turns the boot into an estate, although if you have driven an estate car in the past, it would seem quite small. You might struggle to take a family of four on holiday for a fortnight in this car, but if you were shopping for beer and food for a summer barbeque, as weve done with it, that presents no challenge to the boot space. If the rear seats are folded down, this more the doubles the space available and weve carried two six foot tall bookcases with no trouble at all; more easily, in fact, than carrying two six foot human passengers would be!
Driving a Grand Move is surprisingly easy for what initially looks like such a large car. Daihatsus design brief was supposedly to transport a family of five in ease and comfort through Tokyo traffic. Having seen Tokyo traffic, I can confirm that there is very little in the Home Counties to compare to it, although rush hour in a large city might come as close as youre going to get in the UK.
For such a large car with a relatively small (either 1.5 or 1.6 litre) engine, its surprisingly nippy and accelerates up to around 30 mph really quickly, although it does take 12.3 seconds to get to 60. That said, whilst this time may be slightly slower than the average across family hatchbacks, for an MPV sized vehicle its quite quick. As the car is quite light and the engine seems to produce more power than the 88 BHP advertised, getting wheel spin from the front wheels from a standing start is very easy if youve got a heavy right foot like I have. The only down side to this is that the squeal of tyres makes people turn to look and you might not want to be seen in a vehicle like this if youre a little image conscious.
Once up to speed, the car handles really well, too. Whilst empty, its not a heavy car by any means and the power steering means the handling is light and easy, both for driving and for parking. The problems come when you start trying to throw the car around a little more, as its really not designed for that. Whilst it has a lot less body roll than you might expect for a car of its height, it does develop huge amounts of under steer if you try to take a corner too quickly, like accelerating off a roundabout. For most around town driving, however, this is not an issue and the car handles superbly, with an ease and lightness that I dont remember experiencing since I was driving a 1.4 engined Ford Fiesta several years ago. Sadly, the mileage doesnt quite match up to that of the old Fiesta, offering only 28.5 miles to the gallon around town driving and only just over 37 combined. Current models offer around 45 or more miles to the gallon and with petrol prices the way they are, the more fuel efficient a car can be, the better.
Whilst not a bad car for town driving, its far from perfect. Visibility and handling are pretty good, but on models without anti lock brakes, such as the 1.5 version had, Ive never been entirely trusting of the braking abilities of the car; this is one that gets going a lot more readily than it gets stopped. Fortunately, as someone with a no claims bonus I am keen to protect, I do tend to sit fairly well back from vehicles in front, so Im yet to test the crumple zones.
Sadly, this isnt true of my flatmates who also drive the car. The Daihatsu doesnt just look like a tin box on wheels; it gives that whole feel as well. Whilst other cars can go on about their Euro/NCAP five star safety ratings, Id be stunned to discover that the Daihatsu had even half that. The seating position might protect you from some injury in the even of a collision, but the body work on the vehicle certainly wont, as it has a tinny and insubstantial feel to it. Part of this impression comes from the relatively low weight of the vehicle, some from the way the doors dont close with the same satisfying clunk you get from other cars. Were having a great deal of trouble with the rear hatch, which has not closed properly since it was dented quite severely in a low speed collision in traffic. This has caused us all sorts of problems with the boot, after a minor accident which would have caused next to no damage to any other vehicle.
The interior is not built any more competently, either. Whilst the Grand Move has loads of cubby holes for storage and comes with airbags for both driver and passenger, which are probably more necessary than on most cars with the lack of strength in the bodywork, there is little else to be impressed about. Sure, the front seats can be adjusted in such a way as to form a bed, but theyre not really made of a material youd been keen to sleep on. The seat coverings are made of a cheap fabric that feels scratchy if you sit on it with bare skin, more so than any other car Ive driven except a 1980 Lada. The dash and door interiors are a cheap grey plastic that seems to be holding together fairly well in our car, but doesnt look particularly appealing. On the plus side, the dark grey fabric means that it doesnt show dirt too badly, which could be a distinct advantage for those using the Grand Move as it was originally intended, as a family car.
As impressive as the Grand Move is in urban conditions, its equally unimpressive when you try to pick up the pace and take it on longer journeys or at speed. There is the under steer I have already mentioned, but the whole driving experience is slightly unpleasant on long journeys, as the seating position isnt the most comfortable. Ive noticed that I can end a long journey with aching shoulders after hanging on to the wheel for too long.
The engine simply isnt big enough to cope with high speed driving, struggling at 3500 rpm even at 70 miles per hour and taking it up to 80 really has it straining and it does tend to burn oil at this speed. The lightness of touch at slow speeds translates into insecurity at high speeds; with the car not feeling connected to the road and it tends to wallow over bumps in the road at high speeds. The brakes are still not good enough and having to brake quickly is a very scary experience, with the car not feeling connected to the road and squirming around and giving you no confidence its going to stop until it actually does.
The costs of spares and servicing are pretty standard, which is unusual for a minority make of car and in the five years weve owned it, surprisingly little has gone wrong with it. The tracking does seem to be quite easily knocked off, though and that has had to be corrected several times. What was a major surprise given the size of the car was that it remained stable and upright when it blew a rear tyre at high speed.
When new in 1998, the Daihatsu Grand Move 1.5 we have would have cost around £11,000, against the £5,000 we paid in 2002. Ive seen a current suggested price of around £1200 for this model, although the cheapest Ive seen one online is for £1500, which I would consider being slightly over priced, unless it has especially low mileage.
Should you be considering buying a use Daihatsu Grand Move, its worth noting that the model has since been discontinued, so parts are likely to become rarer as the model ages. The resale value is going to be low as well, thanks to the relatively rareness and prestige of the brand. If youre looking for a cheap second car which handles well around town and will take the family around without too much trouble, this isnt a bad choice. If youre likely to be making long journeys or transporting 5 adults or near adults on a regular basis, however, you would be better off buying something designed for that purpose, such as a Ford Focus S-Max, or the Volkswagen Golf Plus, or even a proper MPV like the Vauxhall Zafira. Whilst youre likely to have to pay more for the name, youll find that the extra you pay is rewarded in extra quality of the vehicle.
The Grand Move does have the odd thing going for it here and there, but all the advantages fade away the minute you try and take it outside of a busy town. Even in town, it only seems like a decent car when youve been driving a rust bucket for the previous five years. Really only recommended if youre trying to step up from a fifteen year old car the way we were or desperately need to downgrade for financial reasons. If youre looking for a car for any other reason and especially if you need a good all rounder, choose something better.
What can I say? I know - A dead dog's ass probably looks better than this. It probably actually performs better as well. If I ever met the guy in charge of the whole thing I think I would punch him and then force him to drive the car. First, it handles like an OAP zimmer frame - and that's probably complimenting it. I don't even know if it actually has a suspension and as for interior design - well, lets just say that there's probably more space in a Pepsi can than this little monster. Whatever you do, don't buy it