Daihatsu Copen: Cute, Cool And Coming In November | Part Two

Daihatsu Copen


However, the Copen’s major ‘party-piece’ is an electrically-operated folding hard-top - very similar to that on a Mercedes SLK - offering excellent security and weather protection.

All the driver has to do is unlock two windscreen catches and press a button on the centre console. The lightweight aluminium roof then folds into the boot in less than 25 seconds. A more basic version is also available in Japan comprising a roof panel which has to be manually stowed in the boot.

Luggage capacity with the roof up is sufficient for a weekend away. With the roof down, there is space for a soft sports bag.

The front-wheel drive Copen measures 3,395 mm long, has a 1,475 mm width excluding mirrors and is 1,260 mm high. Its wheelbase is 2,230 mm, overhangs are tiny and the driver sits perfectly between front and rear wheels for extra handling intimacy. The engine is transversely-mounted in the front.

Perky Powerplant

All Japanese K-Cars are limited to a 660 cc engine capacity with a 64 PS power limit. As a result, Daihatsu has been able to spend many years perfecting its engines to provide high levels of performance, refinement and durability.

Daihatsu constantly competes with Suzuki for Number One place in the mini-car segment and sells over 500,000 cars a year.

The Copen features an all-aluminium 16 valve, 659 cc engine with four cylinders for extra smoothness. Its turbocharger was designed exclusively for this car and provides strong response from as low as 2,000 rpm.

Maximum power is 64 PS at a surprisingly low 6,000 rpm while peak torque of 81 lb ft is at an even more remarkable 3,200 rpm, providing good low-speed flexibility. Fifth gear, for example, will pull strongly from 35 mph.

At the other end of the rev-scale, the Copen’s engine will spin uncomplainingly to 8,500 rpm. The current gearing is approximately 16 mph per 1,000 rpm in top although this may be raised for Europe.

While no official figures are currently available, top speed is estimated to be over 105 mph with a 0–60 mph time in under 10 seconds.

Engine changes to allow the Copen to pass EWVTA regulations are expected to include a revised electronic control unit (ECU) to alter the high-speed fuel delivery and revisions to the turbocharger.

Standard transmission is a five-speed manual although a dual-mode four-speed automatic gearbox is also available in Japan.

Agile Chassis - Conceived As A Sports Car

Anyone expecting the Copen to be a shallow style-statement will be in for a surprise. The power-steering is especially direct and informative and the handling taut and agile.

Firmly damped with minimum body-roll and a low centre-of-gravity, the Copen also has a particularly low polar-moment-of-inertia. This means most of the weight is between the front and rear wheels, avoiding the pendulum-effect of large overhangs.

The result is that the car tracks especially straight at speed yet can be minutely adjusted by throttle and steering inputs – just like a prestige sports car.

Front suspension is by MacPherson struts while the rear features a conventional torsion beam and coil springs with separate shock-absorbers. Anti-roll bars are fitted front and rear and there is substantial cross-bracing reinforcement under the floorpan for extra structural rigidity.

In addition, options include a ‘Sports Pack’ comprising a rear performance brace and uprated front and rear suspension with gas-charged shock absorbers. The Copen can even be ordered in Japan with a front limited-slip differential.

General Background

The Copen was first displayed as a concept at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show. It appeared again in 2001 and finally went on sale in Japan in spring 2002 virtually unchanged in appearance from the original car. Since then, the Copen has developed an enthusiastic cult following with long waiting lists.

The steel monocoque bodyshell features an aluminium roof panel with lightweight mechanism and the entire car is effectively hand-finished in a special section of Daihatsu’s Osaka factory.

Published 12 May 2003 Melanie Carter

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