Christmas Comes Early For First Daihatsu Copen Customers - An Agile Chassis | Part Four

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 with high caster angles for stable straight-line running and a firm, informative feel through the steering wheel. This is further helped by the use of radial ball-bearings in the suspension supports which reduces friction and gives clearer messages. Gas/oil shock-absorbers are also fitted for consistent damping – even under severe conditions.

The rear features a conventional torsion beam and coil springs with separate monotube gas/oil shock absorbers. Anti-roll bars are fitted front and rear and there is substantial cross-bracing reinforcement under the floorpan for extra structural rigidity.

Changes compared to the prototype cars offered to the UK press for evaluation include a slightly softer-riding suspension which does without the optional ‘Sports Pack’. This comprised a rear performance brace and uprated front and rear suspension with additional ‘piggy-back’ gas-charged shock absorbers.

The Copen has a conventional hydraulic power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system as opposed to the growing trend towards electric power-assistance. The benefits are greater feel and sensitivity which is more in keeping with a sports car.

High Safety Levels

Safety is given high priority in the Copen which - despite its small size - has all the latest life-saving and injury-reducing initiatives.

For example, both front seats have seat-belt pretensioners and force limiters. These are designed to provide just the right amount of restraint for the level of retardation. Auto-locking restraints (ALR) are also fitted which keep the belt in its most effective position.

continues... | Part Five
Published 7 December 2003 Melanie Carter

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