Winter tyres vs 4×4

Ok, so this isn’t the most scientific of tests, but an unexpected burst of snowy weather has allowed me to compare my Daihatsu Sirion and its Avon Ice Touring tyres versus my Land Rover Discovery on a set of Avon Ranger All-Terrain tyres. It has been a very interesting day.

Discovery still a handful in the snow

Discovery still a handful in the snow

First of all, I’d like to point out that the biggest factor in surviving tricky conditions on the road is the driver. Owning a 4×4 does not make you invincible. Of this, I was already well aware. Even so, I was surprised to get wheelspin as I pulled away in the Discovery (diff lock not engaged as snow coverage was patchy) and even more surprised that the first sharp turn had it feeling very twitchy. Proof that despite the rather general ‘Mud and Snow’ tag on the Avon Rangers, the compound just was not soft enough to provide good grip.

I engaged the diff-lock for steep descents, and it was nice to have that luxury. By engaging the diff lock, I was more effectively spreading the braking between the two axles, hopefully making it less likely that I would lock a wheel should I have to brake. The best way to avoid wheel lock is of course to use a low gear and keep well away from the middle pedal, but you never know what’s around the next bend.

But, even when the snow had cleared enough to leave dry tracks on the road surface, hitting the banks of slushy snow in between left the Discovery feeling very unstable. I got back home and jumped into the Sirion.

Sirion proved very capable

Sirion proved very capable

Straight away, the Sirion felt very different. Sure, the lack of four-wheel drive meant wheelspin was impossible to avoid when starting on a snowy slope (or from where it is pictured above on fresh snow) but it felt more stable. Hitting slush was no more dramatic than dry tarmac. The Sirion also proved how great proper winter tyres are at stopping on snow and ice. For the above shot, I braked gently on the fresh snow with no ill effects, then pressed the pedal really hard, which finally made the anti-lock brakes kick in. For me, this stopping power is what makes winter tyres an essential item.

It isn’t a conclusive test, as I was unable to test both cars on exactly the same roads, at exactly the same time. I also didn’t have the luxury of trying the Discovery on winter tyres or the Sirion on summer ones for direct comparisons. One thing I will say is that the high degree of power assistance to the steering on both vehicles is very detrimental in these conditions. It’s very hard to know exactly how much grip the front wheels have, as so little feedback comes through the steering wheel. This means it’s easy to be in a skid without realising it. A reminder that perhaps I should have dragged the 2CV out of its cosy garage!


Daihatsu Sirion: Cosmetics and more

Today’s main aim was to improve the cosmetics. That involved removing most of the artwork and then giving the cleaned panels a good coat of polish. Removing the remnants of old stickers was very hard work. I tried carburettor cleaner, electrical contact cleaner, white spirits, brake cleaner and tar & bug remover. Eventually, the rag which was by now soaked in all of the above managed to clean the gooey, gluey mess off the paintwork. I’m very pleased with the results.

Sirion cleaned

Looking much cleaner

For the moment, I’m keeping the roof-mounted bird and the Yellow Peril bonnet artwork. Both may yet go, but I’m in less of a rush to get rid of them than I was some of the other stuff. I’ve kept one Muttley on the offside rear quarter too.

Arse dragon

Cleaned backside

You can just about see in the shot above that I’ve also tackled the rot in the rear wheelarches. It’s going to need some welding at some point, but I’ve rubbed back to decent metal and treated what is then visible for the time being.

I did discover some shoddy repairs. The tailgate has many shades of yellow upon it as whoever repaired some previous accident damage clearly couldn’t be bothered to paint the whole tailgate. I can’t say I’m that bothered though. Adjusting the rear washer was a pain as I had to remove the rear spoiler to do so. Great design! Fortunately, three nuts are all that hold it in place. I also changed all wiper blades and gave some parts of the underside a soak in anti-corrosion wax – namely the front crossmember and subframe mountings.

Tiny engine

Tiny engine

I almost checked the gearbox oil level too, but that can wait for another day, and possibly use of a ramp to make life easier. As you can see, despite the dinky engine, underbonnet access is still quite tight. The radiator and battery also seem to be scaled down!

I’m still very pleased with the car. I only really sold the Golf because the tax was up at the end of this month. The downside of a 1.6-litre engine is that it is just over the 1550cc cut-off for Vehicle Excise Duty. That means 12 months costs £225. That’s a lot of money to find at once, especially when I’ve recently had to tax both the 2CV and Land Rover. In fact, it angers me that road tax for older cars is so ridiculously expensive. Some moderns are super-cheap or even free. That doesn’t seem fair. A Golf costs as much to tax as a 6-litre Jaguar XJS-R. That’s just lunacy.

As it is, the Sirion doesn’t need taxing until the end of November, and will only cost £140 for 12 months. That definitely helps, and so should the theoretically better economy. I’m looking forward to finding out just what it’s doing, but it has only used quarter of a tank in the 120 miles I’ve covered so far. Shouldn’t take too long to use the rest up I reckon!




New car – behold the Sirion

Firstly, I apologise for the delay in reporting this latest purchase. I bought the car at 4pm yesterday afternoon and have been having so much fun with it that I haven’t really found time to get a Blog written. That’s very lax of me and I apologise.

So, I have bought a Daihatsu Sirion. Not an obvious choice perhaps, but a process of elimination left me desiring something slightly modern (by my standards!), quirky and small. In a fairly recent Blog, I bemoaned the lack of something small and oriental on the fleet. Lo and behold, I’ve got something!

For those not in the know, the Sirion is a quirky-looking ‘retro’ hatchback built by Japanese manufacturer Daihatsu. Daihatsu was the first Japanese manufacturer to sell cars in the UK, starting with the super-cute Compagno in 1965. Here’s a picture of one at the NEC Classic Motor Show, the year that Daihatsu dared to have a stand and proved too lazy to remove the poor car from its car trailer! I was not impressed…

Lazy Daihatsu show off their first UK car. Lazily

Quite a pretty little thing isn’t it? Daihatsu continued to excel at the small-car game, with the Charade in several generations and the tiny Kei-car Mira. Oddly, Daihatsu also excelled at building 4x4s for farmers in the form of the Fourtrak. Several are still in use locally.

Sadly, despite being the first, Daihatsu quit the European market earlier this year (2013). Very sad as it was a company that brought a decent level of quirkiness to anotherwise dull world of moderns.

Anyway. I found myself in Chester yesterday faced with this.

My new silly Sirion

My new silly Sirion

It’s a 1998 Daihatsu Sirion+ 1-litre manual. It has a thrummy three-cylinder engine, a healthy specification (electric windows all-round, PAS, air con), some questionable artwork and a fair dose of rot. Clearly the only sensible thing to do was hand over £370 and drive it almost 100 miles back home. After three-and-a-half hours on the train, a car really was my only option!

And, to engage road test mode for a moment, the Daihatsu Sirion really is a joy on the open road. The engine is surprisingly willing for just 50bhp (thank a kerb weight of 740kg for that) and it sounds superb. Despite a potentially frantic 4000rpm at an indicated 80mph (actually fairly close to the legal speed limit I’m sure officer, allowing for speedo inaccuracy, ahem) it is turbine smooth at high speed. In fact, it’s almost as refined as my 188bhp, 3-litre Mercedes was! Astonishing.

Well, ok. The ride is a touch bouncy, but then the Japanese have never really managed to tailor suspension to suit British roads. I guess they can’t comprehend driving around on roads that are quite so damaged. The steering is a bit too light, but it’s very direct, so you don’t have to twirl the wheel. It’s very easy to pick your line and the Firestone tyres don’t seem too keen to send me off into the scenery.

The gearbox is a delight, with a short action and great feel. Sadly, this highlights that third gear synchromesh is past its best. The clutch is light too, though biting a bit too close to the floor for my liking. The brakes are pretty good, though the pedal goes from dead to responsive in a slightly unpleasant manner.

A surprisingly nice place to be

A surprisingly nice place to be

I find it comfortable too. In fact, the cosy interior is a lovely place to sit. Sure, the switchgear is a bit typically-Japanese and not all that well thought out, but switches feel of good quality and everything works.

It’s acceleration that provides the biggest giggle though. The engine barks like the half-a-V6 it is, the transmission screams like a muted rally car and it gathers speed surprisingly well.

A lot more fun that it looks

A lot more fun that it looks

I really am very fond of this car. As you can see from the picture above, I’ve already started to remove the artwork. I like funny looking cars as much as the next man, but the Sirion is quirky enough on its own really. It doesn’t need cheap tricks. I also need to tackle the corrosion in the rear wheelarches. It’s already had a load of welding for the MOT (still has 10 months remaining until the next) but the back end has been properly rust-proofed since.

It’s tricky to work on this car though. Every time I pick up the keys, I just want to go for another drive! Cars that are this much fun should not have 1-litre engines and cost less than £400 to buy. Or maybe I should keep the secret to myself…