Publication date: 13 May 2015
Daihatsu Copen

Daihatsu Copen

Holiday romance

Review - It all started at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. That's where I saw her first. And I immediately knew she was the one for me. Smart, elegant, provocative, sporty and also very modest. For a long time, this Japanese beauty seemed unattainable. But now the dream came true: for a week we were inseparable, the Daihatsu Copen and I.

Love is often inexplicable. What is irresistible to one person is completely unattractive to another. At an event like the Tokyo Motor Show, most visitors fall for the voluptuous lines and extravagance of Italian beauties. But to me, that's a bit vulgar. What good are superpowers if you can't or shouldn't use them anywhere?

Daihatsu Copen

No, I prefer the Daihatsu Copen! Its lines are at least as original and, precisely because of its modesty, Copen exudes class. Moreover, Copen has a superpower that is (slightly) more useful: the sheet metal can be changed in minutes and without tools ("Dress-formation"). Elegant silver today, vibrant red tomorrow and bright yellow the day after.

Copen comes as a chic "Robe" and the more playful "X-Play". The latter features many plastic bumpers and dark panels to give it a tough character. In fact, it reduces Copen to a toy car. I therefore fell for the "Robe": elegant, unassuming and 100% Japanese.

Daihatsu Copen
Daihatsu Copen

Coupé convertible

Regardless of the version, the roof is always black. Because, Copen is a coupé convertible with a semi-automatic roof design. The latch at the windscreen has to be operated by hand, then a push of a button is enough to move Copen to show itself topless to the world. If that's not a sweet temptation!

During the honeymoon period, it was mainly driven with the roof open, because as a coupé, Copen offers very little headroom. The average European sits behind the wheel with a crooked back and/or hunchbacked neck and still mainly looks at the upper edge of the windscreen (a Suzuki Cappuccino offers more headroom).

As such, Copen is intended only for the Japanese market, where its modest exterior dimensions and equally modest engine make it eligible for tax breaks ("Kei-car").

With the roof open, comfort is better. Then, both the car and the scenery can be fully enjoyed. At weekends, the Japanese like to go out. During the week, money is earned in the big city and at weekends it is enjoyed on the country roads with supercars, motorbikes, classics and whatnot.

Daihatsu Copen


Copen feels perfectly at home in this company. Under the bonnet one may find just a 658cc three-cylinder engine, but thanks to a dual exhaust with two sports mufflers (these are parts the size of a shot glass), Copen sounds downright exciting.

Performance, however, is anything but exciting. Thanks to a turbo and intermediate cooler, Copen is good for 64 bhp / 92 Nm, but the (optional) CVT gearbox throws a spanner in the works. The continuously variable transmission is stupidly slow to respond to driver commands and disrupts the party with a nagging noise during "shifting".

Daihatsu Copen

Copen therefore prefers leisurly cruising. This is precisely when the CVT is very pleasant, as it keeps the revs around 1,500 rpm as much as possible. This makes it possible to drive "on torque" and Copen feels strong and refined. At leisure, the two occupants can then enjoy the scenery. As an added benefit, consumption then drops dramatically. 5 litres per 100 km is easily achievable.


While Europeans do all they can to slim down, a slender build is in the Japnners' genes. Copen weighs just 870 kg, which is a weight the average European coupé convertible can only dream of. The average European convertible hood already weighs more, so to speak! Despite its light weight, Copen is very sturdy ("D-Frame"), it does not twist.

Daihatsu Copen

The steering is direct and Copen responds eagerly to every command. With big cars, it takes a split second for the full weight to set itself in motion, but Copen is frisky and playful. She seduces, deals teasing punches and eventually lets go.


During a holiday, the world seems more beautiful. Everyday worries are far away and everything seems possible. So a trip to the Far East for an affair with a Japanese beauty is no surprise. And the relationship went well. The Daihatsu Copen not only seduces with its looks, but also lives up to that with a playful and challenging character.

But... after a week of driving, it turns out that Copen also has its shortcomings. For instance, headroom is extremely limited with the roof closed, performance is adversely affected by the continuously variable transmission and the creative concept with interchangeable body panels proves to cause rattles.

Moreover, the Daihatsu brand has not been imported into Europe since 2013. So it ended up at a holiday romance, but the fond memories will always remain (Ivo Kroone).

  • Lively handling
  • Rich standard equipment
  • Good convertible, good coupe
  • Poor build quality
  • Awkwardly large turning circle
  • Not suitable for drivers taller than 180 cm