You know what I like to do when things start to feel a bit grey and dreary? I like to take myself on a little journey. A journey to a place I know will always make the world seem brighter and more optimistic. A strange, magical place I like to call “Daihatsu Japan’s Website.” And this trip brought me knowledge of something truly wonderful: a new Daihatsu Taft.
Well, relatively new at least — this new version of the Taft went into production in June, and was available for sale July 10. That counts as new!
This new Taft is based on Daihatsu’s WakuWaku concept car that we saw last year at the Tokyo Motor Show:
If you’re not familiar with the Taft, don’t feel bad — the Taft name was only just brought back this year after being most recently used back in 2007 for the Indonesian market version of a small off-roader that was better known here as the Rocky, but was also called the Fourtrak or Hiline or the Toyota Blizzard.
To Americans especially, the Taft name may seem odd, since it’s the name of their 27th president, William Howard Taft. There’s speculation that the Taft was named for him because of a slight resemblance, which, if you look at old photos, you can kind of see:
Despite the coincidental similarities, Daihatsu maintains the name is an acronym for “Tough & Almighty Fun Tool. It’s a Kei-class car, which means it’s legally limited to 660cc and 64 horsepower, along with a strict set of compact dimensions.
The Taft, of course, meets all these requirements, with a 658cc naturally-aspirated inline-three engine making 51 HP, or a turbo version making 63 HP. Buyers can choose whether or not they want all those horses spinning just the front wheels through a CVT, or spinning all four wheels.
I think the new Taft looks fantastic; a chunky, boxy, futuristic-looking little brute that, especially with the optional “plating” on the front, looks a bit like a micro-Hummer, in a good way.
The interior and packaging seems effective as well, with the boxy dimensions affording a surprising amount of interior space, and an approach to utilitarianism and flexibility that Daihatsu is calling “Backpack Style,” which they were so excited about that they couldn’t resist commissioning this song:
It’s fun. It’s all fun. That’s what I love — there’s no pretention here or meaningless status-posturing, this is a car about doing shit and having fun. Humanity needs this kind of thing.
The interior looks open and airy, thanks to a huge glass roof, and the instrument panel design is novel, with a panel-mounted shifter and an interesting vertically-oriented centre stack console.
Oh, and you know what else? This thing is cheap as dirt! Here, look, this is the base model:
So, that 1,353,000 yen converts to about $17,895. That’s cheaper than anything new in the global market, including a base-model Mitsubishi Eclipse or a Nissan Versa.
Now, I’m not here to shit on the Eclipse (I’ll do a bit of shitting on the Versa) but holy crap would I rather drive a Taft than either of those cars, or even many cars costing twice as much or more.
Even the top of the line 4WD one comes in under $20,000 which would still put it at the very bottom end of the American market.
Yes, yes, I know it’s a Kei car and too small for some tastes and blah blah blah. Despite that, this thing is still fun and fantastic.
Look at the little cargo-area table and the muddy-equipment-storage box! Those are great, and would be useful in actual living!
While it hurts that the West likely won’t get it, I’m just happy there’s still small, fun, cheap cars out there in the world that don’t feel like poverty-punishments and are desirable on their own merits.
Keep it up, Daihatsu.