Daihatsu Charade. Trailblazer for four-stroke three-cylinder engine

ER Classics Desktop 2022

Today, the choice of cars with a three-cylinder engine is extensive. Downsizing – with or without the help of a turbo engine – has been a topical topic for some years now. However, the three-cylinder four-stroke engine is not a phenomenon that has emerged as a fairly fresh development within the automotive industry. In the autumn of 1977, the Japanese Daihatsu launched the Charade, which was the first car in the world to have a three-cylinder four-stroke engine in the front.

The Daihatsu Charade came on the market as a five-door hatchback and in the course of 1978 was also allowed to make advances with the European car buyer who was looking for an innovative and practical alternative to success numbers such as the Renault 5 (TL and GTL) and the Fiat 127. From a constructive point of view, the Daihatsu could be seen as a modern compact. The unibody construction, the use of front-wheel drive, the McPherson front suspension and the presence of a fifth door fit in with the prevailing trend within the compact segment. However, the engine was a novelty.

Lightweight power source

The use of a three-cylinder four-stroke engine in a car had never happened before. Daihatsu developed this and installed it transversely at the front in the new Charade. The engine capacity was 1000 cc. What was special was that the three-cylinder lightweight power source (equipped with an overhead camshaft) had a largely vibration-free run, according to the press at the time. Also notable: the horsepower count of 50 was not excessive. Due to the low weight (around 700 kilos), the Daihatsu Charade was able to deliver (for its time) excellent performance (140 kilometers per hour, 0-100 in 15,5 seconds). In addition, the little Japanese had an excellent consumption economy, because the fuel requirement remained within limits for seventies concepts, as evidenced by the manufacturer's specification of 1 liter for 14 kilometers driven.

Generous equipment

As efficient as the power unit combined performance with consumption, Daihatsu was generous with the equipment of the Daihatsu Charade. The basic version, the XO, was equipped with rear window heating, adjustable headrests and backrests, three-point seat belts, a padded trunk and two-speed windscreen wipers (including electric washer). Strangely, Daihatsu did not use folding rear seats in the base model.

Top version with five-bin

It did find its way to the XG. This also received things like a laminated windscreen and a radio from the manufacturer. In terms of equipment, the XTE rounded out the range upwards. In addition to the aforementioned items, the top model also received a rear wiper with washer, fabric upholstery and an interval on the windscreen wipers. The top version was also available as XTE-5. In that configuration, the Daihatsu Charade got a five-speed gearbox.

Arrival of the three-door version

In the fall of 1978, Daihatsu also launched the three-door version (Runabout) of the Charade. It had a striking design feature: the C-pillar porthole was a typical feature of this version of the Daihatsu Charade. In 1981, the first generation of the Charade received a facelift. The Japanese internally labeled G10 was followed by the G20 version. This got a front with square headlights. The rear also received a modified appearance. For some markets, the Charade got an even smaller engine.

Modest production number, road planner for three-cylinder four-stroke engine

Technically, the sympathetic Japanese didn't change much anymore. He was replaced in January 1983 by the second generation, and rolled 89.792 times off the factory tire. A modest number, but the Charade did ensure that the four-stroke three-cylinder engine came on the map.


Give a reaction
  1. 50hp out of a 1 liter isn't excessive? This specific power (50hp/l) was not very unusual at that time. The 1.2S from the Kadett-D also achieved this, the 1.2N even less. The 1.7 from the R11 GTX (my father had in 1984) was even less outrageous in specific power (80hp, is 47hp/l). 50hp/l is just very neat for that time.

  2. Buddy of mine had something similar.
    Cuore 850 from the mid 80's or something.
    Nice, but not to burn ahead.
    Would have been fine in the city.
    But he drove 2×40 km of highway every day and that (then older) car was clearly not made for that.

  3. The quality was so good that nothing could be earned from it after sales. That is indeed true, the relevant technology in the C1/107/Aygo is indestructible. Lightweight, agile and super economical.
    Wouldn't this be a better solution in the eco (-logy and -nomy) than the heavy battery cars?

    • the c1 aygo citroen 3 cylinder was also developed by Daihatsu.
      i get them almost daily on the bridge , negligent oil service is the most common cause of death , too low oil level leads to higher oil consumption until the connecting rods seek the outside air , recently a two connecting rods at once


  4. Crazy cars. Have been driving a Sirion 2-cylinder 3ccm for daily use for years and it is reliable through and through. It's a shame that this brand, presumably under pressure from mother Toyota, has been removed from the European market.

    • That was different in the eighties with regard to reliability because a buddy of mine worked at a Daihatsu dealer and it was an oil change with a head gasket replaced up to cracked cylinder heads… not good! Later also a 3 cylinder diesel was released, even one with turbo and the fast version: GTTi 101 hp! Yes!!

      • GTTi was still able to spin the front wheels when the turbo kicked in even in third gear on damp roads.

        What was really bad was the version with 3 cylinders, carb and cat.
        Was a Cuore I think.
        Exhaust manifolds just went off when the carb was out of whack..
        Drama to tune for the APK.
        Did the rabbit meet the MOT, it was impossible to drive.
        If you put the thing too rich, the exhaust manifold burned out…

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