The simplest way to make a Daihatsu Terios shine is avoid the one-colour option and instead buy one off the showroom floor in the beautiful two-tone combinations of paint and trim that the manufacturer also offers.

If that isn't enough to float your boat, you can splurge a little more and add some sparkle (literally) and boost this baby off-roader's performance with an upgrade package from Daihatsu.

Throw in between R13 000 and R23 000 more, for the 4x4 auto and manual transmission models respectively, and you'll get a Terios that looks ready to tackle either the highways or the bush with serious attitude.

Features list

A chromed bush-bar and side-steps, all emblazoned with the Terios name, are joined by luggage rails and tow hitch. Don't forget the bush-bar's spotlights, with a switch blended so seamlessly into the fascia you'll swear it's always been a standard feature.

That switch is also a hint at the signs of Daihatsu's careful planning in the design of this upgrade package; the whole layout avoids the trap of looking like some aftermarket bolt-on kit and instead extends the car's lines and styling.

Not just for show

After that, the upgrade gets into the serious stuff. Out go the standard 215/65 road tyres to be replaced by a set of all-terrain 235/60 rubber (Yokohama Geolander AT-S, in the case of our test vehicle). Daihatsu's six-spoked, 16" alloys remain but they look oh so much better surrounded by all that heavy-duty rubber.

Ride height is noticeably increased (by 50mm to 250mm) and the suspension is backed up by a set of Pro Comp's ES 9000 series gas shock-absorbers that come with nifty rubber boots to keep nasties such as dirt and water away from the shock's central piston.

These shocks are velocity sensitive so deliver a smooth ride on tar but also deal well with sudden changes in road height and surface dished up by off-road driving. They make the Terios feel like it's tracking very slowly from side to side in a strong crosswind but still live up very well to Pro Comp's claims that they are dependable, all-purpose shocks.

Tiny-tiger growl

Turn the key in the ignition and you'll be greeted with a throaty purr - the product of a stainless-steel, free-flow exhaust that boosts power of the 1.5-litre engine by 10kW to 87kW and ups torque by 10Nm to 150. Push the revs above 4000 and the power reels out and the purr becomes a roar - but you don't get the full tiger. It's more like a cub in training.

The note is impressive enough to turn heads, though, and pedestrians often glanced in the direction of the Terios and then performed a double take in astonishment when the source of the rude noises became apparent.

Wait folks, there's more

The added power, road-holding and off-road ready appearance tempted me to take the Terios into my local proving ground normally reserved for 4x4's double its size. The heavy-duty, polyester seat covers and the satellite navigation system (also standard features with the upgrade) made it all the more fun to explore and get dirty.

The unit that houses the navigation system also contains a CD/DVD/MP3 player, radio, and USB/flash memory reader and has a touch-sensitive screen. Talk about packing in the features! And the separate remotes for the satnav and entertainment system will suit those of you too lazy to extend a hand all the way to the screen.

Dear Santa…

After nine days of driving through heavy traffic, on highways and over all sorts of off-road terrain (even up and down several 60-degree slopes) and sometimes going hell-for-leather just because I could, the Terios had consumed half the contents of its 50-litre fuel tank and left me with a grin.

I've never been a fan of the plain-Jane design of the standard Terios but this upgrade is extremely appealing. As with the standard version, Daihatsu has packed in features that appear to be worth far more than the asking price.

I'll be putting this one on my Christmas wish list. It never hurts to ask.

Prices:

4x2 manual: R169 995

4x4 manual: R186 995

4x4 automatic: R196 995

4x4 upgrade: R209 995

The Terios comes with a three-year or 100 000km warranty and three-year or 75 000km service plan.

Remote-controlled central locking with an immobiliser is standard with the upgrade.