Daihatsu's innovative spirit has surprised me again, as the company has reinvented the Terios with some simple changes. By adding 315mm to the wheelbase its created a seven-seater to be proud of.

The front end remains distincly Terios but the extra length and some subtle design treatment has created a smart vehicle that looks far bigger than it is and the changes have not taken the spring out of its step.

Handling is nippy and Daihatsu, I'm glad to say, hasn't messed about with the high and upright seating position. I felt like lord of all I surveyed every time I was on the road.

However I still don't understand why Daihatsu offers them with white or silver paint when bold colours and plenty of chrome accents suit it so well.

The interior of this long-wheelbase SUV, like its shorter sibling, retains the clean, uncluttered layout. Though the driver's seat and footwell felt narrower to me and I chuckled as the lower-half of the door visibly expanded every time the window rolled down.

The fascia is now less like a Tokyo disco. Gone are the chunky knobs, replaced by switches that blend into the surround. The entertainment system is a brief history of hi-fi itself. It plays MP3's, CD's and even that collection of Duran Duran hits on cassete tape that until now had been gathering dust in a cupboard.

Superb seating

The real attraction is its three rows of seats, for which I applaud Daihatsu heartily. It took me all of 30 seconds to work out how to fold the second and third rows in a number of ways to create intruiging combinations of seating and storage. There weren't even any diagrams on the levers, their functions were that obvious.

Why can't all SUV's be so simple to operate?

It was really handy to fold the second row when making a school run. The kids could jump in and quickly dump all their associated baggage in the open space in front of them, saving me the effort required to pack it all in the boot. They also thought the layout was rather grand. Like the back of limousine, one of them remarked.

Say it loud

The engine and transmission still feel like items stripped out of a bakkie and the Terios sounds like it needs a sixth gear, especially at highway speeds. The upside to this is that I could skip every other gear and still have enough power available to maintain speed.

The high-revving set-up is also needed for the 1.5-lite engine to cope with off-road conditions, though, because in thick sand the wheels quickly dig in if the revs fall below 5000.

According to Daihatsu, this model has a slight increase in power, but I doubt if the the extra 3kW will make a noticeable difference to performance.

Seven-seater beater

I'm very impressed by Daihatsu's creation. It competently fills the role of a seven-seater SUV, copes well with off-road driving conditions and is far cheaper than similar models offered by other manufacturers.

With a claimed consumption of 8.1 litres/100km, it's also lighter on fuel than most.

I could imagine it with better cabin finishes but that wouldn't stop me from buying one and enjoying it thoroughly.

Prices

4x2 seven-seater - R194 995

4x2 seven-seater a/t - R203 995

4x4 five-seater - R208 995

4x4 seven-seater - R213 995

Prices include a three-year or 75 000km service plan.