Daihatsu Terios 1.5S

Would suit: Being recycled as a fridge or something.

Price: From £12 995 (about R175 000).

Maximum speed: 158km/h, 0-100km/h 12sec.

Combined fuel consumption: 7.4 litres/100km.

I fired a .357 Magnum handgun last week. As a liberal, tolerant, responsible New Man who knows about nappy rash and how to treat it, who recycles yoghurt pots and makes a genuine effort to look large-breasted ladies in the eye, I should not have enjoyed it. But I did. In fact, I loved it.

Something else I really shouldn't have liked was the Daihatsu Terios. And, you know what? I didn't.

In fact, I wish they'd let me take the Magnum out to the car park and put the thing out of my misery.

As it was, I had to drive home from the shooting range with the laughter of my friends ringing even louder in my ears than the sound of gunfire.

Let's not mince words (although mincing is this car's default setting): the Terios is a senseless waste of steel, rubber, glass and plastic. Its cartoon-car styling and attention-seeking tinted windows made me spasm with a visceral loathing.

The rudimentary four-valves-per-cylinder, four-cylinder engine, which produces a top speed barely higher than the national limit and a 0-100km/h time better gauged by a sun dial than a stopwatch, is no more, or less, than this tart's dinner of a car deserves.

Elsewhere, the technology is no less antiquated, with full-time all-wheel-drive (ruling out a more economical switch to two-wheel drive on the road) and not a whiff of hill-descent control.

My memory of the last Terios is of a tottering Toytown tin box with as much charm as a bottle bank. I think it was based on the old Charade hatchback, which meant that humans didn't fit.

This one is more spacious but its ride is every bit as discombobulating, its engine note is as tiresome and its interior, if not as brittle as that of the old car, is still suffocatingly cheap.

Daihatsu is a company on the move, like Suzuki and Hyundai; journalists tend not to like it but acclaim for its - generally - excellent value products and top-notch dealership network is making itself heard in various owner-satisfaction surveys where the brand is always rated highly.

The Charade and Sirion are competitive in their respective classes - right up with the best, in fact. But the Terios is obviously the Ringo Starr of the line-up.

Cinema carpet

To top it all, there is even a spare wheel mounted on the tail door and featuring - and I can only urge you in the strongest terms to get down to your local Daihatsu dealership to check this out for yourself - a cover inspired, apparently, by the carpet of a provincial cinema, circa 1974.

It has to be the single, most hideous to grace an automobile since the gold and burgundy go-faster stripes found on "sporty" Hillman Avengers. It's a wonder they didn't go all the way and give it a vinyl roof and a stick-on Garfield.

And just when you think your opinion of the thing can't get any lower you discover how much Daihatsu intends to charge for it.

The base model starts at £13 000 (R175 000) but, if buyers want things like alloy rims or an automatic gearbox, they will have to cut back on their tanning salon membership and Bacardi Breezers for a year or so.

A Fiat Panda 4x4 is a huge £4000 (R54 000) cheaper, and infinitely more charming, as is its sister the Suzuki SX4, but if you want my advice, buy a second-hand Subaru and spend the rest on a holiday and a new sofa.

Or, perhaps, a really big gun. - The Independent, London