Our guest writer David, ponders about the cute little Daihatsu Copen.
Photos: Low Fai Ming
The original Copen was not really very handsome. It was slightly cute on the outside, slapped with a plain grille and flushed with elliptical lamps on both ends. It could have been better, but the originators slept on it and the Copen became just “one of those cars” on the road. In those days, people were not bothered about what the Copen could accomplish with its miniscule 659cc displacement, but rather with what the Copen couldn’t. I will be able to tell you in plain honesty that this car dillies over nine seconds for the century sprint and clatters at the rear end. On another note, the cabin space is not enough to fit me in because of my physical build and lengthy legs, also the poor braking power was upsetting for a 'sports' convertible if I had been driving it.
The Copen's economically friendly JB-DETi engine dishes out a measly 63 bhp worth of power on a FF drive train sheltered by an impressive body structure that is intelligently equalized with lightweight components and vehicle rigidity. All these contributed to an extraordinary curb weight of only 810 kg and I assure you that it would be an uphill task for the Copen to even hit the one-tonne mark.
To the enthusiast, the Copen could have been faster. The turbo-charged DOHC engine pushes the car to the max of just touching 140 km/h. The luckier Europeans get the naturally aspirated K3-VE engine that you could floor all the way up to 170 km/h, but the turbo charged JB-DETi on the other hand equates to higher-revving fun courtesy of the snail, which presents a potentially interesting tuning factor, but then again one could always fit a YRV turbo engine in. As for handling, what lies beneath the chassis are performance braces coupled to the key under body joints. The steering is amazingly responsive for a Daihatsu, all thanks to some neat performance modifications done to the advanced suspension system by Magna Powertrain (Austria).
So how do we make this Kei car look better? What the owner has done to this Daihatsu Copen is surely a good lesson for any fanatic or even the car designers on how a car should look like. This particular specimen, sports an unmistakable Porsche GT3 RS concept in styling, which has been fused onto the car's exterior and is coupled with a brilliant choice of the Pandora front bumper kit which is reminiscent of the 911 Turbo as well as AeroCatch flush mount pins dropped on the hood for some street cred. The owner has indeed transformed his Copen, which has once upon a time sported an originally lacklustre design into something stylish. But that's not all, for the Copen's classy frontage gets good attention with the PIAA L-86 LEDs and L-154Y fog lights. Adding substance to the mix are Take Off Cross-Styled side skirts, D-Sport GT Side Fenders and orange SSW S093 rims. For the rear, an orange Mazdaspeed RX8 wing was stylishly customized to rest upon the primary ducktail spoiler to complete the whole pseudo Porsche look.
Earlier in the article, I did mention something negative about the factory-fitted brakes, but I was not the deciding influence for the owner’s move to upgrade the system to forged Wilwood Dynalite four-pots that hugged 280 mm discs with Ferodo pads. Such an upgrade however wasn't really that necessary as there is no hardcore driver behind the wheel this time round. Power wise, the owner decided to have legal aftermarket parts bolted on such as a Blitz SUS Power drop-in filter, Blitz blow-off valve and a Cusco oil catch tank. The piping of the intercooler was also customized to keep the heat in check.
For the interior, one can see the continuation of the 'orange on black' Porsche GT3 RS theme. This is most noticeable on the door panels which has received the citrus treatment. Other interesting bits and pieces to take note of are the gadgets which include a Pivot shift lamp, Momo Drifting deep-dish steering wheel and Zoom Engineering Monaco’s look-back mirror.
In summary, though this car was never built for speed, it was created for the Kei car fanatics who wanted the looks and excitement of driving with the top down. Essentially the Copen is all but merely a niche market car that appealed to the needs and lifestyle of individuals who just wanted to stand out from the crowd. But amongst the other Copens? You would have to do it up in good taste to further stand out from your brethren.