First Word, Three Syllables: 1988 Daihatsu Charade

Some cars that came to the American market were obvious failures. Look at early Toyotas and Nissans, for example, or the Renault 4CV. More recently, some of the badge-engineered GM frenemies like Isuzu and Saab were also not destined for success – their core customer base preferred the type of car they were already making, while any new conquests would rather stick to the original version of the car, with the benefit of the massive GM distribution channel making purchasing and service more straightforward. The Daihatsu Charade was not quite so obvious – while it was somewhat low on power by American standards, it was recognized for being nice to drive and well built, before that was a given for Japanese cars. Check out this 1988 Daihatsu Charade CLS for sale for $2750 in American Canyon, CA.

1988 Daihatsu Charade left front

Today, the styling looks pretty mundane, but back in the eighties, the fender flares, wheels-at-the-corners design, and relatively wide track gave it a somewhat sporting, capable look. One journalist at the time compared the build quality to that of a Mercedes, at least what they would do if they produced a small car. Did the first A-class live up to its predecessor?

1988 Daihatsu Charade left rear

Ultimately, their performance failed them. While many mainstream manufacturers offered similarly powered cars (Geo Metro, anyone?), this and the compact Rocky SUV were Daihatsu’s only offerings, and not really enough to sustain a presence in North America. Funny enough, nowadays a modern Charade might compete just fine against cars like the Smart, Mazda 2, and Scion iQ. Interestingly enough, Daihatsu is the oldest Japanese car manufacturer, and is now a part of the giant Toyota empire.

1988 Daihatsu Charade right front

The seller of this car clearly has stock in Armor All, having used an entire bottle to disguise the effects of 26 years of California sun on the car. He claims to be the second owner, and the car is said to have only 83,000 miles, along with a 5-speed manual transmission. The car seems well cared-for, so if you’re after an unusual, cheap city runabout, you’d do well checking this one out.


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One Response to “First Word, Three Syllables: 1988 Daihatsu Charade”

  1. Tony Says:

    Overpriced for a startup and the dealer network was nonexistent in the northeast and midwest. Daihatsu was/is a division of Toyota and had this car carried the name and been sold by Toyota’s dealer network, it would’ve been a bestseller even at its’ “premium” price point.

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