The Daihatsu Tanto is one of the more unique entries to the manufacturer’s usual repertoire. While it still has a lot of the Daihatsu staples - cheap, low maintenance, and is a Kei car - the Tanto is also meant to be more of a minivan-five-door-hatchback mix. That’s a pretty tall order and since Tanto is Italian for ‘so much/ a lot, it’s interesting to take a look and see if it lives up to its intended design and name.
Four generations of the Tanto were made between 2003 and 2022, with production still continuing. For its first entry on the market, the Tanto featured a standard 658 cc three-cylinder engine option, but some of the trim levels had a naturally-aspirated engine option and others had a turbocharged option. All trim levels were available with front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, while transmission options included either a three-speed or a four-speed automatic gearbox.
The second-generation Tanto did not offer a significant upgrade under the hood, but it did alter the exterior a little bit - most notably the overall feel was streamlined and the rear door on one side was turned into a sliding door without an intermediate pillar. This would become true for both sides of the car as of the third generation. The fourth-generation would continue the trend of making very minor adjustments to the formula rather than creating bold leaps.
But enough about the exterior and overall history, does it perform as intended? The answer is yes for the most part. For one the more unique ‘box-y’ design allows for a lot of space on the inside, despite the car itself not being too big. Most drivers and passengers will not feel cramped at all and you get an overall sense of surprise at the width once you are seated. This is a bit less true when seated in the backseat, but not enough to cause discomfort (unless you are very tall).
The cabin is made from solid materials that don’t feel cheap to the touch (they don’t scream luxury either though) and everything around the driver's seat is placed conveniently enough for the driver to use with ease. Storage space is great and even the space underneath the front seats can be used to store some very minor luggage. In general, everything seems to be designed with good sense in mind.
Once on the move, the Tanto performs better than one would expect. Comfort is great and thanks to the longer wheelbase and suspension, it doesn’t get too bad even on more uneven roads. Noise and vibrations are negligible and steering is very adequately responsive to the driver’s inputs.
Later models have optional navigation with a decent screen, and the main instrumentation panel is centered. On the downside, the featured sound system could be a lot better. Once the music is turned up, the quality of your sound experience drastically goes down.
What we have here is another great Daihatsu creation that continues their tradition of making cheaper, low-cost cars that serve their intended purpose at a fraction of what the competition has to offer. You also get their ingenious compact design that allows their vehicles to be maneuverable and have a lower turning radius in order to navigate tighter cityscapes. The Tanto is far from what you can expect out of a proper minivan, but it sure does hit a lot of the marks, despite being compact enough to fit most parking spaces with ease. If you have a family and frequently larger cargo needs, then this might be a great and affordable solution that will serve most of your needs.