Junkyard Find: 1989 Daihatsu Charade CLS

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Has anyone seen a Daihatsu Charade on the street in the United States at any time during the current century? Strangely, I’ve now seen two of them in Denver junkyards this year. First there was this ’90 Charade SE, and now we have this ’89 Charade CLS.

The Charade was available in the United States for just five model years, 1988 through 1992, and the unfortunately-named Charade couldn’t compete with the likes of the Subaru Justy, Ford Festiva, and Geo Metro.

You could get the base Charade (known, cryptically, as the CES) with a one-liter three-cylinder engine making a miserable 53 horsepower. The CLS and CLX Charades came with a mighty 80-horsepower four. The tire replacing the radiator appears to be a junkyard-installed option.

Few new cars didn’t have electronic fuel injection by 1989, but Daihatsu evidently felt that EFI was still bragworthy.

Say what you will about the tenets of Daihatsu ownership, but 224,607 miles is quite an achievement for an 80s econobox.

This generation of Charade is still being built in China, where it is sold as the FAW Tianjin Xiali.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Defango Defango on Dec 15, 2013

    I have one; it's a 1988 Daihatsu Charade ClS, Red in color. I have about 107,000 miles on it and it's still running strong. The car have been in Arizona for an extended period of time and can even handle the heat. It's got a few problems, the passenger door was backed into, so there is a big dent and the window doesn't roll down all the way. Other than that it runs pretty solid.

  • Fluffy4555 Fluffy4555 on Feb 14, 2014

    I purchased a 1989 Daihatsu Charade in 1989on sale for $5995 + tax in NC. Both my husband and I had put over 250K miles on this little three cylinder, 1 litre, ertremely fuel efficient masterpiece before he hit a propane truck head-on in 2008 and totaled the car. He did in fact suffer a broken leg, but considering vehicle size and speed of each, he came through the wreck w/o being a fatality. The motor and trans is still good in this car, should we ever need to replace one of the motors/trans in any of our other five Daihatsu Charades. These cars were built for endurance and extremely good gas mileage. The true reason for their removal from North America was due to the OTHER car company that had controlling interest in this company. They are sold everywhere except North America and it seems that as long as the car owner will do basic routine maintenance and use common sense, the cars are almost impossible to kill. But I find that these days, common sense is just not that common anymore!

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.