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Tear-Away TR-XX

We check out the Japanese-import 1990 Daihatsu Mira TR-XX turbo - a 660cc ground-shaking beast!

By Michael Knowling

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At a glance...

  • 1990 Japanese import Daihatsu Mira TR-XX
  • 660cc SOHC turbo engine
  • Sports trim with optional power windows and sunroof
  • Good parts back-up
  • Cheap fun!
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With fuel rocketing in cost it’s difficult to understand why the Australian motoring public is applauding the release of 6-litre pushrod V8s and family car based performance vehicles weighting around 1800kg.

What we really should be getting excited about are machines like this – the Japanese import 1990 Daihatsu Mira TR-XX.

No, you can’t do the macho thing and power-slide your TR-XX at 150 km/h but it does give tremendous enjoyment, whippet-like performance and running costs as close as you’ll get to a motorcycle.

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The Japanese-market Daihatsu Mira TR-XX is currently available in very limited numbers through This particular example (with around 150,000km on the odometer and with some rust) is being offered for AUD$3400 plus ADR-ing. With an on-road price somewhere around 4 grand, the go-fast Mira would make a terrific daily commuter with zing. It also offers plenty of low-buck tuning potential.

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The 1990 Mira TR-XX was the first Daihatsu Kei class vehicle to employ a ‘big block’ 660cc engine. The 660cc 3 cylinder (coded EF-JL) uses a SOHC, 4-valve-per-cylinder head with a tiny IHI RHB31 turbocharger, top-mount air-to-air intercooler and EFI. Power output is 47kW (the Japanese Kei class limit) at 7500 rpm together with 92Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. It’s right up there with other high-performance Kei engines from Suzuki and Mitsubishi.

The majority of Mira TR-XXs were sold with a 5-speed manual gearbox. The manual ‘box is delightfully easy to use and the cable-operated clutch is very light. A 3-speed automatic transmission was available as an option.

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With drive to the front wheels via a viscous-type LSD, the Mira TR-XX has no problems ripping to 100 km/h in under 10 seconds. The engine is progressive and boost pressure never hits with a rush. The off-beat 3-cylinder soundtrack and 10,000 rpm tacho add to the already abundant character.

Of course, the 660cc engine’s modest fuel consumption is a major drawcard – expect your TR-XX to return about 5.5 - 6 litres per 100km depending on conditions (about 3 times better than today’s popular V8s!)

The Mira is one of the few Kei cars to employ independent rear suspension (most use a relatively crude beam axle). With a semi-trailing arm IRS and MacPherson front struts (with sport-spec tuning), the Mira offers a relatively comfortable ride and predictable handling. Understeer is the name of the TR-XX’s game. Suspension travel is surprisingly generous – enough to handle speed humps at well above the sign posted speeds.

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The brakes - ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear – offer good retardation and excellent pedal feel. Unfortunately, the pedals are set very close together – something to be aware of if you wear bulky shoes or have large feet. Interestingly, the non-assisted rack and pinion steering feels good in the majority of driving but becomes quite heavy at parking speeds – however, the low tyre pressures in our test car might be responsible for some of this.

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Inside, the Mira TR-XX boasts attractive sports seats with generous lateral support, a modern looking dashboard, tacho, air conditioning and a flat-bottom steering wheel – F1 style! Cabin width is limited but headroom is generous. A folding rear seat makes the TR-XX a 4 seater but, realistically, the rear seat is for children or emergency use only. The rear cargo area is a very useable size – and even better when you remove the rear seat to make it a 2-seater.

The upmarket Mira TR-XX Limited (as tested) is distinguished with power windows and a fixed glass sunroof with a trimmed blind. These extras add about 10kg to the TR-XX’s 660kg base weight.

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Pull alongside a V8 in your Daihatsu Mira TR-XX and you won’t receive many flattering comments. Let’s face it - this is a shopping trolley with some sporty add-ons. The standard TR-XX body kit comprises a rear spoiler (which borders the tailgate glass), side skirts and a bonnet scoop for the intercooler. Cute 13 inch alloys (with 155/60 tyres) and a twin outlet exhaust warn people of those bundled-up 47 kilowatts...

One of the biggest advantages of the TR-XX over other imported Kei cars is parts availability.

The same L200 Mira chassis was sold locally in 2 and 5 door configurations using a naturally aspirated 660cc or 850cc engine. The TR-XX shares the same doors, quarter panels, glass and lights as the local 2 door while many replaceable engine parts (such as filters and distributor cap) appear identical to the local 660 NA engine.

We can also vouch for the 660cc turbo engine’s performance capabilities.

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Given a free-flow exhaust, air intake and extra boost (in conjunction with a fuel-cut override) you can expect to achieve a power gain of around 30 percent. This equates to 0 – 100 km/h times in the Eights along with terrific in-gear performance and flexibility. We guarantee you’ll be able to put the wind up a l-o-t of people! And these mods needn’t cost any more than a few hundred dollars – a 2¼ inch press bent exhaust, modified airbox or K&N pod filter and a pneumatic bleed arrangement for the wastegate line shouldn’t break the bank. An upgrade intercooler is also a very good idea – the standard top-mount unit is quite restrictive at increased power levels.

If you want to take things further, it’s relatively easy to fabricate a log style exhaust manifold and fit an upsize turbocharger. With a big turbo and plenty of boost you should whack in some bigger injectors (such as those from the Daihatsu Charade GTti) and, together with some engine management mods, you’ll be staring down the barrel of a 100+kW Mira! And keep in mind that similar mods transform the TR-XX into a 13 second machine in Japan .

And you can still expect to enjoy fuel consumption around 6 litres per 100km...


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