The first generation (G10) appeared in October 1977. It was a front-engined front-wheel drive car, originally available only as a five-door hatchback, powered by a 993 cc three-cylinder, all-aluminum engine (CB20) with 50 PS (37 kW). Japanese market cars claimed 55 PS (40 kW) JIS at 5,500 rpm. The three-door hatchback version ("Runabout"), introduced in the fall of 1978, received two little round opera windows in the C-pillars.
The Charade was a surprise bestseller in Japan, where ever tighter emissions standards had made many observers consider the one-liter car dead in the marketplace. The Charade became an overnight success and also became the Japanese "Car of the Year" for 1979.
The early G10 (Series 1) had round headlights and the later G10 (Series 2) had square headlights. The Series 2 was introduced for 1981. Between the introduction in 1977, and December 1982, Daihatsu built 89,792 G10/G20 type Charades.
The Daihatsu Charade was very popular in Chile and some other Latin American countries during the 1970s and 1980s. Originally the same as in the rest of the world, later Chilean Charades (called G20s) came equipped with a downsleeved 843 cc version (CD) of Daihatsu's three-cylinder engine. This engine produced 41 PS (30 kW) at 5,500 rpm and has also appeared in export versions of the Daihatsu Hijet. The G20 appeared in 1980 and was developed as a result of a Chilean decision to lower import tariffs on cars with engines of less than 850 cc. The G20 was also able to run on low-octane fuel or even ethanol. The first G20 version (1978–1981) had round headlights, while the second generation G20 (sold from 1981 to 1984) received the same facelift as did the G10, meaning square headlights and slightly different rear lights. The three-door "Runabout" retained the larger 1,000 cc CB20 engine, and also received a five-speed manual transmission and a tachometer.
The Greek Automeccanica company, founded in 1979, developed an off-road style torpedo design version of the Charade à la the Citroën Méhari. With a metal body, the "Zebra" used Daihatsu mechanicals, grille and headlights, and many other Daihatsu parts. Production began in 1981 and continued until 1985, by which point changing Greek tax laws meant that this "fun car" could no longer be registered as a commercial vehicle and the market evaporated. The very first cars used the Series 1 round headlights; these were changed to the square Series 2 units before the first year of production had ended. Automeccanica also assembled regular Charades.