Car reviews - Daewoo - Lanos - SE 3-dr hatch
Interior space, on-road competence, build quality
Room for improvement
Choppy low-speed ride, average performance of 1.6-litre version
9 May 2001
AFTER launching into the fray in 1994 with a reworked but old Opel Kadett-based car, Daewoo stepped up a gear with its second-generation products.
The company offers three models the Cielo and Espero were replaced by Lanos and Nubira while the Leganza was added to compete in the mid-size market.
But it is on the Lanos - which has to do battle in the high volume, cut-throat entry light car sector - that Daewoo depends for its continued presence on the market.
Most would agree the Lanos looks the part with its modern lines as fresh as anything on the market.
Daewoo worked with Italian design house Ital Design under the control of Giorgetto Giugiaro, the man responsible for such classics as the original VW Golf and Lotus Esprit.
The car features the popular big headlight look while the large chrome grille stamps it as a Daewoo. At the back, the jewelled lights help give it an upmarket look. The standard painted bumpers help here.
Inside, the dash is a modern, soft-shape, flowing design light years ahead of the old Cielo layout. Ergonomics in the most part are fine although the small display/digital clock on the front of the radio/cassette is almost impossible to read.
The broad windscreen A-pillars can get in the way and the steering wheel is angled slightly towards the driver's door.
Height-adjustable and power-assisted steering is standard.
Cubby space is available in the glovebox, small door pockets and on the centre console between the front seats, which are covered in an attractive fabric but could do with a bit more under-thigh support.
One disappointment is the dash is made of hard plastic and in the test car the panel hiding the cutout for the optional passenger-side airbag occasionally rattled and buzzed.
Overall though, the quality of the Lanos, both inside and out, is much better than the Cielo.
Legroom in the back, thanks to the car's long wheelbase, is good although headroom in the five-door hatch is adequate rather than outstanding.
Boot space, which can be expanded by folding the split/fold rear seat, is similar to its competitors.
The car's chunky styling means the driver's over-the-shoulder view is a bit restricted because of the small rear window and broad C-pillar.
Developed in 30 months, the car was engineered at Daewoo's research and development centres in South Korea, Britain and Germany but it was British company Ricardo that got to finesse the engine.
Essentially carried over from the Cielo, the car is powered by the GM-designed but Daewoo-built single overhead camshaft Family One engine.
Changes include a stiffer block, higher compression ratio and a redesigned and lighter intake manifold, all of which have increased power from 55kW to 63kW at 5400rpm. The 130Nm of torque comes in at 3400rpm.
But performance from our very fresh test car - it had only 200 kilometres on the clock - could only be described as average.
Rev the car reasonably hard and the engine gets very noisy and harsh. Only mechanically insensitive drivers will push this engine to the red line.
Our test car was mated to a GM-sourced four-speed automatic. On the young test car, the gearbox on anything more than a light throttle thumped each gearchange and hunted between top and third gear.
The steering, again an improvement on the old setup, is a little slack at the straight ahead, while off-centre load builds up.
Steering rack rattle is also evident on rough roads or when driving across cobblestones.
The suspension is again basically carried over from the old car but it, too, has been retuned. The ride is better, biased as it is towards the soft end of the comfort scale.
But the suspension gets flustered when tackling chopped up surfaces and small sharp ridges can cause "crash through".
Understeer or front-wheel push is the order of the day during cornering with the South Korean-made tyres limiting ultimate grip.
The Lanos is certainly a big improvement over the Cielo. There is no question the car's styling, inside and out, is as good as anything on the market.
Quality and safety levels have also been substantially improved and it comes with a three-year free service package.
But we would have liked more engine power and refinement, and further mechanical upgrades which would have allowed the Lanos to compete on all levels in the light-car segment.
- Automotive NetWorks 17/06/1999
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