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Car reviews - Daewoo - Lanos - Sport 3-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Neat looks, perceived quality
Room for improvement
Harsh suspension, engine tardy at low rpm, quite expensive

16 Jan 2001

YET another viable contender in the frantically active entry level new car market is Daewoo's Lanos.

Looking very much like a clone of its one-time arch-rival, the Hyundai Excel (now superseded by the Accent), the little South Korean comes in three and five-door hatchback versions, as well as a sedan, and is clearly priced to match its many competitors.

While Hyundai gave us its alloy-wheeled Excel "Sportz" variants, Daewoo has stepped in with a Sport version of the three-door hatchback model.

The big difference here, when compared to Hyundai, is the Daewoo's use of a larger, more powerful engine to justify its Sport badges. Daewoo uses the term "hot hatch" when discussing the credentials of its worked-over Lanos but that seems to be stretching it a bit. More of that later.

The Lanos Sport picks up the 1.6-litre, 78kW engine seen in the pre-update Nubira. This gives it a 15kW power advantage as well as an extra 15Nm of torque when compared with the 1.5-litre engine used elsewhere across the Lanos range.

A late-1999 update of the Lanos range saw a whole raft of subtle changes including suspension upgrades, a new power steering system and reduced levels of noise, vibration and harshness.

The Sport version beefs up the image with a subtle body kit including side skirts, specific tail-lights and a high level rear spoiler. It also gets alloy wheels, up one inch in diameter over the standard 14-inch steel wheels used elsewhere in Lanos models, and colour-coded front and rear bumpers.

The dynamics have been given some attention with bigger front disc brakes while the re-calibration of the suspension includes new stabiliser bars, new shock absorber rates and beefed-up control arms.

Inside, the Lanos Sport gets an effective remake that includes black and red trim, leather-rimmed steering wheel and handbrake grip, and a fake metallic backdrop for the instrument panel. It all works well.

Driver and passenger airbags, as well an anti-lock brakes, are available as an option.

The reworked Lanos, especially in Sport form, lifts the car above the mundane levels that were its previous domain.

There has never been any question the Lanos - like all other Daewoo sedans - is a neatly styled car with its instantly identifiable grille and a generally well balanced form. The Sport is all the better for the body skirts, colour-coded bumpers and six-spoke alloys while the interior leans slightly towards Europe with its colour choices.

The driver is confronted by a slightly bigger than usual red leather rimmed steering wheel and the seats feel sufficiently comfortable and accommodating.

The driving position is fine for tall people and there is an adjustable cushion height to help cater for all shapes and sizes.

General accommodation is about what would be expected in this class with a tightish rear compartment that will accept adults provided there is a seat adjustment compromise with those sitting up front. The hatchback boot is pretty useful, made versatile by the provision of a split-fold rear backrest.

The quality standards appear pretty high with good attention to detail, glossy paint and no nasty hidden bits in the door pressings. The test car did suffer from some unfortunate rear-end rattling that we never managed to track down.

To drive, the little Daewoo has moved ahead of the first version. The suspension work has added firmness where there was previously too much softness and the steering operates with more precision. It is reliable and predictable.

That said, there is still nothing remarkable about general road manners. In fact, at times the ride errs a little too far onto the harsh side without returning anything special in terms of road grip or steering feel. And the harshness tends to make it prone to jumping around when the tarmac begins to rough up.

The engine, a Daewoo original, does a more gutsy job than the Holden-built 1.5-litre although it needs to be stirred along to give its best. Both power and torque figures come in higher up the rpm range than the 1.5-litre.

The twin cam, multi-valve, 1.6-litre engine certainly sounds the part and is always more than happy to take a quick trip to the red line. The downside is that if it is allowed to venture below 2000rpm there is not a lot happening.

Its happiest operating range lies between 4000rpm and peak kilowatts at 5800rpm.

The Daewoo manual gearbox is hampered by an unusually vague and baulky shift action that makes for more than the usual quota of botched changes.

So although the Lanos Sport is competent enough, it certainly does not qualify for hot hatch status.

The performance is better than regular Lanos models and the presentation is appealing enough, but it is in the same price region as some pretty capable and well established cars - like the Peugeot 206, VW Polo and Holden Astra - so its credibility is very much on the line.

With almost $20,000 easily disposed of before the Lanos Sport hits the road, this is not a cheap entry level three-door.

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