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Car reviews - Daewoo - Leganza - sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Interior space, on-road competence, build quality
Room for improvement
Choppy low-speed ride, average performance of 1.6-litre version

9 May 2001

DAEWOO has turned up the heat in the medium-size four-cylinder segment with a bigger-engined, better equipped, better-handling version of its flagship Leganza model.

For the same price as the pre-update version, the new Leganza adds strength to the buy South Korean argument by improving what was an already sound proposition.

The Holden-built, multi-valve, twin-camshaft four-cylinder engine belongs to the Family II range and has been taken from 2.0 to 2.2 litres, receiving benefits more in torque spread than outright power.

Power is up by a paltry 2kW - from 98 to 100kW - although torque has been improved not only in outright numbers, but also by the shape of the torque curve. By 1800rpm, it is producing around 175Nm, only 15Nm short of the new maximum figure of 191Nm at 4000 rpm.

This means the engine responds more willingly and with greater urge than before. It is still no 3.0-litre V6 but is smooth and silent enough, as well as strong enough, to ease criticisms of the previous 2.0-litre.

The stronger engine is mated to a new Aisin Warner four-speed automatic gearbox - a unit in common use globally by manufacturers such as Toyota and Saab.

It is electronically controlled with a "learning" capability able to remember driver style and self-adjust to behave accordingly. It also has three modes - normal, sport and winter - as well as automatic adjustment for wear.

To top off the changes, Daewoo in Australia has also given the Leganza a new set of boots - V rated 205/60 R15 Bridgestone Turanzas replacing the previous South Korean rubber - plus standard Australian made and designed ROH alloy wheels.

Daewoo says the V-rated rubber has been fitted in answer to criticisms of the previous tyres. The ROH wheels are claimed to reduce weight by a total of eight kilogrammes - all in the important "unsprung" area.

Daewoo says the Leganza's standard equipment takes it to the forefront in its class: driver's airbag, air-conditioning, CD player, remote central locking, power windows and mirrors are all standard, leaving only a safety pack including passenger's airbag and Bosch three-channel anti-lock brakes as the major option - although leather upholstery is available.

On the road, the Leganza has doubtlessly benefitted from the changes. The engine is indeed responsive and relatively quiet and smooth in the way it goes about its tasks. The new auto, already known as a smooth operator in other applications, mates well with the Family II Holden engine to make an easy to live with combination.

There are times, however, when it becomes obvious the 2.2 is no grunter, less able to slug it out at low revs than a bigger four or six-cylinder.

The Bridgestones certainly play a part in giving the Daewoo relatively crisp driving responses. The Leganza felt competent and assured on the roads around the Adelaide hills - although some Daewoo insiders claim the real differences in road behaviour are minimal.

Still, with the promise of extra grip and the reduction in unsprung weight, there can be little harm done - and there's no cost to the consumer.

The Leganza has a stately Daimler-esque look, especially at the rear. This is not surprising given ItalDesign's Giorgetto Guigiaro had a hand in the car's design, following his Jaguar Kensington styling exercise from the early 1990s.

Leganza's frontal styling is easy on the eye too. The now familiar corporate grille is a tad pretentious for some but full credit to Daewoo for beefing up its brand image in this way.

Inside the Leganza is equally competently styled. The dash is a model of clarity, with a large speedo and rev counter flanked by smaller fuel and temperature gauges.

The seats and door trims are finished in light grey - maybe a little drab to some eyes - which does not resist grubby marks with any particular vigour.

Both front seats have lumbar control and there is plenty of length in the seat squab while the driver has front and rear height adjustment.

The rear seats are wide but set low, no doubt to enhance headroom, but as a result force assengers into an uncomfortable hips down, knees up position.

Visibility is good, except for reversing where the now uncommon style of low level boot lid is invisible to the driver.

The boot is big but reasonably shallow. The floor mat is crudely stapled to the cardboard formerly above the spare wheel. Loose items of luggage skate freely about the boot on the mat which is as grippy as the average ice rink.

The interior has a double cupholder stashed alongside the handbrake. Each sun visor has an illuminated vanity mirror. A good size glovebox is backed up by a pair of shallow door pockets big enough to hold a mobile phone.

One of the Leganza's claimed strengths is its sound deadening. Driving in town the engine note is pleasantly muted. Only above 100km/h do the door mirrors kick up sufficient aerodynamic turbulence to intrude.

With the standard three-year warranty also covering virtually all service costs, the Leganza makes more sense than ever.

Leganza is gaining on the Euros and Toyota. Its sticker price advantage may be diminished and its prestige value may be questionable, but buyers choosing on value for money may find it hard to resist.

- Automotive NetWorks 03/02/1999

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