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Car reviews - Daewoo - Nubira - sedan

Our Opinion

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

9 May 2001

IN November, 1999, the Glass's guide to new passenger vehicles available in Australia listed 11 separate Daewoo Nubira models. The range comprised sedan, wagon and five-door hatchbacks. Including automatic versions, the listing occupied almost four pages of the guide. The Holden Commodore, Australia's largest selling car, occupies about two pages.

Today, the Nubira model count is two - a sedan and a wagon.

The decision to rationalise the range seems a wise one. Any importer dealing with so many variants of one model has a potential nightmare on its hands in terms of advance ordering, spare parts, pricing policies and even Australian Design Rule certification.

The Nubira now presents a far less confusing proposition to small car buyers.

There is just the sedan and wagon, and just one engine - the 2.0- litre, 98kW unit previously only available on the top of the range CDX versions.

The rationalisation process was also timed to coincide with the Nubira's first update which, in many ways, is more than just an update because of the far-reaching nature of the changes.

Considerable investment, for example, has gone into a freshening of exterior styling which has meant a new face - though still retaining the trademark Daewoo grille - a new rear end and, importantly, a completely redesigned interior with better seats, an all-new instrument panel and a new airbag design that employs with less force to limit the risk of injury.

Underneath all this is a reworked suspension, new speed sensitive steering and modifications to the engine that reduce noise levels and improve smoothness of operation.

The result is a much more refined version of a car that showed promise as a well conceived vehicle in the first place.

With the adoption of the one-model policy, the price looks pretty good, too, about $2000 under the previous 2.0-litre CDX yet offering more equipment in addition to the significant revisions.

The only real choice buyers will need to make is whether to lay out the substantial sum required for the "Sports Pack" option (more than $3000). This money is well spent, though, for it adds a passenger-side airbag, four-channel anti-lock brakes and 15- inch alloy wheels with V-rated 195/55 tyres. The sports pack also includes a few splashes of metallic-look plastic on the instrument panel and doors.

Apart from the clearly different exterior, the biggest visual impact comes on stepping inside the Nubira.

Pulling the doors closed, you will notice there are flashy, all- new door trims, even chromed handles, and once you are seated you will feel longer cushions and a touch more lateral support, as well as adjustment for height. Back seat passengers will note that separate headrests are now part of the deal.

The old instrument panel has been tossed out unceremoniously and replaced with an all-new, single-piece design comprising a sweeping shroud containing all the major instruments and expanding across to include the centre console with radio and HVAC controls.

The rotating knob heater controls have been moved above the radio, which is part of a general positional juggle that enables Daewoo to claim better ergonomics than before. And variable-speed intermittent wipers are an unexpected bonus in this price category.

What is not mentioned is that Daewoo persists with infuriating - and potentially dangerous because the driver is forced to look away from the road to operate them - push-button radio controls.

The four-spoke steering wheel has been slightly reshaped while the standard bag now deploys more progressively to reduce the risk of bag-inflicted injuries.

The new seats and the adoption of height adjustment for the driver as well as an infinitely variable reclining mechanism, mean a comfortable position can be readily achieved for just about anyone - only marred by Daewoo's decision to use a coarse adjustment system for steering wheel height. The back seat, due to a relatively long wheelbase, surprises with the amount of legroom available.

The boot is thoroughly useful, quite deep and wide, with handy storage spaces behind the wheel arches providing straps to restrain any items held there. And of course there is also a split-fold rear seat - an item that is becoming standard expectation of sedans as well as hatches these days.

Driving the Nubira is a more pleasant business than before.

The Australian-built 2.0-litre engine has a muted, not unpleasant rasp to it and in manual form proves to be quite brisk and responsive on the road.

Downsides include a rather lumpy engine management system that produces jerky reactions to the accelerator and a notchy gearshift with a sometimes reluctant synchromesh between first and second gears. But the ratios are nicely spaced, allowing progressive acceleration.

The starting point for a suspension retune was quite sound: the Daewoo uses a fully independent system with MacPherson struts up front and a dual-link layout at the rear. It works through a set of decent Bridgestone Potenza tyres so there is really no excuse for poor roadholding.

The Nubira, as a result, proves quite competent in all-round road behaviour though it is far from being a sporting saloon and will understeer steadily once taken past a certain point.

The handling is assisted by the new speed-sensitive power steering that modulates assistance, so it is not too light on the open road yet provides easy wheel-twirling when shuffling into parking spots. Reaction to steering input is progressive and accurate, once again adding to the overall feeling of competence conveyed by this car. Importantly, ride quality is very good.

The brakes, anti-lock on the test car, need a solid shove to produce a result but feel solid and secure. The adoption of discs on the back as well as the front does a lot for the Nubira's sense of security.

In an overall sense, the Daewoo borders between Europe and Japan. The former no doubt relates to its roots being in GM product as well as its Ital Design styling and significant European input into the suspension. And the engine comes from Holden.

For the money, the Nubira certainly bears thinking about for those not wanting to stretch too far above the $20,000 mark. It not only offers a decent array of equipment for the price, but backs this up with good design, perceived quality and a handy- size interior that rates highly in the small-car class.

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