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New models - Daewoo - Tacuma - 5-dr hatch

Tacuma tackles mini movers

Sales pitch: Daewoo plans to sell around 200 Tacumas a month.

Daewoo moves into the lifestyle/MPV market with the stylish Tacuma

25 Oct 2000

IF the success of a new vehicle depended on price, styling and packaging, Daewoo's foray into the lifestyle/MPV market with its new Tacuma could be on the fast track to market success.

With a one model only price of $23,990, styling by Pininfarina and interior packaging said to rival full-size family cars, the new Daewoo has a beguiling mix of ingredients.

It may look a little like a people-mover in style but it is only a five-seater, an early entry into the lifestyle market already reaching boom proportions in Europe. Over there it is expected to grow a further 40 per cent in the next five years to a total of 820,000 vehicles in 2005.

The Tacuma owes much of its running gear to the Corolla-size Nubira model, including the Australian-made 2.0-litre engine and MacPherson strut front suspension. The overall dimensions are similar, except the pert-looking new car stands a lot taller than the conventional Nubira and is slightly wider.

The heavily chromed and dominant grille is identifiably Daewoo and there is a pair of high-mounted, wrap-around vertical tail-lights that would do justice to a 1950s Cadillac.

Inside, the Tacuma offers an interesting layout with five individual seats. The back seats can be adjusted independently, folded down independently or removed entirely to create a versatile loading area. With the seats in place, boot space is still very generous and back seat legroom is more than surprising, even with full adjustment potential exploited in the front.

The interior is presented as anything but low rent with fake wood even making an appearance on the dash and door trims. Although Daewoo points out this is not a people-mover, the driver does get a captain's chair style fold-down left-hand armrest. There is an abundance of clever little knick-knacks including slide-out trays under the front seats, a roof-mounted holder for sunglasses, picnic trays behind the front seats and handy storage compartments under the rear floor.

The 2.0-litre Holden engine is basically the same as that used in the Nubira but its characteristics are slightly different - claimed by Daewoo to have torque characteristics better suited to the needs of the car.

Fuel economy is attractive with Daewoo claiming 11.7L/100km for the city cycle and 7.6L/100km for the highway cycle.

The company says it plans to sell around 200 Tacumas a month, which will help Daewoo reach its target of 30,000 vehicles in 2001. It expects to sell 25,000 vehicles in Australia this year.

Tacuma drivers are expected to be mainly young, married women with one or two children, who have need of the space and economy of the car but are also sensitive to style - essentially the same profile as those currently buying four-wheel drive vehicles, but who are disillusioned because the bigger vehicles have not met expectations either on utility or running costs.

The Tacuma goes on sale this week supported by an extensive campaign mainly concentrated on print media advertising.

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS IF you expected the new Daewoo Tacuma's European influences to reach down into its on-road behaviour, you might be disappointed.

Whether it's because the Tacuma project's initiator Ulrich Bez wasn't on hand to see the final production model coming together, or whether the Nubira-based mechanicals don't translate with complete success into a larger, heavier car, the fact is the Tacuma is a bit of a let-down, dynamically speaking.

The clever little Daewoo does some quite amazing things with space utilisation and rates quite well on attention to detail, but the suspension delivers only average road holding and ride quality, making it less pleasant than it could be when the road surface cuts up rough, or when the odd sharp curve appears.

In striking a balance between bump absorption and steering precision, Daewoo engineers haven't quite hit the mark. Although the car proceeds quietly up to and beyond legal maximum speeds, it feels a little unsure in terms of steering precision, forcing the driver to negotiate curves in a series of bites rather than one controlled sweep.

The steering is rather light and lacking in feel, too.

Ride quality varies from apparently smooth and absorbent on reasonably good surfaces to surprisingly harsh when sharp potholes are encountered.

The 2.0-litre engine does a capable job, but it too is hampered both by the Tacuma's close to 1400kg weight and its rather tall gearing, that sees the automatic version spinning at not much more than 2500rpm at 100km/h. The result is the gearbox keeps busy, even on the highway where it shuffles between third and fourth to maintain momentum. The manual is slightly better but it is relatively high geared too.

On the positive side the Tacuma cruises along with surprising lack of noise, either from the road or from air rushing over the body.

The tallish stance doesn't really make itself noticed from inside the Tacuma feels quite sedan-like, without that high and mighty stance familiar in cars like the Honda CRV, Toyota RAV-4 or any of the full-size people-movers. And it looks quite substantial - something that can't always be said of some of the new-breed lifestyle cars.

The interior is everything Daewoo claims, with surprising head and legroom, decent shoulder room and a good boot, too. The three separate rear seats make a statement about true passenger carrying capacity while allowing quite exceptional versatility.

The seats feel rather flat and unyielding but prove to be comfortable after a few hours on the road, if lacking in lateral support on corners.

Overall impressions are of a beguiling entrant into the fledgling mini-MPV segment that only shows shortcomings in suspension setup - which may well be due to the fact Daewoo brought the Tacuma to market just three years after it was conceived.

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