Daewoo Lacetti 2004 Road Test

Wed, 18 Feb 2004

Nice name, Lacetti. It’s pronounced “Laacheyti”. Imagine an Italian telling you he drives a “Laacheyti” designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and the perceived image of a Daewoo would not immediately come to mind.

It is good looking. And it’s not a bad little car at all. GM could have called it a Chevrolet Lacetti, a Buick Lacetti or a Pontiac Lacetti. If they had, it would have sounded a lot more Soprano than Daewoo. But that might have been going too far.

Instead, the Lacetti complements the Matiz, the Kalos, the new Nubira, the facelifted Tacuma and the imminent new Nubira station wagon in providing a full range of small to medium size Daewoos for sensible money with three years to 60,000 miles warranty and servicing included.

Slightly bigger than a Polo and slightly smaller than a Focus, Lacettis start with a 1.4 rise through a better equipped 1.6 or 1.6 automatic, and will culminate with a sporty 1.8 in summer 2004. Engines are familiar GM Family 1 and Family II, as in some of the Vauxhall range. Nothing too complicated or ambitious.

It’s the way the car drives that comes as a pleasant surprise. Previous Daewoos were bland to the point of boring. They were cars as domestic appliances. They did the job, but gave no pleasure. And while the Lacetti isn’t class leading in the handling department, it doesn’t punish the press-on driver with irritating inertia or unwanted understeer. It grips well, both at the front and the back, lets you know what’s happening through the steering wheel and doesn’t charge you for all this with a crashy, bone-hard ride. The suspension is actually on the soft side of absorbent, with roll held in check by substantial anti roll bars front and rear.

The 1.6 is a bit gruff but reasonably torquey with a well chosen final drive ratio that allows you to stay in 5th more than some other 1.6s. It’s decently kitted out, too, with aircon and alloys as well as the CD radio of lesser versions. The dashboard is pleasant to behold. The indicators are on the left, not the right. The clutch is light. The gearchange is fine. Plenty of head, leg and shoulder room front and back, decently supportive seats. And for the sort of money that buys you a run-out special Ford Focus 1.6 Flight 3-dr.

The 1.4 is a sweeter engine, nicer to rev, but lacking the grunt of the 1.6 which means you have to use the gears a lot more. It’s no slouch, though. And the handling is just as good as the 1.6. But you don’t get aircon or alloys or electric rear windows, so really for £1,000 more the 1.6 is better value.

It’s harder to justify £1,000 on top of that for the 1.6 automatic. Previously I have preferred the automatics to the manuals in some new ranges of cars. However this is an old fashioned Aisin four-speeder with the curiosity of no ‘3’ position on the quadrant. To select 3rd if you want to overtake you either have to kick-down or press a button on the side of the quadrant marked ‘HOLD’. And on the motorway it’s all to eager to panic change down to 3rd at the slightest request for more speed, which makes it hard to drive quickly and smoothly. I suspect that this version will probably sell to the higher end of the model’s customer age profile. It’s not bad compared to the automatics of a few years ago. But it isn’t a patch on the likes of the Mazda 3 1.6 auto.

If you want reliable motoring with known costs for three years or 60,000 miles at a bit less than the going (discounted) rate than the Euro/Japanese competition, then the Lacetti makes a good case for itself. Especially since you can now save some money without getting short-changed in the ride and handling department.

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