The arrival of the Daewoo Lacetti is unlikely to have caused even a blip on the radar screen of many car enthusiasts. But it marks an important step forward for Daewoo in its mission to become the value brand of the GM group.
Although the Lacetti runs on a platform developed by Daewoo in its pre-GM days (it’s a development of the Nubira saloon), the parent company’s influence is obvious inside and out. The styling is another step forward for Daewoo. Strongest when viewed from the rear – where it’s remarkably like this year’s new Astra – it lacks character from the front, but it’s a smart, modern car you wouldn’t mind parking on your drive.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the uninspiring driving experience. There’s nothing wrong with the way the 108bhp 1.6-litre four pulls the Lacetti up the road, but it does so with little enthusiasm, feeling rough when you move away and sounding coarse if you extend it through the revs.
The biggest disappointment is the gearshift, which is always notchy, regardless of how careful you are. In terms of handling it’s pretty unremarkable, with decent grip but a fair dose of bodyroll and understeer when pushed. Only the ride occasionally grates — transmitting too much thump and noise into the cabin.
Daewoo has tried hard to put some style into the cabin and although some of the plastics and fabrics still feel ‘budget’, the overall effect is not unattractive. It’s easy to get comfortable, too: there’s reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, height adjustment on the seat and plenty of room. More noticeably, there’s excellent space in the back, with more legroom than in either a Focus or Astra.
Of course, the time-honoured reasons for Daewoo purchase are still present: three-years’ warranty, free servicing and AA cover, an excellent level of standard equipment that includes four airbags, air-con, alloys and a CD player. And at £10,495 it’s good value, too.
The Lacetti might not offer much driver entertainment, but its sharp looks mean that at least Daewoo can now offer a hatchback whose appeal extends beyond the balance sheet alone.