Motor America, based in Compton CA, a subsidiary of Daewoo
Motors of South Korea, represents the newest auto manufacturer setting up shop in the United States. Fifteen company-owned stores opened in select cities during the fall of 1998, including a small Arlington Heights location. By the end of 2000, Daewoo
anticipates having 450 retail showrooms opened throughout the continental United States and Alaska. Currently, Daewoo
operates several retail outlets in the Chicago area including locations in Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Libertyville and Lincolnwood. Daewoo
shave been sold for decades throughout Asia, Europe and South America. Daewoo
is South Korea's second-largest automaker behind Hyundai, which entered the U.S. market in 1986. Kia Motors, Korea's third- biggest car producer, was recently purchased by Hyundai Motors. Kia began selling compact-sized automobiles in the United States along the west coast in 1994.
offers three, front-wheel-drive cars for sale here: the top-of-the-line Leganza sedan, mid-size, four-door Nubira (available in sedan or wagon) and our test-car of the week, the compact Lanos
. A fourth model, the Korando two-door sport utility, was showcased at the 2000 Los Angeles International Auto Show in January, and is anticipated in showrooms by summer.
As with General Motors' Saturn division, Daewoo
markets its lineup with a one-price policy; the price on the window is the price paid, no negotiating is necessary.
Our test-drive, Korean-built Lanos
subcompact hatchback is aimed squarely at recent college graduates, or any budget-minded shopper desiring a new vehicle under or near the $10,000 threshold.
Trim levels and engine: Lanos
comes either as a two-door hatchback or four-door sedan. Four-door variety features entry- level S and up-level SX trim levels while hatchback buyers get to choose from entry-level S and more-opulent SE selections. Both body styles generate power from a 1.6-liter, in-line, 16-valve, double- overhead-cam engine producing 105 horsepower. It's the sole powertrain available.
Safety equipment: Driver and front passenger air bags and energy-absorbing bumpers come standard in all editions. Child safety rear-door locks come standard in sedans. An anti-theft system with remote keyless entry is standard only in SX sedans and not optional in other trim levels. Anti-locks brakes are a $500 option in SX sedans and SE hatchbacks. Traction control and side air bags are not offered.
Price: The lowest-price Lanos
, a S hatchback starts at $8,669. Our test-drive SE included a $10,200 starting price. With options including anti-lock brakes, air conditioning and $533 destination charge, the bottom line added up to $11,790. The S Lanos
sedan starts at $9,499 while the SX sedan sets a check book back $12,519. Hyundai's lowest-priced offering, the Accent L edition checks in at $8,999.
Standard equipment: The subcompact Lanos
, as with many small, entry-level driving machines, includes a limited number of standard features to keep prices down. All Lanos
editions include: five- speed manual transmission, rear-window defogger, AM/FM/cassette stereo, rack-and-pinion steering, splash guards, tinted windows, power-assisted steering and variable intermittent front wipers. Power windows and door locks are not offered in S trim levels, but are standard in SE hatchbacks and SX sedans. Front fog lights, compact disc player and tilt steering column are standard solely in SXsedans and not offered in other editions. Hatchbacks include a rear window wiper and washer.
Options: Four-speed automatic transmission ($800) comes optional in all trim levels. Air conditioning is a $700 option in all models except the SE sedan, where it comes standard. A power moonroof rates as a $500 option solely in SE sedans. Cruise control is not offered.
Interior: Ergonomically, controls are all within easy reach of the driver. One update needed is to change the size of the radio controls, especially on-off and frequency buttons; they're too small. The instrument panel includes three circular, analog gauges (speedometer, fuel and temperature) but no tachometer; unusual for a manual transmissioned vehicle where such engine-speed information comes in handy when moving from gear to gear. Both the odometer and trip odometer, nestled inside the speedometer circle, are analog as well. The fuel-door release latch is found on the floor, left ofthe driver's seat.
Deep map pockets adorn both doors and inside door handles are easy to find in the dark thanks to their larger size. In between front bucket seats rests the parking brake and controls for power windows. A dial controlling only the right, outside mirror is on the dashboard, left of the steering column. Headlights monitor from the turn signal stalk while front and rear wipers activate from a right-hand side stalk.
Climate controls, consisting of three easy-to-operate dials monitoring fan speed, direction and temperature settings rest above the rectangular-shaped sound system equidistant between both front seat riders. A digital clock, separate from the radio display, gets positioned high on the dashboard. Dual cupholders retract out from the dashboard directly under the stereo. If anything taller than a 12-oz can of soda is residing in the holders, access to stereo controls gets compromised. Directly in front of the floor-mounted manual transmission shifter rested a recessed, square areaconvenient for tollway change.
Seating comfort: For being a subcompact, headroom is generous. Plenty of room remained between my six-foot frame and the ceiling. Cloth seating is the norm but the manually-controlled front bucket seats seem a bit ridged.
Back seats include a 60/40 split. A nice feature on both bucket seats is a latch high up on the side, which when depressed down, moves the seat back forward. Many competitors place this lever near the bottom of the seat, necessitating an extra bend-down motion on the part of a traveler maneuvering into the back seat. Two adult riders fit most comfortably in back; three is a pipe dream. A temporary spare tire situates under the flat-floor cargo area.
Wheelbase: 99.2 inches
Overall length: 160.4 inches
Overall height: 56.4 inches
Overall width: 66.1 inches
Curb weight: 2,447 pounds
' rounded rear hatchback provides unique styling. It's easy to spot in a parking lot. Oval-shaped taillights wrap around to side fenders. The locking, square fuel door with tethered cap is found on the right rear fender. Cupped black handles adorned both doors. Side view mirrors that smartly fold in when inadvertently brushed against an immovable object are also black. A whip radio antenna extends up from the left rear fender. Near the top of the hatch window sits a spoiler.
In front, cat's-eye-shaped headlights flank a grille with black vertical strips. The five color choices include: Spinal Red, Galaxy White, Poly Silver, Deep Bluish Green or Azurite Blue.
Fuel economy: Since Lanos
aims at budget-conscious shoppers, decent fuel economy is another selling point. Our five-speed manual Lanos
registered 26 miles per gallon in city travel and 36 m.p.g. along the highway. The fuel tank holds 12.7 gallons of unleaded, 87-octane (regular) fuel. When coupled with automatic transmission, economy dips a bit to 23 miles in city trekking and 34 m.p.g. on the open road.
Final thoughts: Daewoo
Motors America has expanded rapidly in the United States since in September 1998. But its parent company, Daewoo
Group, one of South Korea's largest conglomerates with interests in textiles, electronics and machine tools, remains in financial distress. The company, plagued by deep debt due in part to recessionary times in Asia, is on the acquisition block. Both General Motors and DaimlerChrysler have been rumored as possible suitors for the automotive division. Daewoo
had a working relationship with GM in the 1980s when it assembled the Pontiac LeMans in Koreafor the world's largest automaker.
For budget-conscious shoppers perusing new wheels, Lanos
merits a peek and test drive. All 2000 Daewoo
models include full- scheduled maintenance coverage and 24-hour roadside emergency assistance for three years or 36,000 miles at no additional cost.
Asian rivals have introduced or will be debuting low-priced alternatives. Toyota, Japan's largest automaker, ushered in the 2000 Echo subcompact (available in both coupe and sedan body styles) late last year with a starting price of $9,995. Kia Motors debuted it's lowest-priced sedan, the 2001 Rio at the Chicago Auto Show last month. Kia's all-new sedan goes on sale this spring with a starting price under $10,000.
As with most low-priced subcompacts, wind noise is evident at highway speeds and the vehicle is susceptible to high winds when traveling at highway speeds; keep both hands on the wheel while on the tollway. Headroom throughout Lanos
' interior is excellent.