Fleet News

Daewoo Lacetti station wagon

Review

MORE than 5,000 fleet registrations are set to help the budget carmaker GM Daewoo maintain its position as Britain’s fastest-growing car franchise this year.

But it will be two more years before the brand being revitalised under the General Motors umbrella finally gains access to the most lucrative areas of the UK business car market, according to GM Daewoo Europe fleet and remarketing manager Ian Hull.

He said: ‘Reaching a sales total of 9,200 units in the first half of this year is a good performance considering we began 2003 with no dealer network.

‘Our plan is to continue to grow, but we can’t start aiming for full fleet acceptance until diesel power is added to our portfolio in 2006 – that will give us access to 50% of the market we are unable to reach at present.’

Speaking to Fleet News as the company previewed a new station wagon it will launch at the end of the year, he admitted the South Korean company still faced major ‘blocks’ on its road to recovery.

Hull said: ‘We have brand and badge issues, but we believe fleet acceptance will come with consistently good products offering outstanding value. We are paying close attention to this sector and will not force unnatural growth because we have to maintain good residual values.

‘Our new wagon model is the start of this process and a new Matiz and a three-door version of the Kalos will maintain the momentum next year. But we’ll start to be taken seriously by the fleets from 2006 when diesel completes our armoury.’

Based on a revised version of the Nubira saloon, the new workhorse model will carry a different name when it reaches Daewoo’s 100-strong dealer network in December.

Offered only in 1.6-litre form initially – a 1.8-litre option arrives next year – and with only one trim level, the car is likely to carry a £10,995 price tag to claim unrivalled value in the C-sector.

With a spacious interior and generous luggage capacity of up to 1,410 litres, it has a 60-40 split folding rear seat, alloy roof rails and uses its air conditioning system to cool a section of the glovebox.

Standard equipment includes four-channel anti-lock brakes, front and side airbags, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that adjusts for both height and rake. A six-speaker audio system is also included, as are power windows all round and electrically-operated door mirrors. GM Daewoo Europe chief Hardy Spranger said: ‘We will soon be celebrating our second anniversary and after turning the company around despite a difficult economic climate, we have plenty to feel pleased about.

‘Demand for high-value vehicles is increasing across Europe and I think we will do particularly well in the UK with what the British call smart buys – cars with clever ideas that offer more for less money.’

Behind the wheel

With low gearing providing only 21mph per 1,000 revs in fifth gear, you’re often longing for a sixth ratio to give Daewoo’s new station wagon longer legs for motorway cruising – particularly on the derestricted stretches in Germany where we put the car through its paces.

But another South Korean model giving a fresh twist to the old Ford maxim of offering a lot of metal for the money deserves more praise than criticism.

It may not be plush, but this is a practical, versatile and user-friendly car that has a few pleasant surprises, too. Keep the revs under the 4,000 mark and the Daewoo progresses quietly. Research at MIRA means its suspension provides a comfortable, compliant ride without disgracing itself through the bends. Tyre noise can be excessive over rough surfaces and the gear lever baulks at quick changes, but a seat squab that can be raised or lowered at the front and back shames more costly cars in terms of driver comfort.

Simple slits in sun visor vanity mirror covers create handy places to keep parking passes or payment cards in an interior that has 25 other storage areas. Who says good solutions have to be expensive to manufacture?

Thanks to revised styling, the latest Daewoo also looks a lot better into the bargain.

Driving verdict

Cars from South Korea just keep getting better and this proposition could prove popular with business and family users looking for budget-priced transport.

Engine (cc): 1,598
Max power (bhp/rpm): 109/5,800
Max torque (lb.ft/rpm): 110/ 4,000
Max speed (mph): 116
0-62mph (sec): 11.4
Fuel consumption (mpg): 36.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 181

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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