Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.
Unlike Tuesday’s Sentra, the Lanos left an indelible impression on me. Here was a car that I really didn’t like, but didn’t have the luxury to just trash it. Being a small publication, we were fully dependent on the kindness of manufacturers to supply press cars. Criticism needed to be constructive. Apparently, my balanced review earned me some love from my managing editor:
Adam – this is one of your best reviews. Your honesty wasn’t brutal but to the point. It wasn’t trivial but constructive. You highlighted what worked and didn’t work, and you did an excellent job of positioning this car against the other Korean auto makers [sic]. I love the ending. You have come a long ways [sic] in your reviews. Your style is coming through and I hardly touch them any more.
Keep up the good work. I am sharing this review with Randi [Payton, the Founder and Publisher] cause [sic] he is doing Daewoo for our buying guide issue.
One of the perks of being an automotive journalist is having the privilege of driving new cars that are not yet available for sale. Unfortunately, this was my one opportunity.
The below review ran on August 10, 1998, though my week with the car was in June.
Not one head turned. Here was a brand-new car that will not be introduced until the Fall, and nobody noticed. Not a good sign.
Daewoo, an established South Korean manufacturer, is entering the tough U.S. market by matching Hyundai model-for-model, an unusual tactic considering Hyundai’s weak sales over the past several years. The lineup will include the mid-size Leganza, which will compete against the Sonata, compact Nubira going head-on with the Elantra, and the sub-compact Lanos, which will take on the Accent. Not that the Lanos is an unattractive car, but the little sedan looks like a cross between the Accent and the Mazda Protege, two relatively anonymous cars.
Our tester was the top-of-the-line SX sedan (there’s also a three-door hatchback) with a colorful interior, power windows, power door locks with remote, impressive sounding CD/cassette stereo, power moonroof, four-speed automatic transmission, front spoiler with fog lights, and alloy wheels on meaty tires. The look of the plastic and feel of the controls was about on par with the Accent and leagues ahead of Kia, also from South Korea. Unfortunately, instead of the classic new-car smell, you’re hit with an odor akin to sour milk when you first step inside. I don’t know if this smell was just our sample; we’ll have to drive the other models to be sure.
The Lanos’ major weakness is under the hood. The 1.6 liter engine is loud and “thrashy.” When combined with the optional four-speed automatic, it’s sluggish on takeoff. Once underway, however, the Lanos accelerates quickly enough for merging and other fun driving activities, but 0-60 in 12.5 seconds, according to Daewoo, makes it one of the slowest cars on the market.
Handling isn’t bad, and the ride is about average for its class. The front seats are comfortable, and it was easy finding an optimal driving position. Rear-quarters are nearly as tight as the Accent’s, even though the Lanos has a five-inch longer wheelbase. The trunk is quite roomy, and there’s a split-folding rear seat for even more space.
Overall, it’s dead average. Daewoo plans to price the Lanos from about $9,000 to $12,000. Hopefully, that’s low enough to draw buyers to an unknown car with unknown quality from an unknown manufacturer.
For more information contact 1-800-966-1775
Type: 4-Door Sedan
Engine: 105-horsepower, 1.6 liter inline 4
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic
EPA Mileage: 23 city/34 highway
Tested Price: $14,000 (est.)
We all know how that turned out. For those that are not familiar with Daewoo, the company made its mark using the tooling of GM cars and applying their own badge. The Pontiac LeMans, known as the Daewoo LeMans and many other names in its home and other markets and built from the tooling of the Opel Kadett E, was our first experience with its cars. Like Hyundai with the Excel, Daewoo hired Italdesign in an attempt to create and market attractive, distinctive cars that people want to buy. Then they got the brilliant idea of recruiting college students to go door to door to sell the cars. They quickly changed course and set up traditional dealerships, but between the crappy cars and the bottoming out of South Korea’s economy, Daewoo Motor descended into bankruptcy. GM bought the assets from the receiver and now some of GM’s best offerings originate here.
Isn’t it impressive how far Hyundai and Kia, as well as Mazda, have come? By the way, I wouldn’t call the number listed above. It’s anyone’s guess who has it now.
Ever notice as Daewoo and dog-doo sound similar?
Reminds me of the “Monday, Monday” parody:
And Yugos, too
They’re all made from
@ Adam: Thanks for making me splash my keyboard! I’d not heard that witty ditty before, LOL! 🙂
“By the way, I wouldn’t call the number listed above. It’s anyone’s guess who has it now.”
That’s like a dare I couldn’t turn down. So I called 🙂
The number now belongs to a “vehicle service contract” company whose website can be found at protectmycar.com
I checked the website out and they do not offer policies on Daewoos.
Now they have your number from the Caller ID. Expect more, “We’ve been trying to reach you about your vehicle service contract” calls.
Meh, they call me about a dozen times a week anyhow, what’s a few more?
And when I get put through to a rep, they keep refusing to extend the warranty on my ’63 Studebaker 🙂
Ahaha, your 63 Studebaker barely had a warranty when it was new.
The Lanos was actually marketed as a Chevrolet in some countries, not uncommon with GM’s fractured branding strategy at the time. I do have to say that I think your reviews are great, and whether or not your editor was always right or wrong about your writing, the style and grammar errors in her comments continue to surprise me.
Thanks dman. I tend to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was extremely busy and the e-mail responses were rushed. Then again, I didn’t have to re-print them verbatim, either :}
The Leganza was a surprisingly ambitious effort and quite decent, actually. And fairly durable, even. My son had one, and I reviewed it here:
Review coming soon! It was definitely a better effort than the Lanos.
We did the “after” as well. A better result than originally expected.
Was the Leganza the one that was re-badged as a Suzuki for a while? I had some sort of Suzuki as a rental car once, and I thought it was okay, but then I read the sticker that said “Manufactured by Daewoo” and I decided I didn’t like it.
That would be the Verona, which was the Daewoo Magnus. The Magnus ultimately replaced the Leganza though the two cars were manufactured side-by-side for a few years.
GM rescued Daewoo and finally let them have up to date Opel designs instead of cast off tooling from long dead models, I still see the odd Daewoo around not as many as a few years ago the ranks are definitely thinning out, Daewoo had a tie into GM for decades it didnt start with the Pontiac Le Mans they were churning out a station wagon branded as a Chevrolet in the early 70s based on a four door Vauxhall Viva but using the Holden Torana 6 front sheetmetal, theres still at least one on the road here in NZ.
Thanks Bryce. When I say “our”, I’m talking about the U.S. I apologize for forgetting CC’s international readership.
I was rooting for Daewoo when they came abroad, as they all had unique styling similar to the old school Italian way of contracting taste out. Just look at the Bucrane concept from 1995; Maserati pounced on that shape for their 3200GT of 1998 once Daewoo declined. Not to be, sadly. Even this Lanos shape was previewed in 1993 as a roadster:
That is pretty good looking!
I kinda remember reading about these cars twenty years ago when I was in elementary school and being surprised that college kids were being asked to sell them.
Even before COVID-19 made me housebound I almost never saw Dawoos, but I did see one on new year’s day so I have seen at least one this decade.
One of Poland’s most popular cars of the late 90s and early 00s, mainly because it was cheap.
You can still see these out and about, serving about the same function as I assume a 90s Pontiac or Oldsmobile would be serving in the US.
Along with its predecessor, the Nexia, am I right?
There was a number of them in Slovakia, too. Now I can’t remember when was the last time I encountered a wild one.
Few weeks ago, a friend offered us a hatchback Lanos of his sister in a group chat. Chosen by their father – a former Opel/Chevrolet/Daewoo mechanic. He wanted 500€, but our responses were like – 50€ you say? you should pay US to drive this, etc.
Daewoo also presented us all with the Captiva. Nuff said.
I saw a Lanos hatch parked outside the doctor’s the other day. Considering the rep their cars have, I was surprised it was still running.
I always thought Daewoo’s Lanos and Nubira sounded like planets.
“Captain’s Log – Stardate 2020.5. We have entered standard orbit around Lanos V to attend the Daewoo ceremony and offer Federation membership to the Nubirans. Myself, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Ensign Smith will be beaming down momentarily.”
Obligatory mention of Danny McBride’s Daewoo Lanos in Pineapple Express
My enduring memory of the Daewoo Lanos is when I was at a track day at Laguna Seca with the (Audi) Quattro Club around the year 2000. One of the instructors who had flown in from Wisconsin got a Lanos hatchback during the rental car lottery at the airport. Several participants thought their cars were all that and after several warnings he told one of them to pull out on track and do his best while he would follow in the Lanos. At the end of the lap with everyone watching he was still on his bumper at turn 11. Not that the Lanos is an astounding track car but it was an excellent demonstration that the driver, skill, and confidence can matter a lot more than the machinery.
Other than that I like the hatchback better than the sedan. The sedan in profile looks like it was styled starting at the front and the designer realized somewhere around the front door handle that he has about two feet less room to design the car than he originally figured so he very much cheated the rear door and trunk to make it fit within the parameter.