Classic CARmentary: 1998 Daewoo Leganza CDX Sedan

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.

I know the Leganza has some fans here, but I’m not one of them.  My wife and I did give this car a good workout, driving it to Freehold, NJ, to visit some of my relatives.  Driving home, one of the warning lights on the dash flickered on and off, which is the only time I ever experienced an issue that might be serious in a press car.  I can’t remember which light it was, but I let the company that handles press cars know what happened.

I still stand by what I say below – that you have to bring your A-game to play in the mid-size sedan wars, especially if you’re an unknown.  The Leganza wasn’t it, and Daewoo was gone from these shores shortly thereafter (although their cars showed up again six years later badged as Suzukis).

The mid-size market is tough, and even many established brands have barely been able to make a dent in the sales of market leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. So what makes South Korea’s Daewoo think that it has a chance with its Leganza CDX sedan?

From a stylistic standpoint, the Leganza is impressive. Designed by ItalDesign of Italy, it features a smooth, teardrop shape with ovoid headlamps, slightly rounded rear windows, and a gracefully sloping trunk. The style continues on the inside, with thick leather seats and imitation wood trim. The dashboard even has a funky shape. Unlike the anonymous subcompact Lanos, this car turned some heads.

As nice as the interior is, I found it difficult to get comfortable. The four-way power driver’s seat is high – a little too high – and does not adjust for height. The stereo system sounds good, but the light show from the equalizer is gimmicky and unnecessary. Furthermore, the trunk-mounted six-CD changer is mounted in the center under the rear shelf, essentially blocking bulky cargo that may otherwise fit. Another luxury touch of the Leganza is climate control, but it seemed to blow ice cold air even into the upper ranges, where it switched to desert hot. The rear window defogger is useless. Cruise control is optional, and conspicuously missing from our loaded test car.

The 2.2 liter four-cylinder engine, the Leganza’s sole powerplant, is its Achilles’ heel. With the pedal to the metal, the engine seems to make more noise than power and sounds downright harsh at the limit. The base engines in the Camry and Accord, although similar in size, feel much smoother and more powerful. It rides well, but handling is sloppy.

If this review seems harsher than usual, it is. That’s because the majority of buyers in this segment are more concerned with substance over style, as has been demonstrated with the consistently slow sales of stylish mid-size cars, such as the Hyundai Sonata, that cost thousands less than the utterly bland Camry and Accord. For $20,000, I see few people taking a fully-loaded Leganza over more sparsely equipped versions of its fore-mentioned competition.

For more information contact 1-800-966-1775


Type:4-Door Sedan
Engine:131-horsepower, 2.2 liter inline 4
Transmission:4-Speed Automatic
EPA Mileage:N/A
Tested Price:$20,000 (est.)

Feel free to call the number above if you’re interested in extending your car’s warranty.  Or you can just wait for them to call you.  You know they will.