What's New for 2000
The three-door SX disappears, as does the SE Sedan. Daewoo picks up the tab for all scheduled maintenance during the warranty period and has added ownership peace of mind with 24-hour roadside assistance for three years or 36,000 miles.
Daewoo, Korean for "Great Universe," has decided to take the U.S. market by storm with the Lanos. Trouble is, the U.S. market is already flooded with underpowered subcompact cars that nobody wants to buy. Nevertheless, Daewoo is diving in, aiming sales squarely at loan-saddled college students. Interestingly, if you rearrange "Lanos" you get "Loans." Creative types around our offices refer to this car as the "Lamos."
Available as a three-door hatchback or a four-door sedan, the Lanos is about the size of a Hyundai Accent. Because the Lanos is a small subcompact, anyone over six feet tall should not bother trying find a comfortable seating position. But the price matches the car's size, and for that nominal fee you get suspension tuning from Porsche and styling from ItalDesign, in addition to free scheduled maintenance for the duration of the basic warranty.
The Lanos is available in three trim levels: S, SE and SX. SE models come in hatchback configuration only, while the SX trim is reserved for sedans. Each comes with a 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve engine that makes 105 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 106 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission is also standard, but buyers may choose an optional four-speed automatic. Acceleration, characterized as "spirited" by Daewoo spokespeople, is actually rather leisurely. Zero to 60 takes 11 seconds with the manual and 12.5 seconds with the automatic.
While the S model is the base car, it is equipped with a MacPherson strut front suspension, which the press kit boasts "provides resistance to vibration and shock." Also standard for your protection are pre-tensioning seatbelts and anti-submarining seats. Air conditioning is the only option Lanos S buyers can select. You have to go to the midlevel SE or top-level SX in order to purchase the optional ABS. SX trim buyers get standard goodies like a CD player, air conditioning, alloy wheels, fog lights and a tilt steering column. A moonroof is optional only on the SX.
During test drives, we were pleased with the stiff suspension tuning that makes the Lanos fun in corners. Fit and finish were quite good, and the paint positively shimmered. But the dash is made of what appears to be the least expensive plastic on the planet, and the motor thrashes at higher revs. The lack of a tachometer meant we couldn't tell if we were still within an acceptable operating range or were about to blow the engine.
Prices for this entry-level car range from just over $9,000 for the bare-bones model to just over $13,000 for a loaded SX. But with Daewoo's sales model, patterned after Saturn's successful no-haggle showrooms, we have to wonder what the incentive is to drive away in an unproven Korean car of questionable reliability, when the Honda dealer down the street offers tried-and-true certified-used Civics for a similar price.