What's New for 2002
Daewoo trims the Nubira ranks for 2002 -- you can purchase either an SE sedan or a CDX wagon.
Nubira. Sounds like a cloud formation, but it's actually the name of one of the three cars from Daewoo. Nubira means "to go everywhere," and at one time, it was Daewoo's best shot at going anywhere in the fickle American marketplace. Limited U.S. visibility, slow sales, and recently, a total lack of support from the parent company's new owner, General Motors, have put an end to that hope. You see, when GM purchased Daewoo Motor Co. in 2001, the U.S. sales arm, Daewoo Motor America, was not part of the deal. This means that Daewoo dealerships in the U.S. will be running out of supply by the summer of 2002 (Daewoo Motor America should continue to honor current owners' warranty claims until GM sets up a trust fund of sorts). Our advice? Save yourself a headache and shop elsewhere.
For 2002, Daewoo is offering its Nubira sedan and wagon in just one trim level each, rather than two. In the process, some of the Nubira's nicer features -- including antilock brakes, a power moonroof and leather upholstery -- have been eliminated altogether.
Previously, Daewoo used SE and CDX to differentiate between base and uplevel models; now, you can choose between the decently equipped SE sedan and the better-equipped CDX wagon. The sedan comes with a height-adjustable driver seat, six-speaker sound system with cassette player and four-wheel disc brakes. The optional convenience package adds air conditioning, tilt adjustment for the steering wheel, two door-mounted tweeters and power windows, mirrors and locks. A Premium package sets you up with cruise control, a CD/cassette player combo, an alarm system and remote keyless entry.
The CDX wagon comes with all of the sedan's standard equipment, plus air conditioning, power everything, a tilt steering wheel, tweeters, a rear wiper, a roof rack and 19.4 cubic feet of luggage space. The wagon is also eligible for the Premium package.
The sole engine choice for the Nubira is a GM-designed Australian 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 129 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 136 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. This sprightly motor meets LEV standards. Mated to the standard five-speed manual transmission, the Nubira's engine can reach 60 mph in less than 10 seconds, but acceleration is accompanied by plenty of engine racket. The optional automatic requires nearly 2 seconds more to reach expressway velocities. Fuel economy is rated at 22/31 with the manual or the automatic.
Overall, the Nubira provides a pleasant ride and decent, if not downright sporty, handling as long as the driver isn't pushing the car for all it's worth. Body roll is kept to a minimum in slower turns, and steering is reasonably responsive, if a bit numb. The factory tires, however, could certainly use upgrading, as could the rather weak brakes.
Surprisingly, there's plenty of room up front for those with longer legs, though rear legroom is severely compromised when the tallest of drivers has the seat moved all the way back in the track. Cabin materials could stand improvement, but at this price, they certainly meet the standard.
The Nubira was Daewoo's best shot at finding a niche in the crowded economy car market, despite the stiff competition in this segment. It's somewhat attractive, reasonably powerful and offers a decent amount of equipment for the money. But given Daewoo Motor America's all-but-certain demise, not to mention the Nubira's mediocre performance and lack of ABS, we would urge you to consider other compacts in this price range -- our top choice would be the Hyundai Elantra.