Used 2001 Daewoo Leganza Review

Edmunds expert review

Unless you're a die-hard groupie for the underdog, consider other cars.

What's new for 2001

Scarlet Mica and Harbor Mist Mica are the new exterior colors. Outside rearview mirrors get a blue tint and a new audio head unit is added for improved sound quality. A new option package for the SE includes front and rear power windows, power door locks, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo with six speakers, dual body-color heated power rearview mirrors, anti-theft alarm with remote keyless entry, tilt steering wheel and front foglamps.

Vehicle overview

Leganza, whose name is derived from a combination of the Italian words "elegante" (elegant) and "forza" (power), is Daewoo's midsize sedan marketed to would-be buyers of pedestrian Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys who want a full load of luxury amenities for a cut-rate bargain price.

Yes, the Leganza is elegant, penned by ItalDesign whiz Giorgetto Giugiaro. But powerful? Hardly. Competing against vehicles commonly equipped with V6 engines, the Leganza is handicapped in the muscle department by its only powerplant: A 2.2-liter DOHC 16-valve engine making 131 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 148 foot-pounds of torque at 2,800 rpm is charged with hauling around more than 3,000 pounds of sedan.

Three trim levels are available on the Leganza: SE, SX and CDX. Standard equipment includes a full-size spare tire, power windows and locks, air conditioning and a tilt steering wheel. A new-for-2001 option package can adorn the base SE with AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, anti-theft alarm with remote keyless entry, cruise control and foglamps. Step up to the midlevel SX, and you're rewarded with four-wheel disc antilock brakes, a CD player, leather seats, cruise control and an automatic transmission, with a moonroof and 15-inch alloy wheels optionally available. The luxurious CDX gets those last two items plus a power driver seat, automatic temperature control, fake wood trim and traction control.

British suspension-expert Lotus tuned Leganza's four-wheel independent underpinnings, but Daewoo obviously wanted a cushy ride, and the Leganza delivers. Weak tires howl around turns, and the ABS is substandard in refinement and effectiveness. Despite a "Sport" mode for the automatic transmission, it's best to drive the Leganza less enthusiastically than you would, say, anything else on the market.

We've found the Leganza dissatisfying, though plenty of owners report that they enjoy their cars immensely. Our specific complaints include uncomfortable seats, poor quality interior materials, lousy stereo sound quality, a dearth of engine power, skittish transmission performance, uninspired braking ability and sloppy steering.

We also know that Daewoo, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, is in big trouble with creditors in Korea, and is desperately searching for another automaker to bail it out of tremendous debt. What's worse is that suitor Ford Motor Company, after reviewing Daewoo's internal records, declined an opportunity to purchase the company. Add to this list of woes substandard crashworthiness as proven by offset crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and we cannot recommend the Leganza to anyone. Well, anyone we like.

But perhaps the biggest hurdle the Leganza faces is not Daewoo's no-haggle sales strategy, patchy dealer network, financial trouble at home or poor crash protection, but the extremely fierce competition in the midsize sedan segment. Competing against such entities as the Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Stratus, Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, Mazda 626, Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Altima, Oldsmobile Alero, Saturn LS and Toyota Camry is no small order, especially when the American buying public already knows where to buy and service them.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.