Daewoo Kalos 1-4 SX

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THE Kalos initially caused chaos in the Keenan household before proving itself the thoroughbred of GM Daewoo's stable.

A boot that defied attempts to open it was not the best of starts to a week driving the 1.4 SX model.

But once these two teething problems were ironed out, (the opening mechanism for the tailgate is offset to the right and the seat was eventually manoeuvred into a spot that didn't spark backache) the Kalos earned its spurs.

It is easily the best looking car Daewoo has ever made, marking a welcome shift from the Bella Lugosi beauty of the Leganza, Nubira and Lanos that are now thankfully confined to history.

Obviously the input of an Italian designer has helped, with Daewoo turning to the pen of Giugiaro. He is, apparently, one of Italy's foremost car designers although I have to own up and say I've never heard of him. Mind you, I thought Stella McCartney was a new brand of premium lager.

Nonetheless, the Kalos is a smart looking supermini, and with the SE model starting at a shade under £8,000 with heaps of equipment, it makes for outstanding appeal to bargain hunters.

In addition to the SE's power steering, anti-lock brakes, central door locking and alarm system, driver and passenger front and side airbags, electric front windows, and RDS radio/cassette player, the SX model is also equipped with an air conditioning system, front fog lamps, electric rear windows, height-adjustable driver's seat and a sporty spoiler for an extra £600.

However quality is not sacrificed on the altar of economy. The Kalos is well set out with an interior design fast catching up with the best of the west's superminis.

It is obvious Daewoo's engineers have had a close look at their more illustrious competitors and the result is a car that meets the majority of the criteria necessary to succeed in this highly competitive market.

However there are drawbacks, as the adage 'you get what you pay for' hasn't bored people for centuries for nothing. Most obvious in the debit column is the lack of punch for your pound. The car is not the quickest off the mark. An official 0-62mph figure of 13.3 seconds probably flatters the Kalos as it wasn't the most responsive supermini I've ever driven away from the lights. The transmission though is neat and accurate.

The Kalos has plenty of interior and head room and the boot, once access was mastered, proved surprisingly spacious for a car of this size. Similarly once the seat had been sorted out, the high driving position gives the illusion you are driving a much bigger car.

In its natural town habitat, the Kalos is in its element; on the motorway it loses some of its appeal, although it's efficient enough at getting from A to B.

With a range now limited to the Matiz city car and the Tacuma compact MPV, the company has a small stable of stars likely to gain it respect, and more importantly sales, in the UK market.

If the Daewoo badge causes you no problems then its supermini is a smart, brilliantly priced answer to a young family's prayers.

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