Daewoo Lacetti 1-4 SE

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IT'S smooth, easy to drive, pleasing to the eye - and makes me feel depressingly middle-aged. The new Daewoo Lacetti misses the mark for me because it's just so little fun.

The most amusing thing about the car is when the radio flashes goodbye when you switch it off - and that is hardly new.

I don't deny that, for a starting price of £9,495, it represents good value for money. It's just that for a car which, at first glance, turns the head, it has surprisingly little character to make it memorable.

The five-door hatchback is GM Daewoo's third all-new car since the company was formed out of the ashes of the old Daewoo company in 2002.

A simple, easy to understand, three-model range, it aims to offer comfort and safety, good specification and value for money wrapped up in a compact, elegant design.

The 1.4SE model, which was my test car, is the cheapest at £9,495 with the 1.6SX range topper selling for £10,495.

I want GM Daewoo to succeed and I like the Nubira and Tacuma, but I was expecting more from the Lacetti, which will compete in the value segment of the compact sector.

It is Daewoo's first model to compete head-on against the likes of the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra in a sector of the market which caters for more than a quarter of UK car sales.

The Lacetti was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro's famous Turin studio and this front wheel family hatchback has been made with safety, space and comfort as its key features.

Developed and manufactured in Korea, the hatchback is the second new car built on Daewoo's new J-platform, following the Nubira and will be followed by a station wagon later this year.

Almond-shaped clear acrylic headlamps and a new, contemporary front grille design with the brand emblem integrated into a horizontal chrome feature line dominate the front view of Lacetti.

The long wheelbase with short overhangs, the bold wheel arches and the belt line rising towards the rear add to its looks. The Lacetti's shoulder line extends into a good looking rear with wrap-around light units.

Daewoo says its target customers are predominantly growing young families with an eye for style and a sense of value for money.

All very worthy, but I don't think that, even with Daewoo's renowned Peace of Mind ownership package, it will win many over. However, I can see late middle-aged and pensioners driving and enjoying it.

One key feature I have no gripe with is the space inside. It certainly is a roomy package - the most spacious in its class - and it has a good size boot.

The engines in the Lacetti range are all 16-valve, four cylinder units which are refined and efficient. My 1.4SE gives a top speed of 108mph according to official figures and takes 11.6 secs to accelerate from 0-62mph. Offering good flexibility and minimal noise, the four-cylinder engine delivers almost 40mpg on the combined cycle.

The car features McPherson strut suspension with gas-pressure shock absorbers on all four wheels. A suspension arm at the front and two additional wishbones and a trailing arm at the rear ensure precise wheel control while sophisticated rubber bearings minimise vibration and noise.

On the safety front you get driver and passenger airbags as standard and five three-point safety belts with belt force limiters at all five positions, each with a height-adjustable head restraint.



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