Chevrolet Lacetti 1.6SX 5-Door

It sounds like a fancy coffee, but the Lacetti is in reality a solid, good value, no-nonsense car without unnecessary froth, says David Wilkins
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Specifications

Price: £11,115
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol
Performance: 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds, 39.7 mpg
CO2: 178g/km
Worth considering: Kia Cee'd, Skoda Octavia, Suzuki Liana

As a confirmed tea drinker, I've always thought that a Lacetti sounds a bit like something from the slightly off-putting, hard-to-understand end of the Starbucks menu. Of course, if I tell you that a Lacetti is a type of Chevrolet, you'll know it's a car rather than a cup of coffee, but the flavour of something vaguely Italian by way of America remains.

Despite its name though, the Chevrolet Lacetti is Korean. It started life as a Daewoo but was rebadged as a Chevrolet after General Motors acquired many of the Daewoo combine's car-making operations a few years ago. And there's a complete absence of froth as well. The Lacetti is a straightforward, keenly-priced, no-nonsense mobility device that doesn't pretend to be anything else.

For our test, we avoided the 1.4-litre petrol-engined version – the skinny Lacetti, I suppose you'd call it – in favour of the peppier 1.6. This provided a level of performance that was at least adequate for most purposes, although top gear was a little on the low side, which made for slightly busy motorway cruising. There are no Lacetti diesels, although the petrols are fairly abstemious for their type. The other examples of the Lacetti's on-road behaviour are perfectly satisfactory, too.

Inside, the Lacetti is comparatively spacious and well equipped for its price, and I found the soft, slightly unusual velour-trimmed seats comfortable on long journeys. That said, there's still quite a lot of the old-school light grey plastic that's been dropped from more recent Korean models – including some of this car's Chevrolet stablemates - in an effort to appeal to European consumers. The Lacetti also has another feature often found on Korean models; a radio that fits into a standard DIN slot. This doesn't look as neat as the built-in radios fitted to most most other models but does have the advantage that it can easily be replaced with a DAB radio, something which the manufacturers are inexplicably reluctant to instal in their cars in spite of the popularity of DAB sets in British homes.

Overall, this Chevrolet is a competent, inoffensive, even likeable machine.

There's just one snag. A year ago, it would have been easy to recommend the Lacetti as fuss-free transport, at least for the non-enthusiast; that case is now harder to make because of the arrival of two impressive new models from other Korean manufacturers. The Kia Cee'd and its sister model, the Hyundai i30, look after the practicalities as well, if not better than, the Lacetti but come closer to the best European cars in terms of style and driver appeal.

Martin Igoe, 58, retired civil servant from Sheffield
Other cars: Audi A4 1.9 TDI, Rover 420 IE

The Lacetti sounds like a sophisticated coffee but the car isn't quite that exciting. Having said that, its long wheelbase makes it both roomy and stable at speed.

Its acceleration is a bit sluggish, although Sheffield's seven hills may have affected performance, and the ride is rather firm. This, together with the flat, unsupportive seats makes it rather uncomfortable over some surfaces. The gearbox is disappointing with its long movement and less-than-positive feel. But the interior is stylish and functional, despite the light grey trim.

Overall it's a solid car that gives good value for money – if you can put up with the irritating, tinny noise of the indicators.

Jamie Kirk, 37, IT manager from Ilklety
Other cars: Saab 9-3

On first impression, the Lacetti looks solid and well-built. The styling is far from striking, but it's safe and unlikely to date quickly. The cabin is equally straightforward, and has everything you'd expect to find with clearly laid out, chunky controls. The interior seems well fitted, if rather grey.

On the move there's noticeable noise, but it's nippy enough and a comfortable ride. But poor ergonomics let it down. The armrest is in the way when you change gear, which in itself needs excessive arm movement, and the handbrake is badly positioned – setting off briskly to go right at a roundabout is a major left-arm workout. Maybe the automatic would be a good option.

Andy Stent, 53, Alastair Stent, 9, from Thornton-le-Dale, Yorkshire
Other cars: Subaru Legacy Estate

The Lacetti is a capable and pleasant driving experience. My nine-year-old son Alastair found the back seat to be "very nice". The dashboard plastics, though a little pale, were substantial and didn't creak.

We drove across the North York Moors, negotiating testing gradients and twisting lanes, and the Lacetti coped admirably. We had to wait for a herd of cows to amble back from milking on one steep gradient and I can report that the handbrake works well.

The car cruises quietly with little engine or road noise. The steering feels precise, and it's well damped with no rolling on bends. My one gripe was that I didn't like the dials; they looked cheap and lacked style.

The Verdict

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