Motoring: Daewoo's time machine: it has nearly caught up with 1997

Once more, without feeling, new Daewoos have arrived. This one is an odd size and seems to have little character. But John Simister sees signs of hope ...

You'll have heard of Daewoo, the Korean conglomerate that sells its cars direct to the public and promises a whole new world of consumer-friendly car-buying. Its original range of two models was as crude and geriatric as the sales pitch was slick, but now these automotive white goods come in three new shapes and sizes. The one you see here is the middle-sized one, called Nubira.

Nubira. A nubile-sounding car, you might think. Or perhaps, if you heard the name out of context, you might think it was a new brand of mobile telephone, or possibly, give or take a vowel or two, a new ballpoint pen. But no, it's a car. The company's engineers refer to it as the J100, which sounds much more high-tech. A pity the marketing men didn't stick with it.

Daewoos are already seen as smart buys by those who know a good car when they see one, and who find that a Daewoo does all they want from a car (go from A to B, start first time, and so on). The mainstream motor trade will not touch them as trade-ins, true, but that is because it has closed ranks against the maverick newcomer. Either that, or the cars are unsaleable second-hand, perish the thought. To be fair, Daewoo has seen this coming, which is why the new cars are proper modern machines instead of General Motors cast-offs. Look at a new Nubira, and you see something which might even stand up on its own merits.

This car is a slightly odd size, bigger than an Escort but smaller than a Mondeo and not, as yet, available as a hatchback. The four-door saloon (there is also an estate) costs pounds 11,995 as a 1.6-litre SE, or pounds 12,995 as a 2.0-litre CDX which is the version I drove. You certainly get plenty of kit, including anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, four electric windows and two airbags, plus a stereo which is made not by Daewoo's electrical division but by Sony. It comes complete with a mobile phone, too. It's a Panasonic, as it happens.

Korean it may be, but the Nubira is also cosmopolitan. The body was styled by IDEA of Turin, the engine comes from Holden (Australia's equivalent of Vauxhall, so the GM connection is not yet dead), and the whole project came together at Daewoo's technical centre in Worthing. A three-part front grille (Daewoo's heritage starting point) and enormous rear lights give some visual interest, as does the line which extends from the top of the front wheel arch to the car's rear. But I approached the Nubira with some trepidation, for this is a car which appears to have no perceptible personality. Would I remember what it was like the next day?

Worried that I would not, I took more copious notes than usual. And trying to relive the experience now, I'm having difficulty. So, let's see some of what I wrote.

Big boot. Cup-holders in facia. No centre console - storage tray extends under dashboard. So far, so informative. Proud Daewoo crests on yellow under-bonnet filler caps. Roomy in back, but cabin narrow. Driver's seat too high despite tilt adjustment, gradations of steering wheel's height and backrest rake too coarse. Irritating chime if key left in ignition.

Yes, it's coming back now. So what about when it's actually moving, rather than sitting in a showroom? Floppy, gritty gearchange, steering woolly, rubbery and anaesthetised around the straight-ahead, car does not feel naturally stable at speed on the straight. But holds the road well, and handles bends much more precisely than you would expect from the steering. Comfortable ride. Engine quiet, punchy too (so it should be with 132bhp), but accelerator snatchy.

There's some honing to do, then, before the Nubira nudges the best Western or Japanese standards, but it is, fundamentally, a proper if unremarkable late-1990s car and it does feel more solid and better-built than a Hyundai Lantra (its main Korean rival). Easy to be cynical, but open your mind. There, the notes even contain a trace of self-admonishment.

I wouldn't want a Nubira but, given the warranty and free servicing package (three years for both), I would entirely understand if you did. Who knows, one day Daewoo might even have a history if the Far East's economic collapse doesn't prove terminal.

Daewoo Nubira 2.0 CDX

pounds 12,995. Engine: 1,998cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, 132bhp at 5,400rpm. Five-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive. Top speed 122mph, 0-60 in 8.8sec; 25-30mpg

Rivals:

Chrysler Neon 2.0 LX: pounds 13,795. Like the Daewoo, a lot of car for the money but little sophistication. Neat looks.

Fiat Marea 2.0 ELX: pounds 14,647. More power, more flair than Nubira. Well made, fun to drive. Relative of Bravo/Brava.

Hyundai Lantra 1.8 Si: pounds 12,899. Less pace and perceived solidity than the Nubira, but steers more sweetly.

Proton Persona 1.8 SEi: pounds 13,365. Malaysian-built, Mitsubishi-based, feels cheap, much better to drive than you'd expect.

Subaru Impreza 2.0 GL: pounds 13,610. Basks in glory reflected from rally-winning Turbo version. Four-wheel drive, fine value.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Sr Wealth Manager - San Francisco - Inv AdvisoryFirm

$125 - $175 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Senior Wealth Manager – In...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum