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Daewoo Kalos road test. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

Daewoo Kalos road test
The first ever Daewoo I drove for any length of time was the little Matiz we tested last year. I liked it, despite my preconceptions. It was with this in mind that I picked up the keys to the gold 5-door Kalos you see pictured here.

   



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The first ever Daewoo I drove for any length of time was the little Matiz we tested last year. I liked it, despite my preconceptions. It was with this in mind that I picked up the keys to the gold 5-door Kalos you see pictured here.

Before I sat in the Kalos I was pretty optimistic, despite having swapped the keys of an Alfa Romeo 147 with Adam Jefferson for it. Daewoo recently became part of automotive giant General Motors and the Kalos is the first Daewoo to be launched under GM ownership. My first impressions of the Kalos were not good.

In photographs, the interior of the Kalos looks acceptable. There are plenty of neat circular shapes and the 1.4-litre SX model we tested has a lot of equipment as standard. Sitting in the car though, and using its controls is not as pleasant an experience as it should be. I cannot think of a single surface of the Kalos interior that is nice to touch. The gear lever is a sticky rubber substance, reminding me of well-used BMX handlebar grips. Falling of a BMX would be more fun than changing gear in the Kalos too. The movement between gears is terrible. It feels like the mechanism has metal rubbing on bare metal. Yes, even with the clutch fully pressed. The gearbox itself is fine, as is the light clutch. Another less important gripe is that the gear lever is positioned quite far back the cabin. I have quite a stretched out driving position, but the lever felt too far behind me to be comfortable.

Oddly, the electric window controls are just that little bit too close to the front of the car, meaning I often lowered a rear window instead of one of the front pair. Staying with the driver's door, I must admit to detesting the fact that the passenger side mirror has a neat electric adjustment pad while the driver's is moved with a nasty manual knob. I understand the need for cost cutting in a car with such a low price, but this is the sort of detail that could really put a buyer off. Ditto the shiny black plastic inserts on the doors.

Thankfully the Kalos is comfortable for the driver and passengers. There is ample legroom in the back too despite the car's compact overall dimensions. The dashboard is clear and has a modern shape, though the same cannot be said for the style of the indicator and wiper stalks. The centre console is a mix too, with some well-designed buttons and switches ruined by a cheap feeling (Sony) stereo.

Driving the Kalos is at least a better experience than touching its interior. The Kalos is very comfortable on all road surfaces and soaks up the worst bumps thanks to its soft suspension. It also manages to remain composed where I have found other cars to bottom out. The light engine and overall weight help with this. Body roll is quite pronounced in corners, but the Kalos manages to cling on with determination. It actually manages to be a little fun, though understandably the steering is biased towards low-speed manoeuvring.

The engine backs up the driving dynamics. It is actually quiet on the motorway and refined in general. Once you get over your initial dread of changing gear though you must get used to using 4th instead of 5th on motorway gradients if you want to keep your momentum up. Needless to say, overtaking tractors on single carriageway roads requires planning.

While taking the pictures for this story, I did appreciate the styling of the Kalos. It is well proportioned and manages to look modern and unique. A friend called it "chunky" and the in-laws are considering buying one. The thing is, even after sitting in the Kalos, this small cross-section of society were not put off, especially once I revealed the price. This of course is the point of small, practical hatchbacks. When you take into account the standard equipment such as air conditioning, electric windows, CD-tuner, rear parking sensors, alloy wheels, airbags and Daewoo's after sales package, the Kalos does make a lot of sense. For many buyers, all this will be enough. I feel though that this car could have been better executed and I hope that GM can steer Daewoo into making good, profit-making cars. The Nubira is replaced later this year and we have heard good things about it already - we'll let you know as soon as we have the opportunity to drive it.

Shane O' Donoghue - 20 Jul 2003



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2003 Daewoo Kalos specifications: (1.4-litre SX 5-door)
Price: 8,395 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 13.3 seconds
Top speed: 105mph
Combined economy: 37.7mpg
Emissions: 175g/km
Kerb weight: 1050kg

2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2003 Daewoo Kalos. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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