Although international conglomerate Daewoo had been selling inexpensive TVs, VCRs and other electronic household equipment to America, it wasn't until the late 1990s that its automotive arm, Daewoo Motor America, decided to serve up some Korean automotive cuisine stateside in the form of several affordable, entry-level vehicles. One of the items on the menu was the subcompact Daewoo Lanos.
Unfortunately for Daewoo, this particular dish never quite suited the tastes of Americans. Available as a two-door hatchback or four-door sedan, the Daewoo Lanos was outclassed in almost every regard. Being a subcompact, the Lanos was a tiny car, and anyone 6 feet tall or more couldn't be expected to be particularly comfortable. Many of the interior materials -- the dash, in particular -- looked positively low-grade, and overall reliability and parts availability were pretty spotty, too. Safety features didn't go beyond the basics.
It's true that much of this could be said about other competing subcompacts at the time, but at least those cars sported longer, confidence-inspiring warranties backed by financially stable parent companies. The Lanos, along with Daewoo America, disappeared from U.S. shores after 2002. As a used car, it might seem like an attractive value if you're on hurting for cash and desperate for wheels. But just as there were better choices back then, there are better choices now. We suggest saving yourself from parts and service headaches by checking out one of the Lanos' more established but similarly priced Korean rivals or even a larger, better engineered model from one of the more proven Japanese or American manufacturers.
Most Recent Daewoo Lanos
The entry-level Daewoo Lanos hatchback and sedan were produced from 1999-2002. Both body styles were powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder good for 105 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission was standard and a four-speed automatic was optional. As expected, acceleration was leisurely, but the Lanos made up for this with very good fuel economy.
Trim levels varied by year but the most common were S, SE, SX and Sport. Potential buyers should focus on the Lanos SX and Lanos Sport, as these were the top-level trims and came standard with the most features, including power steering, air-conditioning and power accessories.
In our brief driving experience with the Daewoo Lanos, we found very little to like. Refinement was lacking, as the engine thrashed roughly at higher rpm and manual-transmission drivers had to shift by ear due to the lack of a tachometer. We did observe that it was decently entertaining to drive around corners, a fact likely attributable to Daewoo's claim that it had Porsche help with the car's suspension tuning.