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New Car/Review

1998 Daewoo Nubira

by John Heilig


ENGINE:                  2.0-liter four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       128 hp @ 5,400 rpm/136 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE:               101.0 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 176.0 x 67.0 x 56.0 in.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        10 cu. ft. (est.)
INSTRUMENTS :            Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level,
                         water temperature
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, 
                         power mirrors, air contioning, AM/FM stereo 
                         with cassette, dual air bags.
STICKER:                 $13,000 (est.)

I'm really impressed with the products I've seen from Daewoo so far. I have now driven the large Leganza and the mid-size (for Daewoo) Nubira. In reality the Nubira is a compact car.

The package the manufacturer has put together is quite nice. Nubira is front-wheel drive powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Like the Leganza, the Nubira's engine is buzzy when it gets over 4,000 rpm. I also discovered that I didn't have to drive it over 4,000 rpm, and had I driven the Leganza with more intelligence, I probably would have kept its tachometer in the smaller numbers as well. With the Nubira, for example, you can reach speeds of 60-70 mph on the highway and still keep the engine in the quiet zone, and this is a nice operating range for the engine.

It's only when you're under hard acceleration or kicking in the loud pedal to try to pass someone that the noise comes on.

Part of the reason for the noise is that the engine is connected to a four-speed automatic gearbox. Automatics are notorious for making the engine work a little harder. With a manual you can better regulate the power. That's one reason fuel economy is better with a manual than an automatic. That's also why you're probably better of fin the long run with a stick shift, even though the benefits of automatics make them more desirable.

Front passengers sit in leather-upholstered individual bucket seats. They don't offer much side support, but in a compact sedan you're usually not looking for that kind of support. The back support was very good, however. The rear bench was large enough to carry 2-1/2 adults. There was a good trunk behind the rear seat, and the back folded won to increase trunk capacity.

Entertainment was an AM/FM stereo with in-dash cassette and CD players. We had power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, power sunroof, all for an economical price.

But what has impressed me the most about the two products I've seen from Daewoo is that they appear to be solidly built there is none of the tinniness that one would expect from a small import and that I found in the early Hondas and Hyundais, for example. There's a degree of solidity to them that you don't often find in a small car.

The performance is there, at least compact-car-class performance. The handling is adequate for a small car. I wouldn't take this car on a race track, but it can handle any situation you're likely to encounter on most public roads (and a couple of private ones as well). It can handle normal winding roads as well as any other compact car. This is not a sports car, it's a compact sedan.

What is attractive about the Nubira is the low purchase price, the solidity of the package and the quality of the build, which is quite high for a company that's coming into the United States for the first time.