A solid design with a quasi-foodie name.
by Bob Storck
WALDO, Missouri - A couple years ago, the question was, "Where's Waldo?" One of the major companies in the world is hoping that a lot of Americans will be asking, "What's Leganza?"
The simple answer is that it is Daewoo's flagship small car, sailing into the crowded waters of the American market. It comes with an exterior design that is a joint effort from in-house stylists and Giugiaro's renowned ItalDesign operation. The Italian studio has been responsible for many fine cars, such as the Lexus GS300.
The company says "Leganza" is a name cobbled together from fragments of the Italian "Elegante" (elegant) and "forza" (power). It may be intended to link to Lexus, Legend and Legacy, but too many folks have confused it with "Lasagna."
Daewoo is better at building cars than naming them. This is the largest of three new offerings from Daewoo. Leganza is priced and sized as a compact but is billed by its maker as a "luxury midsize" sedan. Most will shop it against the Contour, Malibu and Altima, which are really small cars positioned between those segments.
Leganza stands apart with confident styling and an advanced powertrain and suspension. The chromed radiator grille imparts a distinctive look and more elegance than is typically available in this part of the market. Leganza brings new style to affordable driving.
The most impressive features of Leganza is the high quality of body assembly, comfort options and paint finish. The door closes with a solid sound. Fine leather is available for the whole cabin, accompanied by nice wood trim. Leganza has a relatively quiet cabin for this class.
Since Daewoo has had a long association with General Motors, it is no surprise that it called upon GM's favored partners for help. Lotus input is apparent in the good ride, with modest body roll during cornering and light steering. Leganza has fully independent strut-type suspension, four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes, and rack-and-pinion power steering. Few cars in this segment have rear disc brakes available, let alone as standard equipment.
The "D-Tec" engine is a Daewoo product, but relied on basic design guidance from Australian Holden and was further tuned by other consultants. The base transmission is a five-speed manual. Most will order the optional four-speed automatic, which compares favorably to any of its competitors.
The Leganza is available in SE, SX, and premium CDX trim levels. Its passenger compartment can easily handle a pair of adults fore and aft. A 14.1-cubic-foot trunk adds to the overall utility. Standard features include anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, 100-watt AM/FM/cassette stereo, dual front airbags, power windows/locks/mirrors, and 60/40-split/folding rear seatback. Optional features include a power sunroof, cruise control, keyless entry with anti-theft system, and traction control (CDX only).
After only one year in the United States, you can’t expect many changes, but the 2000 Leganza has a restyled grille, different alloy wheels, improvements to the handling, and keyless entry contained within the key itself.
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