The Carchive: The Daewoo Kalos


Welcome to this week’s third and final visit to The Carchive, the haunted wardrobe that keeps the Car Brochures of Evil safely contained.

To Hoons, there are few things as evil as nondescript cars, and the Daewoo emblem was a sure sign of forgettableness. Is this fair? Well, let’s go and spend some time with the Daewoo Kalos to find out.


The Daewoo car sales programme was unlike anything else to have hit our shores. It was concieved that buying a Daewoo shoukd be an experience unlike buying any other car. Instead of dealers they had regional Motorshows, usually in warehouse-style shopping precincts where large floor areas were cheap to command. Daewoo did pretty well at ironing out almost all of the emotions that are asociated with buying a car, in a good way and, of course, in a bad way. Because of the sales process they used there was no danger of uncertainty or hidden costs. But you were unlikely to ever fall in love with your car.


Kalos was the final range of cars we recieved with the Daewoo sqirly badge on the bonnet. When I first saw it in 2003, fittingly at a home improvement exhibition and not a car show, I thought it quite a sharp looking machine. Kalos being Greek for “beautiful” It was the work of ItalDesign and had quite a few touches that stood apart from the rest of the small, cheap car market. The headlamp treatment, (though by then less individual than the earlier cars with separate direction indicators) and that plunging swageline before the rear wheels, it looked like something that had been designed by designers.

It was almost as if they were pulling the wool over our eyes.


The Kalos was neat and tidy inside, if not a riot of innovative thinking. To be honest, it was right for the kind of audience it ended up attracting; mature (old) people who wanted something simple and dependable. It certainly wasn’t high quality, though. It may have been up to date but there was no danger of Daewoo using materials that were a cent more sophisticated than they needed to be. Robust, maybe. Elegant? No. You can almost smell the plastic just looking at these images. The photographs show an unremitting sea of grey, complete with a very pretty female passenger who I can’t imagine representing the true core demographic for the Kalos.

As befits a product with the emphasis on being a product, there was no high-performance model, no lavishly equipped range topper, just differrent price points with bits of different trim, for different sized pockets. Dreary was a good business model. The SX 16V model represented the Daewoo Kalos for High Achievers, whose extra outlay was rewarded with a CD changer, a/c and alloy wheels. Fourteen inch ones.


When Daewoo went phut the Kalos morphed into the Chevy Aveo, and never had a badge looked so out of place on a car. Of course, I say this from a british perspective. Ten years ago I still asociated Chevrolet with Corvettes, Blazers and Bel Airs, not re-marketed Korean hatchbacks. I prefer not to mention the Chevy Nova, I secretly quite liked that generation of Toyota Corolla anyway. 

Another thing that marks the Kalos as being automotive White Goods is its habit of wearing various different names. It has been sold as a Daewoo, a Chevy, a Holden, a Pontiac and a Suzuki. I’m reminded of the microwave oven in our kitchen; I have sold the exact same model as ours with the same features badged variously as Cuisinas and Russel Hobbs and many more besides. It’s just a product, for a slot in the market.

And that’s fine. No good whatsoever to any of us, but there’s a place in the world for that kind of thing.

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Daewoo, who don’t really exist as a car-maker any more. I once nearly bought a Daewoo bicycle once. Thought it was pretty cool)


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