Chevrolet Epica

Falling sales, disinterested buyers and increasing competition from trendy people carriers and off-roaders mean makers have to be either brave or misguided to enter the European family car market... so which is Chevrolet?

There's no doubt the Epica means business, but as with the Kia Magentis, its Korean origins are likely to hold it back. Rivals such as the Ford Mondeo and Vaux-hall Vectra will be better options, both in terms of design and residuals. Still, the progress engineers have made with this car suggests future Chevrolets can only get better.

Falling sales, disinterested buyers and increasing competition from trendy people carriers and off-roaders mean makers have to be either brave or misguided to enter the European family car market... so which is Chevrolet?

As with Kia and its Magentis, the firm is launching a new Ford Mondeo rival, called the Epica. The big Korean-built saloon will debut this sum-mer, and Auto Express is first to drive this Daewoo-badged example, powered by a 2.5-litre six-cylinder engine.

Compared to previous four-door cars developed by Daewoo, the Epica looks extremely grown-up. The new bumper and grille layout is neat, while there's a low nose and high tailgate, similar to upmarket offerings from Saab and Volvo. Expensive-looking details include side mirrors with built-in traffic indicators.

Inside, the car has aluminium trim, soft-touch plastics and a chunky four-spoke steering wheel, which is adjustable for reach and rake. There's space for five adults, the front seats are electronically adjustable and passengers in the rear have generous legroom.

However, it's under the bonnet that some of the most interesting developments have been made. In Korea, the Epica has 2.5 and 2.0-litre straight-six engines. Our car, using the bigger unit, won't be coming here, but still gives a good glimpse of what UK buyers can expect. The 2,492cc twin-cam motor, which cost £140million and took seven years to develop, produces 155bhp at 5,800rpm. Yet it's not the most responsive engine; at low speeds, there's little torque on offer, although as the pace increases, acceleration grows stronger.

Refinement is better, and the unit is virtually silent when cruising. The ride is comfortable, too, with MacPherson struts at the front and multi-link suspension at the rear. Our test car shared its set-up with the bigger, more upmarket Magnus, and it will be further refined ahead of the UK launch. This is good news, because despite the comfort on offer, body control isn't up to the standards required by buyers in Britain.

There's no doubting the effort made to enhance safety, though. Our Epica came with dual front, side and curtain airbags, as well as traction control and electronic brake force distribution.

But is the newcomer a surefire hit in the tricky family car market? Frankly, we don't think so, although its £16,000 price tag, upmarket interior and modern exterior design are likely to stand it in better stead than some of the Korean models that have preceded it. We say Chevrolet's entry into this class is brave, but not neccesarily misguided.

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