Second-hand: 2004-2006 Chevrolet Epica

The list of positive attributes compiled by happy Epica drivers is on the short side.

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In its annual buyers’ guide, Car magazine habitually slapped a “Depreciation Disaster” warning on Daewoo automobiles, pointing out how their residual values have plunged like depressed lemmings.

Turns out lemmings don’t commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs – a myth perpetuated by the 1958 Walt Disney documentary White Wilderness.

The CBC discovered that the rodents in the doc were flown from Hudson Bay to Calgary, where they showed no interest in leaping to their deaths. So the director herded them off the precipice artificially.

The Chevrolet Epica, a Daewoo-sourced four-door marketed by the bowtie people in Canada, was similarly short-lived. It arrived in late 2003 as a ’04 model, and then disappeared without a peep in 2006.

When a manufacturer snuffs out a nameplate after three years, it’s often an indication the product had deep-seated problems.

Like those poor lemmings, Epica sales fell off a cliff along with the car’s residual value. Despite cheap second-hand prices, used-car shoppers need to be cautious.


A product of Korea’s No. 2 automaker (which had gone bankrupt then, ironically, was rescued by General Motors in 2002), the Epica was Daewoo’s replacement for the oddly named Leganza, of which maybe two were sold in Canada.

Styled by Italdesign-Giugiaro, the Camry-sized Epica was a thoroughly modern front-drive sedan with a roomy interior – five cubic feet larger than that of a Mazda 6 – and an unusual drivetrain.

Tucked under the hood was an inline 2.5 L six-cylinder engine, co-developed with Porsche. It was shoehorned sideways, like a Volvo six, and even had room for the standard four-speed automatic transmission alongside it.

To squeeze six cylinders in line, the engine required closely spaced, narrow 77-mm bores and a longish 89.2-mm stroke, which suggested good torque. Yet the engine was a 43-kg weakling – only 155 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of grunt – five fewer horses than Honda’s 2.4 L four banger. On the plus side, an inline six is inherently smooth thanks to a long crankshaft and second-order balance characteristics. The Epica doesn’t disappoint, providing a quiet ride.

Surprisingly, the wide powertrain didn’t compromise the turning circle; at 10.6 metres, the Epica needed less real estate to turn around than an Accord.

The Epica really shone inside, where designers spared no expense dressing the cabin with handsome lines and premium finishes.

“It has little touches, such as chrome and woodgrain-looking trim, that you won’t find on the base Camry or Accord,” wrote the owner of a ’04 model. Others praised the standard four-wheel disc brakes and full-size spare tire.

Every Epica offered an embarrassment of standard riches even Hyundai and Kia couldn’t match, including air conditioning, heated power mirrors, keyless entry/alarm, power windows and locks, steering-wheel radio controls and split-folding rear seat.

Subsequent model years saw slight changes to equipment levels and safety features, but that’s about it. In the U.S., the Epica was badged as the Suzuki Verona in an effort to generate showroom traffic for lonely Suzuki reps.


Outweighing the Accord by 130 kilograms, the Epica’s 155-hp engine wheezed to keep up with the four-cylinder family sedans in its segment. Taking 10.7 seconds to reach 96 km/h, the Epica ranked dead last in every comparison.

“Hit the road and you cannot believe this car has six cylinders,” griped the owner of a ’05 Epica, suggesting it had “the heart of a hamster.”

The Epica was softly sprung like many previous generation Korean cars, though engineers knew enough to recalibrate the front-strut, rear-multilink suspension for Chevrolet. The ride was still comfort-biased, but without the boat-like feel.

The Epica could grind out 0.78 G of grip on a skidpad, while the brakes could haul the car down from 112 km/h in 58 metres – slightly better than the class average.

Lacklustre acceleration is forgivable if the car can return good fuel economy, but the Epica struck out on that count, too. Owners logged disappointing gas consumption in the order of 14 L/100 km.


The list of positive attributes compiled by happy Epica drivers is on the short side.

Owners were very pleased with the car’s sumptuous interior, pillowy ride and conservative, mature design. Beyond that, things went downhill – belabouring the lemming analogy – rather swiftly.

The most popular complaint had to do with the maddening frequency of “Check Engine” warnings, traced back to short-lived oxygen sensors, as well faulty ECM and TCM on-board computers. ABS sensors lit up a lot, too.

“My `Check Engine’ light has been on the entire time that I had the car. They will keep telling you that there is nothing wrong on your car until it reaches 60,000 km and then they will tell you everything wrong on it,” blogged one owner.

Frequent engine stalling and hesitation is another common refrain – cold weather starts can be problematic – which also led to plenty of computer reflashing or replacement. Entire engines and transmissions have been replaced at low mileage.

Others noted problems with suspensions, batteries and head gaskets, faulty radio controls on the steering wheel, water condensation in the lamps, broken ignition cylinders and oil consumption.

Still, some owners are gluttons for punishment: “It had started on fire one day and then I got a ’05 Epica. Some may think that is crazy, but I thought it was such a nice car, I wanted it again.”

Seeking an adventurous car ownership experience? Take the plunge.

WHAT’S BEST: Posh cabin, limousine ride, rare nameplate

WHAT’S WORST: Weak engine, poor fuel economy, endless “Check Engine” warnings

TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2004 – $7,500; 2006 – $12,000

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