Introduced as an upgrade for the Daewoo brand, the Matiz was designed by Giugiaro as a possible replacement for the Fiat 500. The Italian carmaker rejected the project, and Daewoo bought it instead. As a result, it launched the Matiz in 1998.
In 2002, General Motors bought the Korean carmaker and pushed for a second generation, which it launched in 2005. Daewoo vastly improved the Matiz over its predecessor even though it kept the same platform.
First of all, the car received a new, updated look penned in the new-edge design theme, with swept-back headlights and sharp lines on the hood. The overall shape was kept, but the new design touches made the car look better. Finally, it received body-colored door handles and mirrors.
Inside, the Matiz II featured a new dashboard with a center stack extended on the lower side. Depending on the trim level, it featured AC and a stereo for the upper trim level, while the lower ones provided only a ventilation system. The manually adjustable rear-view mirrors were unusual for a 2005 vehicle, but its price under $10,000 was also a major selling point.
Under the hood, Daewoo switched to a new engine generation with four cylinders. It complied with the Euro 5 emission standards, which also helped with the London congestion charge. The inline-four unit sent its power to the front wheels via a five-speed manual, which was the only transmission option for most of the markets. Later on, GM rebadged the Matiz II as Chevrolet Spark.
Three years after it launched the Matiz on the European market, the Korean carmaker Daewoo added the first facelift to its small-segment vehicle.
The car was based on a 1992 design study signed by Fabrizio Giugiaro from Italdesign. While the concept was made for Fiat for its then-future 500 model, it ended up as one of the best-selling vehicles built by the Korean automaker. The initial launch of the Matiz happened in 1998, but three years later, Daewoo made some changes to make the car more appealing to European customers.
Built with an egg-shaped bodywork, the new version sported a new front fascia where the turn signals were moved upward on the bumper. Previously these were corner-mounted and exposed to small bumps while parking in tight spots. The hood was also redesigned, and its lower edge looked more like a smile, giving the car a happy face. At the back, the carmaker replaced the taillights with newly designed ones that offered better illumination for the reversing lights.
While it fixed most of the problems claimed by customers, the interior was left mostly untouched. Apart from new upholstery colors, there was nothing new on the interior. The AC unit was still offered only as an option and only for the upper trim levels.
Under the car's tiny hood, Daewoo installed the same 0.8-liter inline-three powerplant for most of the markets, while a Suzuki-sourced inline-four with a one-liter displacement was available in a few countries.
The Korean car was the tiniest in the small car segment, however, it was still in a 5-door shape.
While it was short in length, there Matiz was pretty tall, offering plenty of headroom, as well as a comfortable driving position that gave the impression of a car in a larger class.
Decent amount of headroom and legroom in the back, as well as a decent load area was offered. The trunk space could be extended by folding the rear seats.
The cabin of the Matiz was smart and practical, however, nothing daring.
The Matiz was not a pocket rocket, and was hiding under the hood a 800 cc engine that developed 50 hp.
Designed to be a city car, the Matiz had a good handling. It was not the car to take on the motorway though, as the journey would have been rather noisy than pleasant.
The base model offered a power steering and twin airbags.
The Matiz was the ideal car for people on a tight budget or as a second car, as it was a good package at an affordable price. It even offered a 3-year warranty.
Later in 2000, Daewoo decided to make a number of changes to the tiny Matiz, such as redesigning the headlamps, reworking ABS, adding a stainless steel exhaust as well as revising the mounting points of the engine to achieve a quieter car.