France's Nicolas Sarkozy is promising a different presidential style if re-elected in May, admitting in a magazine interview that he had reacted too impulsively at times and behaved more like a minister than a president during his first term.

The conservative leader, who is lagging behind Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in opinion polls for a two-round April-May election, has sought to repair his low popularity ratings during his campaign, apologising for early gaffes and explaining personality traits that jarred with some French.

I will be different. I will already have been president for five years and you don't repeat mistakes already made, Sarkozy told glossy weekly Paris Match in an interview published on Wednesday. The main one is to think I was still a minister.

As a minister you need to be reactive and fast-acting, but as president you need, along with being reactive, to be able to step back from things and you also need to stand back and be solemn.

Sarkozy is being punished in opinion polls for both his brash manner and for the economic gloom that has hung over France since the global financial crisis turned into an economic crisis that left Europe mired in a debt crisis.

Sarkozy, who is expected to unveil the remaining details of his 2012 programme next week, has narrowed the gap with Hollande in the last couple of weeks, with some voter surveys placing him 1-2 points ahead for the April 22 first round.

An Opinionway survey for Le Figaro daily published late on Tuesday put Sarkozy in the lead with 28 percent, 1 point ahead of Hollande, although Hollande was ahead for a May 6 runoff with 54 percent to Sarkozy's 46 percent, an 8 point difference.

Sarkozy told Paris Match that if he won the election he would take a step back from dealing with daily issues and focus more on leading structural reforms. He also promised not to raise taxes after the election.

I'm making a commitment. There will not be any new tax increases, he said. I've never believed in austerity measures - reducing salaries and pensions - which I have refused, unlike what's happened with our neighbours.

(Reporting By John Irish)