South Korea bids for larger share of European family car market

Fast-growing car companies from South Korea look set to take an increasingly large chunk of the market for private family cars as their Japanese and European rivals focus more heavily on the potentially lucrative people-carriers, four-wheel-drives and sports cars.

The giant Daewoo Corporation, which until two years ago was a General Motors subsidiary building old-model Astras and Cavaliers under licence, has confirmed that it will sell two new mass-market models in the UK from early next year - the Escort-sized Cielo and the Mondeo-rivalling Espero - at prices which will 'significantly undercut' their direct competitors.

Cielo will be available in three-, four or five-door versions, powered by 1.5 and 1.6-litre engines. The Espero will be available only as a four-door and offer 1.5 and 2-litre units. Both cars are likely to receive more European-sounding names before they are unveiled at the Birmingham International Motor Show in October.

Though loosely based on Vauxhall Astra and Cavalier underpinnings, the Cielo and Espero were designed by Daewoo and use its own engines. Future models - the company hopes to offer a six-model line-up, to include a micro-car, supermini, and two executive models, by the end of the decade - will be co-designed in Worthing, West Sussex, more closely to suit European tastes.

Daewoo's Korean rival Kia launches its family-size Mentor saloon in the UK next week. Two trim levels are available, both powered by a 79bhp 1.6-litre engine. The SLX model costs just pounds 8,950; the GLX, which adds electric windows and central locking, costs pounds 9,850. An automatic gearbox is a pounds 700 option.

(Photograph omitted)

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