Sales of imported cars priced under 50m won ($US52,000) have continued to increase over the past few years, pushing up the sales ratio of lower-price cars among imported automobiles.

According to the Korean Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (KAIDA), the ratio of cars priced under 50m won to the total number of cars sold rose 21% in 2003, 25% in 2004, 34% in 2005 and 36% for the first nine months of 2006, a Korea Times report said.

Ford, which lags behind in Korea's imported automobile market, initiated the price war among 23 foreign automakers there, with its sedans - the US Five Hundred and European Mondeo - priced under 40m won.

Ford's aggressive pricing has forced other foreign automakers to follow suit, and analysts say Korean drivers are benefiting from the competition.

Honda's 2.4-litre Accord sedan is priced at 34.9m won, about 3m won cheaper than the locally-made Hyundai Grandeur TG and Kia Opirus GH300.

Some European sedans are also priced at a similar level to Hyundai-Kia's luxury sedans. Prices of the Peugeot 407, Volvo V50 2.4i, Saab 9-3 Linear and Volkswagen's Passat 2.0FSI are between 37m and 39.9m won.

The New Beetle and Mini Cooper are priced at 32.1m and 33.9m won, respectively.

Prices of some imported automobiles are as low as that of Hyundai's Sonata NF, a popular sedan among the middle income bracket, which is priced at 23.8m won.

Consumers can buy the Chrysler PT Cruiser, the VW Golf 2.0 and the Ford Mondeo for around 20m won.

Honda's CR-V, with a price below 30m won, has become the best seller in the imported sport utility vehicles (SUVs) sector.

According to the KAIDA, the ratio of super-premium imported cars priced over 150m won in total sales is also rising - 5.5% in 2004, 5.8% in 2005 and 6.7% in September, the Korea Times said.