South Korean carmakers are competitively launching new compact models with better features as the rising oil prices pressure consumers to choose economy over luxury, reports the Korea Herald.
 
GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co.'s 1.5-liter Gentra is scheduled to hit the showrooms on Sept. 21, following Hyundai Motor Co.'s new diesel-powered Verna coming up next week. Renault Samsung Motor Co. began sales of the SM3 New Generation just three weeks ago.

Earlier in the year, diesel versions of Hyundai's Avante XD, affiliate Kia Motors Corp.'s Pride and Cerato were released, spurring sales of cars with engine displacements under 1.6 liters.

Thanks to the growing demand for economical diesels and new compacts with upgraded convenience features, sales of small cars with engine displacements between 1 and 1.6 liters in the eight months to August increased 16.4 percent compared to a year ago, the newspaper reported.

The share of the market taken by small cars, which accounts for about 23 percent in the passenger car market, is expected to increase in the remaining months of this year, according to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association.

"Until 1997, almost half of the cars sold in Korea fell in this category - compacts with an engine displacement between 1 and 1.6 liters. The share dropped to around a quarter in the late 1990s as more economical mini cars were launched amidst the Asian financial crisis," said a KAMA official.