Korean manufacturers Daewoo and Hyundai this week unveiled new compact models squarely targeted at entry-level buyers in Europe as well as other key export markets.

Displaying its new Kalos (Greek for “beautiful”) 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback at the Geneva motor show, Daewoo said the car – well, the hatchback anyway – “represents a fusion between small car and MPV (minivan) styling”.

The Kalos is aimed at buyers in the 20-to-30 age bracket and goes on sale across Europe during the second half of 2002.

The Kalos hatchback has an SUV-like nose, all sorts of creases and bulges across its flanks and a tapered waistline.

The sedan, in contrast, is more conventional. Hatchbacks tend to be more popular in northern Europe while sedans find more favour in southern countries such as Greece.

Inside, the usual sea of Korean grey is broken up by neat chrome or silver-rimmed circular dials and more stylish door hardware than usual.

There#;s the usual complement of available central locking, power windows and cup holders and the optional 136-watt, six-speaker audio system with (also optional) six-disc CD changer includes an MP3 player.

Big car optional features include an air conditioning system fitted with a sub-cooler and a pollen filter plus deicers in the electric outside mirrors.

To prove its MPV credentials, the Kalos can be fitted with a seatback table on the front passenger seat and a second power jack at the rear of the floor console.

The Kalos will be sold in Europe with 1.2- and 1.4-litre petrol engines and an intelligent four-speed automatic with stepped-gate shift pattern to reduce the chance of accidental gear changes will be optional in place of the standard 5-speed manual transmission.

The Kalos is built on a 2480 mm wheelbase with short front and rear overhangs and has MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension.

Targeting a four-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests, Daewoo has given the Kalos a multi-load-path front body structure that#;s said to be significantly more effective at dissipating collision energy.

Dual depowered air bags and side air bags are available and the Kalos also has impact beams in each door, electronic seat belt pretensioners in front, three-point seat belts at all five passenger positions and a special child#;s seat anchorage. Four-channel anti-lock braking is optional.

While Daewoo already has plenty of experience in the compact hatchback sector in Europe, Hyundai#;s new Getz is that company#;s first attempt to enter Europe#;s hard-fought supermini sector where it must do battle with such stalwarts as Ford#;s Fiesta and VW#;s Polo – both all-new for 2002 – and Fiat#;s Punto, GM#;s Corsa and many other well-established models.

The segment accounted for four million sales across Europe in 2001, over 25 percent of total passenger cars sales. Hyundai has targeted 120,000 sales this year with 73 percent of those for western Europe, and it expects the strongest markets to be the supermini havens of Italy, France and the UK.

Details of the new car were sketchy and only one was displayed at this week#;s Geneva show but it will come in three or five door form with a choice of 82bhp 1.3-litre and 106bhp 1.6-litre petrol engines plus a 1.5-litre common rail diesel (essential for success in this class in Europe) and a choice of manual or automatic transmission.

Hyundai is promising more models built on the Getz platform as part of its strategy of reducing its overall platform count from 27 to seven.