South Korean customers are downsizing and the country's importers and distributors expect small vehicles with low engine displacement to account for 50% by the end of the year.

This is an increase from 45% in the first five months of 2011. Last month carmakers sold 3,969 small-sized cars - at low and medium price - out of a total 8,777 units.

Sales of small-sized import cars have continued to increase during the past few months and accounted for 1,876 units (or 42.6% of the total sales) in April, up from 26% a year ago.

Dealers say customers are now finding small, imported models are now on a par in terms of price with popular Korean sedans.

Observers said as imported automobiles become increasingly popular in Korea, the market is shifting towards smaller, cheaper vehicles.

Additionally, with a shift toward smaller engine capacity and lower price ranges, younger motorists make up an increasingly large proportion of imported car buyers. According to industry data, around 40% of imported vehicles sold in May were bought by those in their 20s and 30s.

For a long time foreign cars were considered extravagances and only for the rich and powerful. Dealers predict that sales of imported cars will continue to increase.

They say that more and more customers want to buy an imported car but not just because it is foreign or more expensive.

While Korean cars can compete in terms of design, performance and quality, customers say there is too little choice and the price differences are closer than they have been in the past.