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First look: Koreans aim high with small cars

Getz smart: Hyundai's new Getz (front) and the Daewoo Kalos (rear) were understated stars of the Geneva motor show.

Hyundai and Daewoo reveal the production versions of their new budget buys at Geneva

7 Mar 2002


WHILE thousands of the world's motoring press flocked to ogle Volkswagen's luxury Phaeton saloon and Mercedes-Benz's even more opulent V12 Maybach at the Geneva motor show this week, two small South Koreans cars of much more significance to most Australian car buyers were being revealed with much less fanfare.

They were Hyundai's replacement for the top-selling Excel, named the Getz, and bankrupt Daewoo's Kalos.

Both of them have been seen in Australia in concept form, but Geneva was their first appearance as undisguised production vehicles, with the cladding stripped off, the production grilles in place and real-world tyres and wheels.

Both are due for launch here in the third quarter this year, the Getz as a three and five-door hatchback and the Kalos as a five-door hatch and four-door sedan. A three-door Kalos is due 12 months down the track.

Getz will be powered by a 1.5-litre engine in Australia - although the specifications released at Geneva said it would be offered with a 1.6 - and possibly a 1.3 if the importer can make the business case work.

The Kalos - which should be renamed Lanos for Australia, replacing the car that has been around since 1997 - will be powered by a choice of 1.4 and 1.6-litre engines. Physically, the Kalos is a little shorter and narrower than the old Lanos, but is somewhat wider. It is also a tad larger than the Hyundai in all vital measurements.

In typical South Korean fashion, the importers are planning keen pricing starting below $15,000 combined with excellent equipment levels for the class and orthodox small car front-wheel drive engineering.

But these two cars also have something not commonly associated with South Korean small cars - a real sense of current small car style thanks to their short body overhangs and semi-MPV tall-boy rooflines.

That is no surprise considering the Kalos was penned by Italy's Guigario, while the Getz emerges from Hyundai's German design centre in Frankfurt. That emphasises both cars are trying to make an impact on the super-hot European mini-car market where the Volkswagen Polo, Opel Corsa (Holden Barina) and Peugeot 206 are the stars.

In fact, measure for measure, the two hatches line up very closely with the Daewoo, just a little bigger in all vital dimesnions. In Australia, the competition and task are different. The challenge is to regain sales share rather than conquer new ground.

Hyundai rode high on the back of the Excel in Australia in the late 1990s but sales have dipped since it was discontinued in 2000. Hyundai hopes the combination of the Getz and larger Accent will boost its sales total back beyond 50,000 annually.

For Daewoo, it's been a sales plunge rather than slip. Its parent company's bankruptcy and protracted negotiations with General Motors over its future mean the Kalos alone cannot fix the sales problems. But the car is seen as a good starting point as the ownership issue is expected to be resolved well before the Australian launch.

By the way, Getz is meant to mean "achieved by desirability", a link-up of get and get it. Kalos means "beautiful" in Greek.

* The Geneva launch of the Getz had Australian content with the promotional film of the car shown to journalists shot in Victoria. Getz was filmed zipping down the Great Ocean Road, scooting up a deserted Bourke St Mall past Myer and even scurrying through the Fitzroy Gardens.

For our complete wrap-up of the Geneva motor show, don't miss next week's automotive e-news. It's free to subscribe, just go to www.mellor.net and follow the prompts.

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