The nameplate "Kalos" derives from the Greek word kalos (καλός) for "beautiful".
The original Daewoo Kalos was introduced in 2002, based on a then-new Daewoo platform named T200, replacing the Daewoo Lanos (T100). Under development before Daewoo's bankruptcy, the Kalos was the company's first new model introduction following its subsequent takeover by General Motors. Manufacture of the Kalos began in early March, 2002 , with pre-production prototypes shown at the Geneva Auto Show in April 2002.
Originally designed by Italdesign Giugiaro, the Kalos derives directly from the Kalos Dream concept vehicle first presented at the 2000 Paris Motor Show and subsequent developmental concepts at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show, 2002 Geneva Auto Show, and 2003 at the Geneva Show. (Kalos Dream photos) During this three-year development period Daewoo was struggling financially, with the ultimate fate of the company and the concept vehicle remaining uncertain.
Upon introduction the initial European models carried an emblem reading "Design Giugiaro." Referring to his firm's design of the Kalos, Giorgetto Giugiaro said:
The T200 sedans and hatchbacks featured a swage line running along the lower body to the rear door, which kinks downward prominently on the hatchback. 5-door hatchbacks also feature a side window in the C/D pillar with a distinctively angled lower edge. Interiors feature a circular motif throughout. North American Chevrolet Aveo, Canadian Pontiac Wave and Suzuki Swift+ and Australian Holden Barina variants featured the same grille with slight differences; European versions and some Latin American versions featured a wider grille with larger slanted headlights.
Daewoo's now disbanded Worthing Technical Centre in the UK conducted the initial research and platform engineering, with Daewoo's main Technical Center in Bupyong, Incheon, South Korea completing the majority of the later development programme. Daewoo engineers refined the chassis in Britain, on the proving ground at Motor Industry Research Association near Nuneaton, UK. Long-term testing covered nearly 2.2 million kilometers (1.4million miles) with further testing outside South Korea on test sites in Arjeplog, Sweden; Granada and Idiada, Spain; Kapuskasing, Canada and Beijing, China.