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Car reviews - Hyundai - Excel - GLS 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Pleasantly styled, spacious, cheap...
Room for improvement
... cheap, that is, in every way - starting with low quality and working its way down to woeful comfort, refinement, construction, durability and image.

18 Jun 2003

HYUNDAI launched the Excel onto the Australian market in 1986. It marked the South Korean manufacturer's entry into Australia via Bond Motor Corporation.

The Excel did not have any outstanding engineering or styling features. It was aimed at buyers who wanted a small four-seat car which was reliable, cheap to run and, above all, affordable.

The Excel proved to be a package the budget conscious buyers wanted. Sales gradually increased to the point where it became the biggest selling four-cylinder car on the Australian market.

The second generation Excel was released in April, 1990, and remained on sale until superseded by the troublesome X3 from October 1994 to July 2000.

It was available with two levels of equipment, LS and an upper level GLS. The GLS was well equipped, considering its new price, with electric windows, AM/FM radio with electric aerial and power steering.

The Excel had a major update in late 1991. The update included much-needed firmer suspension and revised interior trim. External changes to the front panels and bumper gave the Excel a more rounded appearance.

The four-cylinder, 1.5-litre engine with multi-point fuel-injection is closely related to that used in contemporary Mitsubishi Lancers. The Excel uses a less complex eight-valve cylinder head while the Lancer uses a 12-valve version.

A five-speed manual transmission was standard equipment while a four-speed automatic transmission with a locking torque converter was available as an option.

Under-car mechanicals are conventional small car front-wheel drive - MacPherson struts and coil springs at the front and torsion beam axle with trailing arms and coil springs at the rear.

Fuel consumption for a manual transmission will range between 8 and 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres in normal suburban use. Highway use will return 7.5 to 8.0L/100km.

For everyday use the engine performance is good. Highway performance is adequate but limited by high transmission ratios and Excel's relatively heavy mass. Plus it's a chore to drive due to the excessively unpleasant gear shift.

Brake, steering and suspension systems perform their respective tasks adequately but nothing more. The Excel's suspension and tyres place modest limits on roadholding abilities, with below-par dynamics being the outcome.

The Excel may be conservatively engineered and uses proven components, but durability and reliability aren't really strong points, particularly as they age.

Body and interior spare parts are common in junk yards, while mechanical bits should still be easy to get from your friendly Hyundai dealer. Either way they should be inexpensive, reflecting the overall quality ethos of the Excel.

The Hyundai Excel GLS only really makes good sense with its hatchback versatility and good equipment levels if it's absolutely dirt cheap and in excellent condition.

Otherwise, people who want little more than basic transport but are not interested in the latest and greatest technology should check out a used Japanese car instead. Or keep saving.

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