Car reviews - Hyundai - Excel - LX sedan
Styling, power steering, cabin space, cheap
Room for improvement
Not a quality small car, unrefined, bad image, sedan is not as attractive as hatchback
18 Jun 2003
HYUNDAI was the great success story of the 1990s, establishing itself as one of the most popular makes on Australian roads.
Originally imported into this country by a company owned by then entrepreneur Alan Bond, the early examples were rather basic but from 1994 there was a dramatic improvement in looks and quality - and the success story began.
Cars from major Japanese manufacturers Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and Mitsubishi were steadily moving up in price due to the increasing value of the yen and the South Korean Hyundai company slipped neatly into the low end of the market.
The model that brought success to Hyundai was the Excel. The 1994 Excel was cheap, attractive, well designed and backed by a three- year/100,000km warranty. It was instantly attractive to the young segment of the market.
At one stage the Excel was the third highest selling car in Australia, after the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.
Young women in particular rushed to buy the car and it became the new status symbol of the upwardly mobile.
The package was simple. A small, well styled, light and roomy four-door sedan with good performance and fuel economy, and a no worries three-year warranty.
It succeeded beyond the dreams of the Hyundai importers and revolutionised the small car market.
The Excel has a 1.5-litre, single overhead camshaft engine with three valves per cylinder, transversely mounted and driving the front wheels through a four-speed auto or five-speed manual gearbox.
The engine has plenty of power and torque, and with an all up weight of only 945kg performance is good.
Suspension is by MacPherson struts and coil springs at the front and independent by dual links and coil springs at the rear.
Brakes are power-assisted ventilated discs at the front and self- adjusting drums at the rear, with a pressure control valve to stop the rear wheels locking.
The rack and pinion steering is power-assisted. Tyres are 175x13 on five-inch rims.
The body of the Excel is smartly styled with clean lines and rounded corners. A low bonnet line and raked windscreen reduce wind resistance and colour-coded bumpers add to the pleasing appearance.
Inside, there is seating for four adults with cloth-trimmed seats, central console with rotary-type ventilation controls and map pockets in front doors.
Boot space is excellent for a car of this size and there is a low loading lip.
Extras include a radio/cassette player, remote boot and fuel door release levers, intermittent wiper with timer and a rear fog light.
Lively performance, comfortable seats, reasonably low noise levels and well weighted power steering make the Excel a good road performer.
The gearshift on the manual is a little vague and the suspension tends to be noisy and jumps the car around on rough surfaces, but the overall impression is good.
Fuel consumption is quite low with average driving giving about 7.0L/100km.
Due to the lightweight construction - which gives good performance and economy - the Excel should not be looked at as a long-term vehicle. The manufacturer hopes you will trade the car in after three or four years and buy a new one.
Whether this strategy succeeds will depend on the ability of the car to hold its resale price, a point which is yet to be proven.
The Hyundai Excel is a proven success in its market segment. Well priced with attractive looks and good performance, it has dominated the young female market, providing the right mixture of style and value.
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