Car reviews - Hyundai - Excel - Sprint 3-dr hatch
Styling, space, hatchback versatility, engine's performance
Room for improvement
Quality and durability woes, low image and refinement
18 Jun 2003
HYUNDAI entered the Australian market with the Excel in 1986 via the ill-fated Bond Corporation.
The Hyundai provided basic, reliable transport at a rock-bottom price which attracted customers who would not normally consider buying a new car.
The X3 model range of three-door and five-door hatches and a four-door sedan was released in October, 1994. These completely new models had big improvements in styling and dynamic ability.
The package and price proved to be just what buyers wanted and the Excel has been a phenomenal success with sales doubling between 1994 and 1997, making it the most popular four-cylinder car in Australia.
The exterior dimensions of the Excel are larger than most of its competitors.
This translates into more interior space, particularly in the rear seat and boot areas, with a driveaway price more than competitive with the Excel's rivals.
The three-door Sprint was the entry level model into the Excel range with equipment to match the price. There is an AM/FM radio, rear window wiper and remote releases for the fuel filler and hatch door, but little else.
The Sprint uses Hyundai's 1.5-litre Alpha 2 engine which is larger than normal for a car of this size and price. It has a single-overhead camshaft to operate three valves per cylinder and a multi-point fuel-injection system.
The power output is 65kW at 5500rpm with 131Nm of torque at 3500rpm. The extra power and torque put the Excel at the front of the class in performance terms, at the expense of slightly higher fuel economy.
Even so, the Excel could never be called thirsty. Fuel consumption for a manual version in normal city and suburban use will be in the 8.0 to 9.0L/100km range, improving to about 7.0L/100km on the highway.
The four-speed automatic transmission uses about 10 per cent more fuel in city conditions and will almost match the manual version's fuel consumption on the highway.
The suspension package is pretty much standard front-wheel drive layout. Handling and ride abilities are all about average for a car of this age in this price bracket, but refinement sure isn't a strong point.
The early '98 facelift saw all Excels gain a 74kW twin-cam 1.5 in lieu of the 66kW single-cam version. Many were sold with power steering and air-con as a $13,990-driveaway deal, starting a price war with the palpably superior Toyota Starlet.
Sure, the X3 Excel is cheaper than its contemporary rivals. But the qualities that made it so popular as a new car aren't so compelling now that the factory warranty isn't a drawcard any longer.
Especially as the X3's low quality ill-construction and durability woes have surfaced. It's one reason why Hyundai decided to drop the popular moniker when the much-improved Accent displaced it in 2000.
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