1 Nov 1994
The X3 was the third generation Excel that really put Hyundai, “driveaway” pricing and the light-car segment on the map in Australia.
Hugely successful right from launch, the X3’s rounded good looks, spacious interior and savvy marketing appealed to a wide demographic, especially young, female drivers.
Almost everything was new, including the Hyundai-designed Alpha II 65kW 1.5L 12-valve four-cylinder engine, longer wheelbase and dual-link rear suspension.
The result was a more powerful, dynamic and refined light car.
The five-door hatch and four-door sedan came in LX or GLX spec, while the three-door versions were known as Sprint and GX.
The limited “Classique” sedan arrived in October ’96 sporting anti-lock brakes, followed by a small facelift and trim changes in April 1997.
In December ’97 all Excels were fitted with a more powerful 74kW 1.5L twin-cam engine.
But the overwhelming majority sold was the Sprint, enticing buyers with free air-conditioning, driveaway pricing and – from late ’98 – standard power steering.
In April and December ’99 the Sportz Pack also included a CD player, alloy wheels and rear spoiler to the Sprint and GLX models.
But the Excel’s reputation was tarnished as reports of suspect durability arose during 1998.
And the aggressive discount price war with the Toyota Starlet and Ford Festiva has cheapened the brand and depressed resale values – much to Hyundai’s dismay today, which offers palpably better quality vehicles.
The Excel name was jettisoned when it was replaced by the much-improved Accent in July 2000, reflecting Hyundai’s desire to distance itself from its former Golden Goose.