The Hyundai Excel goes by many names, some of which are Hyundai Pony, Hyundai Presto, Mitsubishi Precis, and Hyundai X2. Hyundai produced it from 1985 until 2000 as a subcompact class with a front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout. It was Hyundai’s first front-wheel-drive model, which succeeded the rear-wheel-drive Hyundai Pony. Hyundai Accent and Elantra, both front-wheel-drive models, replaced it.
Like the Pony before it, the Excel was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. It was the first Hyundai car exported to the US. In some markets, including European ones, the vehicle was branded as the Hyundai Pony even though it was not directly related to the Hyundai Pony, a rear-wheel-drive car. In South Korea, Hyundai sold the hatchbacks as Hyundai Pony Excel and the sedan version as Hyundai Presto. The car went in production for three generations.
X1 (First Generation, 1985-1989)
The first generation of the Excel was the first Hyundai to be exported to the United States, arriving there as 3-door and 5-door hatchbacks and 4-door sedans. In its first year, it sold 168,882 units.
A 1.5L petrol engine (52 kW, 123 Nm) powered the first generation, coupled with a choice of 4-speed and 5-speed manual gearboxes and 3-speed automatic transmission.
For most markets, only four trim levels were available. The United States, for example, only had 1.5 (base), 1.5 GL, 1.5 GLS (which only had 4-door and 5-door body styles) and 1.5 GS (which only had the 3-door version). The Australian market also had four trim levels which were 1.5L, 1.5 GL, 1.5 GLS, and 1.5 GT. The United Kingdom had the choice of four trims too, namely, 1300 L/Sonnet, 1300 GLS, 1500 GL, and 1500 GLS.
X2 (Second Generation, 1990-1995)
Also called the Hyundai X2 in the United Kingdom, the second-generation Excel went in production from 1989 until 1995, rolling off from Hyundai's Ulsan Plant in South Korea to its various markets as 3-door hatchbacks, 5-door hatchbacks, 4-door sedans, and 3-door panel vans.
The second generation got a facelift and gained in size slightly. The engine came with multipoint fuel injection, something that was not available in the first generation. It also had a new 4-speed overdrive automatic transmission and two choices of engines, which were 1.3L 4G13 I4 (54 kW) and 1.5L petrol engines (60 kW). From 1991 onwards, the 1.5 versions were changed to 1.5i to denote fuel injection.
It had four transmission choices which were 4-speed or 5-speed manual gearbox, and 3-speed or 4-speed automatic transmission. All the models sold in North America had the 1.5L engine with automatic transmission, which was a freestanding option for all models.
The home market got three trim levels which were CX, LX and CXL. The range included the 1.3 CX, 1.3 LX, and 1.5 CX (which all offered 3-door/5-door hatchbacks, 4-door sedans) and the 1.5 LX and 1.5 CXL (which were available as 4-door sedans and 5-door hatchbacks).
In the US, the Base, GL, GLS and GS were the only trim levels available. In the UK, the trim levels available were 1.3 S, 1.3 Sonnet, 1.3 LS and 1.5 GSi.
X3 (Third Generation, 1994-2000)
The last generation of Excel entered the marketplace with a bevy of names. It was the Kia Qianlima in China, the Hyundai Accent Verna in Venezuela, and the Bimantara Caktra in Indonesia. It retained the Excel name in countries like Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands. For Egypt, the model years were 1995-2006 and 2002-2006 for China. This time, production expanded to Turkey, Botswana and Indonesia.
Four different body styles were available, namely, 4-door sedan, 3-door hatchback, 2-door coupé, and 5-door hatchback.
In Australia, the X3 was the best-selling car in the country in 1996 and 1998. In 1998, it got 5.5% of the local market share with about 44,000 in sales, which was an impressive number for an imported vehicle at the time. In six years, the X3 sold over 200,000 units, making it one of the most popular cars in the country's history.
The third generation of the Excel came with five engine types which were the 1.5L G4EK I4,1.3L G4EA (China), 1.3L G4EH I4, 1.5L G4FK I4, and the 1.6L G4ED I4, all petrol engines with two transmission choices. They were paired with either a 5-speed M5AF3 manual gearbox or a 4-speed A4AF2 automatic transmission, with availability depending on the market or region.
A facelift in April 1997 came with a new engine, a 1.5L G4EK SOHC unit (68 kW) but later upgraded to a twin-cam DOHC G4FK version (74 kW, 134 Nm). The X3 models equipped with DOHC carried a 'Twin Cam' badge.
Models released in Australia in 1994 were available in Sprint and GX trims (3-door hatchbacks) and LX and GLX (4-door sedans and 5-door hatchbacks). The GLX and GX models, which were the high-end models, came with full cloth interior, four-speaker sound system, a tachometer, passenger vanity mirror, power antenna and height and lumbar support adjustments on the driver's seat which were standard specs. All models, except the Sprint, received power steering as standard equipment. Yet, the 3-door Sprint was the best-selling trim level. It came with air conditioning as standard and even power steering in models released later in 1998.
The 1998 model year Hyundai Excel was crash-tested by the European New Car Assessment Program. It didn't put on a great show, unfortunately. It scored only 4 points out of a possible 16. This low score was a result of an unstable passenger section (crash test) and the unacceptable level of risk of a chest injury that it posed (side-impact).
People still drive Hyundai Excel today. If you are looking to upgrade your Excel and need auto parts and accessories, or planning to sell an old car, your best bet is Carpart.com.au. It is the best online site in Australia where you can buy or sell used auto parts at the best price.