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Motoring: Hyundai Excel - 1994

Hyundai was the first Korean car manufacturer to be sold in Australia, and the poor built quality of their early vehicles gave Hyandai - and all the other Korean manufacturers that followed - a reputation of being cheap and nasty throw away vehicles. The built quality and reliability left much to be desired, and the majority sold went to the hire car trade. All that changed when the Hyundai X3 Excel was released here in 1994. Built quality and operational reliability was streets ahead of previous Hyundai offerings, and the car's roomy interior, commendable performance and handling, at a very affordable price made it a serious contender at the lower end of the market.

Though older buyers viewed the new Hyundai with extree caution, given the brand's bad reputation, younger people buying their first car were attracted to the X3 Excel by its curvy exterior and roomy and comfortable interior, in spite of the latter being very plain and boring. Its single overhead camshaft, 12-valve, fuel-injected 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine generated 65 kW. There was a choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed auto transmission. With the standard five-speed manual gearbox, the three-door hatch was quite zippy, boasting a respectable time of 12.2 seconds to reach 100km/h from a standstill.

The X3 proved so popular in Australia that it was the third best-selling vehicle in the country in both 1996 and 1998. In the latter year, it achieved more than 44,000 sales (a 5.5% share of the total market), a record figure at the time for an imported car. Between 1994 and 2000, some 200,000 X3s were sold in Australia, making it arguably the most successful imported vehicle in the country's history.

The redesigned 1999 model, sold as the Accent (LC) sported a more angular body and increased dimensions. It received a minor facelift in 2003, and was given the model code LC2. When the Accent sedan underwent a 2006 redesign, the hatchback continued on sale during 2006 only in Canada, since the hatchback skipped the 2006 model year for the United States. But for Korea, it was the first model with the new nameplate: Verna.

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