Compact car; Built in South Korea
  • 2-door hatchback
  • 4-door hatchback
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $1,300*

1990 Hyundai Excel 2-door hatchback

1990 Hyundai Excel 4-door sedan

1991 Hyundai Excel GS 2-door hatchback

1994 Hyundai Excel 2-door hatchback

1994 Hyundai Excel 4-door sedan

  • Fuel economy
  • Maneuverability
  • Price
  • Ride
  • Acceleration
  • Engine noise
  • Handling
  • Road noise

While not the best of the bunch, which includes the more refined Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, Excels offer a lot for a far more modest price. For buyers on a budget, an Excel is worth a look.


South Korea’s subcompact shattered sales records for a first-year import when it arrived on the American market in 1986. A 2-door hatchback soon joined the original 4-door sedan and 4-door hatchback. Built on the same platform as the Mitsubishi Mirage and Dodge/Plymouth Colt, the Excel also shared their 1.5-liter engine, transmissions, and some suspension parts. For 1990, Excel and the similar Mitsubishi Precis got new styling, akin to the bigger Hyundai Sonata but only a little larger than before. The engine adopted sequential fuel injection, and a new 4-speed automatic transmission became available. Models included a base 2-door hatchback and 2-door sedan, GS 3-door hatchback, GL 4-door sedan and 4-door hatchback, and GLS 4-door sedan.

Yearly Updates

1991 Excel
Four-door hatchback Excels dropped out of the lineup, leaving only 2-door hatchbacks and 4-door notchback sedans.
1992 Excel
Little change was evident on the ’92 Excels.
1993 Excel
Subtle grille revisions and new wheel covers were the only noticeable changes this year.
1994 Excel
All Excels now had a 5-speed manual transmission. The lineup slimmed down to a base 3-door, GS 3-door, and GL 4-door.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

The Excel’s 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, with sequential multipoint fuel injection, developed 81 horsepower. Either a manual gearbox or 4-speed overdrive automatic transmission might be installed. Base models came with a standard 4-speed manual transmission, while upper Excels used a 5-speed. For 1994, the 4-speed was gone and all models came with a 5-speed manual gearbox, if not the extra-cost automatic.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.5/90
Engine HP 81
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 91
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed manual
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

Standing-start acceleration is far from brisk: Even with 5-speed manual shift you have to hit the gas hard to keep up with traffic. Acceleration to 60 mph takes close to 15 seconds with automatic, versus 12 to 13 seconds with stick shift. Not only is the automatic transmission sluggish, but it shifts with a jolt at full throttle. It’s also slow to downshift for passing. Gas mileage is great. We averaged nearly 34 mpg in city/expressway driving.

An Excel maneuvers well enough, is easy to park, and the ride is comfortable for a small car. Soft springing not only makes the ride more compliant, but results in plenty of body lean in turns, plus sloppy cornering. Road noise approaches the excessive, even for a low-end vehicle. Tires howl loudly even at highway speeds, and wind noise can grow intrusive.

Interior space is adequate for four, and five can squeeze in. Rear leg room is restricted, and backseats in 3-doors are particularly cramped. Assembly quality appears good, though fit and finish don’t rank as first-rate.


Model Tested: 1994 Hyundai Excel GS

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 3
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 3
Quietness - 2


Controls/Materials - 3
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 3

Total: 31


2-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
93.9 161.4 63.2 54.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.2 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 37.6 41.7 33.1
4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
93.9 161.4 63.2 54.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.2 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 37.6 41.7 33.1
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
93.9 163.3 63.2 54.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.4 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 37.6 41.7 33.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1994 Excel 2-door hatchback


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 128
Injury 172
Theft 42

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: Harsh shifts into second or fourth gears are probably due to a missing or defective air exhaust plug. (All)
Engine misfire
Description: Stalling at idle, no air conditioning, and a “check engine” light can be caused by a bad ground. A ground wire spliced into the original one might fix the problem. (1990-94)
Engine stalling
Description: Stalling in reverse is often caused by clogged transmission lines or transmission cooler. (1990-94)
Engine temperature
Description: A sticking thermostat keeps the engine from reaching normal operating temperature. (1990-94)
Manual transmission
Description: Gear clashes or grinding when shifting from second to third gear is corrected by installing beefier synchronizers. (1990-94)
Vehicle noise
Description: Replacement rear shocks are available to correct the noise that the originals make in cold weather. (1994)
Water leak
Description: Water on the floor from what appears to be a leaking heater core is really a leaking heater valve. (1990-94)

Recall History

Description: Lockwasher under nut that secures front wheel hub to driveshaft may have had improper heat treatment and could crack, which could cause wheel-bearing free play that could result in bearing damage and possible loss of vehicle control.
Description: In moving-barrier impact test, fuel leakage from tank exceeded maximum allowable amount; spillage in case of accident could result in fire, if exposed to ignition source.
Description: On small number of cars, an open circuit could occur in crank-angle sensor at high temperature, causing engine to stall.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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