I've just driven a 5-door Excel hatchback designed by Georgetto Giugiaro, who designed the original Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit, among numerous other cars throughout the world. The engine -- 1.5 liters, 4 cylinders, with a single-overhead cam -- is built by Mitsubishi. (The Koreans plan to use a bunch of US components, tires and glass among them.) Driver and front passenger space seems ample, although the rear leg space disappears as the front seats are pushed back. With front-wheel drive and four-wheel independent suspension, the Excel is quick off the mark, yet brakes fast and in a straight line. Power front discs and rear drum brakes are standard.
The car is highly maneuverable in a tight spot, yet will keep up with the traffic flow. When required, it will jump out to pass another car. Everything seems to work as it was designed to work.
Visibility is excellent, not only of the road but also of the dials and controls inside. There are no blind spots. The Excel also carries a full-size spare tire, a feature that many cars have long since abandoned.
Figure on a competitive 30 miles per gallon with a 5-speed manual and a few miles less with an automatic. In California, the figures are slightly less.
The Excel has 5-m.p.h. bumpers, something that a lot of cars do not have these days. The car even has front and rear mud flaps, rear stone guards, and concealed drip rails on the roof. Reclining front bucket seats are standard, and there are grab bars for climbing in and out of the car.
Price of a fully loaded model can run up to about $7,500, although a low-end car can be had for well under $6,000. There isn't too much choice for the consumer below $6,000, although the Japanese and some of the domestic carmakers will undoubtedly try to meet the Koreans head on. It will be hard to do.