Its essential question, though, can’t be answered today, maybe not for years. That is, is the American car buyer ready for a $24,000 Hyundai?
Hyundai certainly hopes so, now that it’s poised to enter a new segment of the market with the 2001 XG300. This four-door, five-passenger sedan is the largest, most luxurious, and most expensive vehicle that Hyundai has introduced to the U.S. Hyundai is betting that success with this new car could reposition its image here, making the company a contender in the growing middle-to-near-luxury sedan segment of the market.
After a shaky start on American shores, Hyundai has recently gained consumer confidence by upgrading quality and fixing some of the shortcomings with its vehicles. Viewed as compact, simple and remarkably affordable vehicles, the Hyundai brand name has meant affordability and value — albeit at the cost of less refined performance.
By positioning this new vehicle in the near-luxury 3.0-liter V-6-engined sedan market, competing with the Toyota Camry XLE V-6, Nissan Maxima GLE, Honda Accord EX V-6 and Lexus ES 300, Hyundai hopes to attract a savvier, more upscale buyer. And, with a base price of $23,499, the XG300 is a few thousand dollars less than the competition, when comparably equipped.
This new player does lag a bit behind the pack in power, with its 192 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque at 6000 rpm; everyone else nudges past the 200-hp barrier. Yet the Hyundai’s V-6 compensates for the low torque with a five-speed automatic transmission, while the competition vehicles are equipped with only four-speed automatic systems.
The automatic also features a Shiftronic gate, which allows you to use its automatic gearbox in a semi-manual fashion.
2001 Hyundai XG300
2001 Hyundai XG300 interior
The suspension system on this front-wheel-drive vehicle combines a double-wishbone format on the front end and a multi-link system in the rear. With power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and power-assisted disc brakes with ABS, the XG300 has decent if uninspired handling, though a comfortable ride.
The exterior styling of this vehicle is reminiscent of American sedans from the 1980s, with a squared-off front end, lengthy hood and prominent grille. Hyundai intentionally backed away from the cab-forward design that has become trendy in most sedans, creating a more classic look that should particularly appeal to slightly older buyers the company is targeting with the XG300.
Distinguishing this vehicle as a sedan from the 21st century, however, are the recessed fog lamps, which are integrated into the front bumper, plus power mirrors and bumpers rated to withstand an impact of up to five mph. Standard tinted windows and 15-inch alloy wheels equipped with Michelin top-rated tires contribute to its luxury package.
The XG300 provides generous interior space when compared head-to-head with vehicles in its class. The high roofline affords class-leading headroom for both front and rear passengers, and total passenger volume is eclipsed only by the more bulky Oldsmobile Intrigue.
This five-seater offers supple, sturdy leather seats – a first for Hyundai – as an upgrade from the standard cloth trim. The upper-level, XG300L package adds a leather steering wheel, memory seats and a sunroof, which can be added separately. Air conditioning is standard fare, as well as cruise control, a trip computer and climate controls. While the stock stereo system only provides AM/FM with cassette, you can opt to add a CD player into the dashboard and upgrade from four to six speakers.
2001 Hyundai XG300
|2001 Hyundai XG 300
Base price: $23,499
Major standard features: Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, projector beam headlights, trip computer.
Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles
The interior design includes well-displayed and illuminated gauges, a lockable glovebox, warning lights for nearly a dozen hazards from oil pressure to brake fluid level, and power locks, windows and mirrors. The panel display has large, easy-to grasp controls that are straight-forward and well laid out.
Safety features include keyless entry, front- and side-impact airbags for front passengers, child seat anchors and anti-lock brakes. Rear seats fold at a 60/40 configuration for stowing longer items.
Hyundai’s comprehensive warranty package should help soothe uncertainty about this new model’s reliability. All owners will receive a bumper-to-bumper five-year/60,000-mile warranty that also covers corrosion for the same period, as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain. Hyundai’s Roadside Assistance service is also provided for the first five years, regardless of mileage. Note, however, that the warranty pertains to the first owner and family members only.
The XG300 compares in price with many compact, four-cylinder vehicles but it comes with a roomier interior, a bigger engine and the necessary amenities that propel the XG300 to near-luxury status. But, then there’s still the $24,000 question: is the American public ready for a near-luxury Hyundai?
In the words of every public-relations officer we know, we’ll get back to you on that one.