2001 Hyundai XG300
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For $31,900, Hyundai’s new top-of-the-line XG300 is well equipped with heated leather seats, power operated for both driver and passenger, automatic climate control and air quality control system, power sunroof, windows, door locks and heated outside mirrors, tilt steering, cruise control, trip computer, outside temperature gauge, illuminated vanity mirrors, premium six speaker audio system, 4-wheel ABS with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and electronic traction control.

Well equipped family sedan makes the right impression

First impressions can mean a lot, especially for car buyers who may only get a few minutes behind the wheel of a new car before making a decision. And it doesn’t help if there’s a sales person chatting away in the passenger seat. A car’s good qualities need to stand out and be noticed.

Hyundai’s new top-of-the-line XG300 makes a fine first impression. It has the classic look of a luxury automobile with its raised trunk, broad shoulders that run from front to back and Lincoln-like substantial chrome grill. Inside are all the luxury options one would expect from a premium priced sedan – heated leather seats, power operated for both driver and passenger, abundant but not tacky woodgrain trim, automatic climate control and air quality control system, power sunroof, windows, door locks and heated outside mirrors, tilt steering, cruise control, trip computer, outside temperature gauge, illuminated vanity mirrors and premium six speaker audio system.

2001 Hyundai XG300
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The centre control panel is well laid out, with the more frequently used audio controls situated above the climate controls. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good to the touch and the console mounted shifter with both automatic and manual shifting modes for the five-speed automatic transmission comes easily to hand.

At this point the sales person in the passenger seat should begin repeating the value mantra – $31,900, $31,900, $31,900. The combination of sensory stimulation and common sensibility can make a powerful first impression indeed.

Turn the key and the 190 horsepower DOHC 3.0 litre V-6 comes almost imperceptibly to life. It is a quiet running engine that moves the somewhat heavy 1633 kg (3600 lbs) sedan at a rather leisurely pace from a stop light (The Automotive Journalists Association of Canada recorded a 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.7 seconds), but provides sufficient passing and merging power. Considering the weight, fuel economy is pretty good – 12.6 L/100km in the city, 8.0 L/100km on the highway.

2001 Hyundai XG300
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If you were looking for a sport sedan, odds are you would have headed back to the dealer by now, for the XG300 is a family sedan, with an engine and suspension designed to provide a comfortable, smooth ride. A double wish-bone front suspension up front and rear multi-link suspension combined with nitrogen gas filled shock absorbers help smooth out the irregularities of the road. But you won’t find any of the bounce and roll often associated with cars designed more for comfort than corner carving.

Being more family car than sports car, the dual gate “shiftronic” transmission – allowing the driving enthusiast the option of manually shifting gears – seems curiously out of place in this relaxed environment. Hyundai claims a 0.5 second shifting advantage over a true manual transmission, but since the transmission shifted crisply and appropriately relative to throttle input in fully automatic mode, I couldn’t find any real advantage in using manual shifting other than to keep busy.

2001 Hyundai XG300
Click image to enlarge

Safety is an important feature in this segment and the XG300’s safety feature will strike the right cord with most knowledgeable buyers – 4-wheel disc brakes with 4-channel, 4-wheel ABS are standard as is electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and electronic traction control (ETCS). The EBD senses the passengers’ weight distribution within the vehicle and automatically adjusts brake force to improve handling and predictability under braking. The XG300’s ETCS simultaneously controls brakes and throttle valve to prevent skidding and slipping.

The XG300 is equipped with dual front supplemental airbags and side airbags which are mounted in the sides of the front seats. The front air bags are de-powered for softer deployment. A passenger presence detection system prevents the front passenger air bag from deploying if the seat is empty or is occupied by a small child. Other safety features include child proof rear door locks, adjustable rear seat head rests, and three-point safety restraints in all five seating positions.

Where the XG300 falls short of the competition is in the area of personal safety. Equipped with remote keyless entry, security alarm and immobilizer system, the XG300’s remote opens all four doors on the first click. More common is one click for the driver’s door and two clicks for all four doors to open. As well, there is no panic alarm on the remote and the dome light does not automatically illuminate when the door locks open.

Hyundai has positioned the XG300 as a value leader in the luxury car market. But is it really a luxury car? First impressions would seem to confirm that it is. But beyond its many standard features are some items commonly found in luxury cars but not available on the XG300, like memory power seats, dual zone climate control, telescopic steering column and express-up driver’s window. There are also missing a few items found on vehicles priced at or below the XG300, such as headlights and dash lights that turn on automatically at dusk and doors that lock when the car is put in drive.

2001 Hyundai XG300
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I have to wonder about the wisdom of offering a vehicle such as the XG300 at only one level of equipment, one price, no options. Personally I would have preferred a good quality cloth interior to the leather seating surfaces that seemed a little too hard and slippery. Take out electronic traction control, power sunroof and dual power front seats and the XG300 would have a base model that could be offered for thousands less than its $31,900 sticker. Now that would be a value leader.

For those who crave luxury accoutrements, add a full complement of personal safety features, a high quality leather interior and omit nothing that a real luxury car should have and ask a few thousand more. But then the XG300 would be merely competitive in the entry level luxury car market and not its value leader.

Equipped and priced as it is, the XG300 is a luxury car pretender. Better that it be known for what it is – a well-equipped mid-size family sedan – than give the impression of something it is not.

Technical Data:

2001 Hyundai XG300
Base price $31,900
Price as tested $31,900
Type 4-door, 5-passenger mid-size luxury sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0 Litre, V6, DOHC
Horsepower 190 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 192 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic with manual shift option
Tires Michelin P205/65VR-15 All-Season
Curb weight 1633 kg (3600 lbs)
Wheelbase 2750 mm (108.3 in)
Length 4865 mm (191.5 in)
Width 1825 mm (71.8 in)
Height 1420 mm (55.9 in)
Cargo Volume 14.5 cu.ft. (.41 M3)
Fuel consumption City 12.6 l/100 km
  Highway 8.0 l/100 km
Warranty 3 years/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 years/100,000 km

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