Pitching the XG as 'an executive car for family car money', Hyundai clearly meant business in a hard-fought sector of the market, but pickings are slim in the non-premium executive sector, the 'best-of-the-rest' class being largely divvied up between the Volvo V70 and the Vauxhall Omega.
Hyundai is not new to making cars like this, even though they've not been imported into the UK before. The XG30's predecessors, sold mostly to chauffeur-driven Korean businessmen, were Hyundai Grandeur-badged Mitsubishis produced under licence to the Japanese firm (as were most Hyundai engines until the mid-1990s).
Being new to the executive car sector, Hyundai has a job to do to convince drivers that the XG30 will be acceptable in the status-conscious company car park. It will certainly be distinctive, with styling that looks a little like a cross between a Rover 75 and a mid-90s Buick. There's been a recent trend back to chrome trim, as we've seen on the Rover, and the Hyundai stylists have used lots of it on the grille, door handles and wheels, along the rubbing strips and bumpers and even around the tail lights. It all looks quite classy, though.
Inside, the big Hyundai gives nothing away to its rivals. Cabin room is comparable to the Vauxhall Omega and the leather upholstery and highly polished 'wood' add a touch of class. It looks as though the Korean designers modelled the centre console on a Volvo; the big-buttoned stereo and easily-fathomed air conditioner controls are very similar.
Standard equipment is very generous, especially when you take the price tag into consideration. The Sony mini-disc player is a class first and a CD changer, engine immobiliser, climate control air conditioning, heated electrically-adjusted front seats with memory, automatic headlights, trip computer, remote central locking, power-adjusted, folding and heated door mirrors, power windows, an electric sunroof, cruise control, front fog lamps, 60/40 split folding rear seats and alloy wheels are all standard, along with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty. Build quality is well up to top Japanese and European standards with tight-fitting panels, shiny paint and a well-finished interior.
There is a big emphasis on safety. 'De-powered' progressive-rate inflation driver, passenger and side airbags are standard, along with seat belt pre-tensioners, electronic traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and side impact beams. In addition, the windscreen and door pillars are injected with polyurethane foam for improved head and thorax protection while foam padding along the lower dashboard is said to reduce driver and front passenger knee injuries.
There are a lot of electronics built into the XG30, so make sure when inspecting the car that you play with all the buttons, knobs and switches to make sure it all works. Otherwise there's not too much that goes wrong with the XG30. The suspension is ultra-soft, so check the underbody for signs of damage, as the front of the car can easily come into contact with the road surface if driven in an enthusiastic manner over speed humps. The engine is sound and the interior trim looks hard wearing. Naturally, you should insist upon a properly stamped up service book.
(approx based on a 2000 XG30) A clutch assembly will be around £585 with an alternator priced at £240. Brake pads are about £60 a pair, with little differential in price between fronts and rears. 55 and £40 per pair respectively. An exhaust will set you back £445 and a radiator retails at around £130. A replacement headlamp is close to £185.
Think soft and comfy. The XG30 is, in many ways, the ultimate antidote to road rage. You won't feel inclined to tear through narrow gaps or floor the throttle to make an amber set of lights. Drop into the soft leather seats, crank up your favourite tunes on the minidisk player, get the air-con to a comfortable setting, drop the XG into D and just cruise. It's immensely relaxing and demolishes long motorway journeys with effortless alacrity, superb 'Sigma' 24-valve V6 engine being one of the XG30's best features. Using all the current tricks in the engineers' book, including four valves per cylinder and variable-length inlet manifolding, it produces 192bhp which powers the big saloon to 60mph in nine seconds on the way to 140mph.
With smooth power delivery and excellent refinement, this engine is more than a match for Japanese, French and German rivals and it is helped by a smooth-shifting and responsive five-speed automatic gearbox with 'Tiptronic-style' manual override that lets you shift gears yourself. This gearbox was, in fact, designed with help from Porsche who developed Tiptronic in the first place (and previously helped Hyundai with the Coupe's suspension tuning).
Fuel economy is never a strong point of powerful V6s, but the XG30 motor is at least class-competitive, returning 26.4mpg in the EC combined cycle. The car is environment friendly in other ways, too; all plastic parts over 100g are marked with their material type for easier recycling and the airbags use a new azide gas-free inflator mechanism.
UK-specification XG30s are said to have stiffer suspension settings than their softly-sprung Korean cousins (which are mostly chauffeur-driven) which is scarcely credible. It won't attack corners with great relish but then a Caterham doesn't make a great fist of motorway cruises. Horses for courses.
If you expected the Hyundai XG30 to be something of a joke, think again. The sales figures would suggest that it's a bit of a duffer but behind the sorry showroom performance is a car that's genuinely appealing. With used prices dropping through the floor, it's hard to think of anything for comparable money and vintage that can transport you in such untrammelled luxury. The Hyundai XG30 is one of the great unsung used bargains. Bet you didn't expect that.