Econobox Survivor: 1989 Mitsubishi Precis

Here’s a car that I can virtually guarantee is extinct: a survivor-grade 1989 Mitsubishi Precis, otherwise known as a Hyundai Excel. Now, no one here is going to tell you that this is a collector vehicle of any sort, but the Excel was a significant car for Hyundai when introduced. Will that drive anyone to hand over $2,250 for this example, listed by a dealer in Illinois? Maybe. More to the point is that it’s not a ton of money for a car that will likely be a hit at Radwood gatherings and any car show that appreciates obscure survivors – all while sipping on cheap fuel. Find it here on, and thanks to Barn Finds reader Todd M. for the find.

While most of us knew this hatchback as an entry-level Hyundai, Mitsubishi did use it to plug a gap in their lineup for a similar demographic. When you think about Hyndai’s brand today and how the company regularly churns out mid-sized sedans that can go head-to-head with the Camry and Accord, it’s rather impressive to see how far the company has come since introducing this super cheap rollerskate of a car. In all fairness, 1989 was not that long ago, and their current product lineup is a quantum leap from where they started. Hell, they’ve even introduced a dedicated luxury brand in the last few years that by all accounts is a formidable opponent to most entry-level luxury cars.

There’s no masking the fact that this is a cheap car, inside and out, which makes the degree to which this one has survived all the more impressive. Materials were not particularly high-grade in any Japanese entry-level model, although Honda did a fair job of building durability into its cockpits. All that aside, someone took great care of this Mitsubishi hatchback, with nary a tear in the seats or a stain the ground. Thankfully, it has a manual gearbox, which a car with such low power output desperately needs to feel remotely safe when merging into highway travel lanes. Not that you’d use such a clean example for commuting, but you certainly could.

Mileage is low for the year at just under 83,000, and the interior plastics are holding up well. This Precis had to have been garage-stored as there’s no sign of fading anywhere, in the cockpit or on the exterior surfaces. The steering wheel shows virtually no signs of wear and tear, and it makes me nostalgic for the days of small steering wheels with the model named stamped onto the horn button. The gauge cluster is clear and clean, and drivers will enjoy an analog clock instead of a tachometer if they choose to snag this survivor hatchback for their collection. The best part about shows like Radwood is it makes it possible to be proud of a survivor, no matter what model it is – and this one deserves to keep being loved by someone who appreciates the obscure cars in our midst.


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  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Nice one! Even I don’t aspire to own that car, which is weird. The same with this somewhat similar one:
    I’m glad that it still exists, though.

    Like 4
  2. Howard A Member

    Just when you think you’ve seen enough Firebirds and Grand National Buicks, along comes this. I swear, If I stick around long enough, every vehicle I’ve ever owned will show up. ( fat chance) Still, I had a Precis ( sound of bottle hitting the floor) Mid 90’s, I needed a cheapie, work buddy said his gf had a cheap car, a Mitsubishi Precis. I never heard of it, but for $300 bucks, couldn’t go wrong. 1st thing right off the bat, there was no difference between 4th and 5th. Mine had a tach, and it didn’t drop 1 rpm. Something not right, so the owners manual said, “you will hear a click going into 5th” Apparently, 5th gear position activated a vacuum switch, engaging 5th. I know, sounded crazy, but under the hood, sure enough, the vacuum line was melted, so a new line, ta-da, click, 5th gear!! It was a nice little car, got super mileage, until a deer ran out in front of me. I swear, that thing crumpled like aluminum foil, good thing it wasn’t a Mack truck, and it was goodbye Precis. The Excel was a popular car, except I doubt any junkyard actually kept one. Parts will assuredly be a problem.

    Like 4
  3. Skorzeny

    I had a friend who had a brand new ‘88. It was a gift from his parents. His sister got one too. I had an ‘87 Civic Si. So I got to compare them as I drove his car once in a while. No comparison. Hyundai was still figuring out how to make. I’ve cars back then. No power at all and all the interior plastic turned pink from the sun. It was in a scrapyard in 5 years.

  4. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    I’ve only seen a couple of these as opposed to a thousand Hyndai Excels. I actually thought they were pretty good for the price point. This car deserves to be bought and put away somewhere. I Mean 83k and it still looks good. Usually these have rot holes large enough to reach through.

  5. TM

    It’s pretty amazing when you see a econobox in such great condition. Kudos to the one who cared for this. As much as I love tech like bluetooth, ABS, and Stability control (except for the MyFordTouch in my energi), I seriously miss the days of a base model. Give me manual roll down window, dials, levers, MANUAL TRANSMISSION and I’m good to go. In 89 I had a Escort GT and would have never even noticed this car, but today, it’s kinda cool. Hope the next owner continues the upkeep on this.

    Like 1
  6. Jason

    My landlord during my sophomore year in college had the Hyundai version, though it was a sedan. The car would’ve been around five years old at that time, and I remember it being very unreliable, regularly broken down.

  7. Top Jimmy

    Wait! You’re not done yet. What was the Plymouth versions name? They were only out two years. I remember helping a friend put an Infinity stereo with the speaker control joystick in the dashboard of his with about 1000 miles on the clock. He got mad at me for remarking that the stereo was worth more than the car!

    Like 2
    • TM

      Maybe you are thinking of the Eagle Summit? Those were nice cars at the time, my wife had the sedan, I had a wagon. I believe ’89 was the first year, so you would have seen them on the same lot with the Plymouths?

      • Mark C

        It kind of reminds me of a Dodge Colt. I think the Summit may have been the same thing?

  8. Rob Fram

    This is in spectacular condition. These cars were such garbage when they were new, and as bad as the excel was they were magnitudes better than the Pony.
    Kinda cool to see a survivor.

    Like 2
  9. Howard Kerr

    You know you are looking at a cheap car when the 2 major instruments are a speedometer and a clock, and the clock is as big as the speedometer.
    These were OK cars, and at least the dealer isn’t asking a totally ridiculous price. But even at $3,000 I imagine that this will be a tough sell.

  10. JCA

    A lot of smiles per dollar can be had in a base model 5 speed winter beater, I love them. Unfortunately, I get the feeling this one isn’t up to the hooliganism I would send it’s way…

    Like 1
  11. Louis Chen

    I remember this Hyundai variant! My late Uncle had one, it was an “86 original Excel. As I recalled 1986 was Hyundai’s automotive debut with a better version of the Yugo. I think the Hyundai was the cheapest car around! It was either 3995 or 4995? Either the Hyundai/Mitsubishi these car were quite dependable except for the valve stem seal going south at around 100K+ miles. I remembered my Uncle’s car had no A/C and he lived in Las Vegas! I also remembered that he had to use Premium gas to get some oomph to engine. Too bad this Mitsu Precis “Imported For Mitsubishi” is too far, it would be the perfect car for my 16 year old son.

  12. Peter

    i’d pay that price if i were in the US

  13. Jose Luis Martinez

    I had an 88 in red with a 5 speed, tan interior and tinted windows just like this one. It was my uncles car in FL and he gave it to me after getting married. I went down to FL in 92 to pick up and drive it back. We drove back to Cleveland, OH and I remember that it barely made it through the mountains of VA and WV. Lol but it was a great little car. No rust and everyone in high school thought I had one of the coolest cars. Mine had a/c and would have to turn it off going up hills. It was so under powered.

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