Options Fitted: Metallic paint
The Hyundai Accent is not the most exciting car in its class; it's like a middle-child, the forgotten cousin or a quiet achiever. In all respects, the Accent is a Hyundai Excel that has just finished high-school. It's more refined, better looking, smarter and better packaged; however, it's inherently still the same car.
A bit of history
The problem facing the Accent stems from back in the late 80s early 90s when Hyundai had this formula that started with the Hyundai Excel, import a semi-reasonable, cheap, A->B car and sell it to first-car buyers that are extremely price conscious. It was a good idea, but as with all good ideas, copycats emerged and the Excel lost its edge.
Trying to stay ahead of the game, in 2000 Hyundai ditched the Excel badge and changed the name to Accent, while raising the price. The new plan was to aim for a slightly more upmarket audience while offering more for the money - it didn't really work.
Many thought Hyundai had gone mad for ditching the Excel badge, but with so many reliability issues and the cheap and nasty image that it had acquired in its 16 years of loyal service, the Excel was seen as more of a curse than anything else. With Hyundai recently ranked as the 8th most valuable car brand in the world, it may have been the right decision after all.
So it's 2007 and the Hyundai Accent has come a long way. No longer associated with a cheap and cheerful image, the Accent has moved up in the world, but not too far. It's a hard car to categorize, it’s a small car, but it’s not really that small, plus Hyundai already have the Getz as a small car. The Accent comes in 3-door hatch and sedan variants.
Prices start at just $15,490 for the 3-door manual hatch and go all the way to $20,490 for the luxury auto sedan.
How it goes
Powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, the Accent manages a respectable 82kW of power and 142Nm of torque. This is enough to get the car going but nothing to brag about. Here is the thing, if you're considering the Accent, do yourself a favour and buy the manual, no, don't whinge, yes it’s a manual, and yes you will have to use the left side of your body, can't drive stick? Learn.
My test model was the automatic sedan and after driving around for a few days I decided to take the manual for a quick spin, the difference? Well it's as if you're in a different car altogether, with 30 more kilowatts! Buy the manual. Not only is it $2,000 cheaper, but it’s the better car.
If you have to go for the auto gearbox, it's not actually too bad, although evidently slow dropping gears, if you're going for the auto, you are not looking for speed.
Both models have a 45 litre fuel tank with the Accent Hatch manual consuming 7 litres of fuel per 100kms (7.3 for the auto) while the manual Accent Sedan uses 6.8 litres /100kms (7.1 Litres /100kms for the auto sedan).
How it handles
This isn't a driver’s car, I'd be happy to buy this as a day to day car, but if you're looking for a car with some soul, looks elsewhere. But if the budget is tight, for the money, it’s hard to look past the Accent as an affordable, reliable, and well packaged vehicle.
The important thing is ride comfort and although it can get a little bouncy on old roads, the Accent doesn't suffer from a harsh ride. Going around roundabouts, there is some noticeable body roll, but that's the price you pay for a soft and comfortable ride.
The point is, if you're buying an Accent, you shouldn't care all to much about how it handles, you won't be driving it hard around bends or taking it up a mountain at reasonable pace, but in case you do, as I did, you would be happy to know that while its not the best handling small car, it does hold its own.
For everyday driving and cornering, the Accent is well above average and certainly provides adequate handling and ride comfort.
Inside the cabin is where you can spot the difference between a current model Hyundai and a Hyundai of the 90s. Once seen as a manufacturer of plastic, cheap and unsafe cars, Hyundai has lifted its game considerably.
Three control knobs armoured by plastic chrome highlight the centre console while the automatic gear stick has a very comfortable, leather feel to it. As for the steering wheel, it's hard to say, although it's nice and all to hold and the volume and CD player buttons are integrated, something just doesn't feel right, it's not the sort of steering wheel I'd like to hold on to for long trips.
As with the Hyundai Tiburon I recently drove, my left leg was rather uncomfortable as it kept hitting the centre console. You really wouldn't fit in this car if you are 6ft or taller. Front seats are easy to get used to, a little hard at first, but at least you actually sit in them, and not on them.
The rear seats actually seemed more comfortable to me than the fronts. You can comfortably fit two adults plus one child in the back.
This is an insanely quite car, remember the Proton Savvy? Remember how I said it could make your ears bleed as you hit 5,000 RPM? This is the exact opposite; the interior noise level from the engine is nearly non-existent.
The stereo is a big let down, the speakers are not too bad, but it's the headunit that ruins the party. For less than $100 you can find a replacement system in your local car audio store that will set things right, thankfully the system is not built in and can be easily removed.
If you value your life, you need to spend the extra $1,500 and buy the SLX version over the S. Not only do you get dual front airbags (standard on the S) but you get side and curtain airbags and ABS with EBD (S misses out on EBD). You would be crazy not to pick the SLX version over the S for safety alone.
ANCAP crash test results for the a 2006 Accent S model variant (same shape) put the score at 9.37 out of 16 in the offset crash test. ANCAP noted the passenger compartment held its shape well, although protection from serious chest injury was marginal for the driver and passenger while the driver had little protection from serious leg injury.
Without side airbags, the side impact result was 10.85 out of 16. Chest protection for the driver was poor.
Invest a little more in your survival chances and buy the SLX version which comes with all the needed safety goodies.
If you're after a reliable medium-small car that will get you from A->B in comfort, for the money, you can't fault the accent.