Hyundai lost its hugely successful Getz city car last year with production winding up for the model in January 2011 and supply running out by mid-year. But that didn’t seem to have any knock-on effect when it came to sales in the ever-growing 'light car' segment, which for Hyundai included both the i20 and the all-new Hyundai Accent models.
The South Korean car maker topped the light car segment in Australia for 2011, with unit sales of 23,832 cars and a market share of 18 per cent. It was a good result in which the Hyundai Accent contributed 3,625 units, or 725 per month.
Most manufacturers, even the giants like Toyota and Volkswagen, compete in this highly competitive category with just one model, but Hyundai has the advantage with both Accent and Hyundai i20 playing in the same segment. Still, some might say that each model might cannibalise the other, given they offer a similar buying proposition to the buyer albeit with different size engines and body styles on offer.
In fact, most Hyundai markets either get one model or the other, but Hyundai Motor Company Australia gets access to both the European Product (i20, i30, etc) and the general or North American product (Accent, Elantra etc).
Physically, the Accent hatch looks closer in size to the Hyundai i30, but it’s actually built on an all-new platform and gets Hyundai’s latest styling treatment using the so-called fluidic sculpture design language.
Understandably, it’s a fresher look than the i30, inside and out, with Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille and some distinctive character lines common to models such as the Hyundai ix35, Hyundai i40 and Elantra.
There’s a nice coupe-like profile to the Accent, too, with it’s tapered roof line, perhaps even a little dose of the upcoming Hyundai Veloster in there as well.
Inside, the bigger-than-class-average dimensions ensure there’s plenty of leg and headroom.
The Y-shaped dash with metallic and piano black finishes (standard fit on the Elite and Premium variants) is a particularly nice touch, as is the look and feel of the various plastics used throughout the interior, although the dash is hard rather than soft to the touch.
From a features standpoint, the Accent, like all Hyundai models, is typically well specced. Standout items include the sporty, leather-stitched steering wheel with audio and phone buttons, and the six-speaker (including tweeters) audio system that produces a quality sound, even at medium to high volume.
The cloth seats are comfortably broad, but there’s enough side bolstering to hold you in position. There's also stacks of clever storage compartments, and the 60/40 split fold seats lie virtually flat for easy loading of those longer items. While the rear cargo space isn’t particularly generous, it is however deep enough to handle small boxes and plenty of grocery bags.
All Accents feature the latest 1.6-litre 'Gamma' petrol engine, which produces 91kW and 156Nm. And while it’s not a particularly exhilarating powertrain due to insufficient torque down low, it is a relatively willing and smooth-revving unit. It’s just that you’ll need to use plenty of those revs to get the best out of it.
Hyundai has, however, just introduced a diesel version, the Accent CRDi, that should produce more punch from its 1.6–litre turbo diesel engine with 260Nm of torque.
It’s relatively fuel efficient, too, using just 6.0L/100km officially, but the drawback is its 43-litre fuel capacity, which could mean fairly regular trips to the petrol station.
Mated to the petrol engine is a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed auto is available), which offers a good spread of ratios and is smooth shifting. The diesel version is offered with a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
Hyundai suffered some initial handling and ride issues when they launched the i45 sedan after getting a decent balance with the i30, but are gradually working on improving their models for Australian roads and conditions.
The result for Accent is a respectable ride over rougher surfaces, though dynamically this is another Hyundai that is composed enough but is some way short of providing the satisfying driving experience offered by the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo or Mazda2.
The steering that feels lifeless and uncertain certainly doesn't help.
Safety is well catered for too with a full suite of active and passive safety systems, ensuring a full 5-star ANCAP safety rating. Highlights include vehicle stability management system (VSM), which manages all the active safety systems on board including, electronic stability control, traction control, anti-skid braking system and the motor driven power steering.
And the Accent's level of kit certainly goes some way to making the Hyundai of interest to those in the market for a city car, even if there are a number of better rivals.
It's well styled, offers decent road manners, and the petrol engine is respectably lively and fuel efficient.