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Edition: Nov. 23, 2005 by TCC Team (11/22/2005)
Hyundai Santa Fe pics and Azera prices, Ford calls on Washington.
Though the showroom around it may be changing, with the addition of Azeras and Santa Fes and even a coming minivan, Hyundai’s Accent still matters. It’s been the South Korean company’s keynote vehicle since the brand pulled out of a post-Excel swan dive in the early ’90s. Always inexpensive and decently engineered, the Accent has given plenty of shoppers a reason to turn up their nose at used vehicles and turn over their paychecks to Hyundai. It’s also become the subject of endless cases on Judge Mathis, but that’s just a little too revealing of our work habits now, isn’t it?
2001 GMC Yukon XLEnlarge Photo
Now it’s time for the Accent’s third act. And while America can’t seem to decide if it needs smaller cars for geopolitical survival, or if it can still get away with titanic SUVs, the Accent willingly soldiers on, more capable and charming than it’s ever been, ready to play its part no matter what the global drama du jour might be.
Notice that fancy French accent? We chose it because it’s apropos of this car. This time around, the Accent comes in two body styles, but the first to launch is the classy-looking four-door, available only in GLS trim. And while you might not know about the dramatic change in Hyundai’s image — courtesy J.D. Power and Consumer Reports studies — Hyundai’s willing to bet you’ll be interested in a more smartly-styled, dare we say more worldly, Accent nonetheless.
Early next year, there’ll be a three-door model to stare at. But more about that in the spring.
Product of a broken home
We’ll tell you this in confidence: the Accent comes from a broken home. It’s a near-identical twin to the Kia Rio we showed you earlier this year, but Hyundai doggedly refuses to acknowledge the kinship even in its press materials. Kia’s latched onto the cheap-and-cheerful premise, while Hyundai is pushing the Accent as the grown-up, completely unrelated version.
And it’s true: the Accent flaunts its sleek new haunches, body-color trim and chrome-like details with real confidence — not the kind managed by guys with fresh hair plugs or women with aftermarket chest parts. There’s a little Passat in there, and some unexpected Mazda too, all good things for a car that formerly crowed most about its sub-$10,000 pricetag.
1999 Honda Accord CoupeEnlarge Photo
And my, how it’s grown! The Accent’s up 2.3 inches in wheelbase and nearly two inches in overall length. Taller and wider too, it’s readily observed where the extra room’s gone: just plant your Nikes under the driver’s seat and you’ll see there’s actually a smidge of rear leg room for adults in back. And while no one actually expects adults to ride back there, it’s nice to know that passing on the used LeSabre at the used-car lot made good physical as well as financial sense. Car seats are no problem, and are probably the highest hurdle faced by this entire class of car. In a pinch, the trunk’s bigger by a third.
The growl inside
No matter which transmission you choose — amply accurate five-speed manual with Tinkerbell-light clutch, or merely adequate four-speed automatic — the Accent’s 1.6-liter four won’t leave you with feelings of utter inadequacy. It’s smooth enough to remind you of a food processor at lower revs, but like Mariah Carey its higher reaches are best left to clinicians and die-hard enthusiasts. The 110-hp four spins freely, though, and you’ll never feel outgunned by Elantras and other econo-ilk. Side note: in stuff that’s funny only if you read press kits for a hobby, the identical powertrain in the Kia Rio has exactly one pound-foot more torque and gets one more mile per gallon in automatic city fuel economy. So if you’re a total number freak, steer to the other side of this dysfunctional Korean family.
2001 GMC Yukon XL DenaliEnlarge Photo
Hyundai’s banished the tugboat steering from the last Accent in favor of a standard power-assisted rack that’s sharp enough to use on your SATs. Its feel blends neatly with the response from the simple, effective McPherson front struts and torsion-beam rear end. Yes, you will bottom out on mid-size speed bumps, and big potholes will make the Accent shudder like a flight attendant who finds out she’s working an English soccer-hooligan charter flight. You’ll forget about it every time you pass $2 or $3 a gallon gas, I promise.
comes to outfitting the Accent for battle, Hyundai’s done the smart thing and
put in as many airbags as bigger, pricier competition. Front, side, and curtain
airbags are standard, and while they’re optional on the
Ante up to the Premium-Sport Package and you’ll get air conditioning, power windows and locks, keyless entry, and 15-inch alloys. But in a way, high-zoot options detract from the Accent’s purity of purpose. Same as it ever was, the Accent is about keeping it real — and keeping it real cheap.
2006 Hyundai Accent
Base price: $10,000 (est.)
Engine: 1.6-liter in-line four, 110 hp/106 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 168.5 x 66.7 x 57.9 inches
Wheelbase: 98.4 inches
Curb weight: 2366–2403 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 32/35 mpg (manual); 28/38 mpg (auto)
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, side and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes
Major standard equipment: Eight-way driver seat; rear defroster; intermittent wipers; P185/65HR-14 tires; power steering; AM/FM/CD player
Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles