The Hyundai Accent is roomy, comfortable, well-appointed and practical. Beyond those qualities, it is also commendably fuel-efficient and offered at a very attractive price. For the buyer looking for a strong value for the money in an economical small car, it would be hard to beat the Accent.
Power for the Accent comes from a clean and sophisticated 1.6-liter double overhead-cam engine, featuring variable valve timing and delivering 110 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque; it is available with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Perhaps more important, the Accent offers EPA-rated fuel economy numbers of 28 mpg City/34 mpg Highway with the manual transmission, and 27/36 mpg with the automatic.
At the same time, the Accent offers a generous list of safety features. Six airbags (front, seat-mounted side-impact, and side-curtain) are standard on all models; antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are optional on the sedan and standard on the sporty SE coupe. The Accent is one of the least expensive cars on the market with these important safety features.
For 2010, Hyundai Accent offers some worthwhile changes and enhancements. All 2010 models have notably improved fuel economy. A new Blue edition, offering a lower price and even better fuel economy, is added to the line. Standard equipment now includes iPod/USB ports and blue backlit gauges; and steering-wheel audio controls, cruise control and sunroof on the SE trim level. There is also the availability of steering-wheel audio controls on the GLS and ABS on the GS.
We think people in the market for a small, practical, and thrifty car should consider the Hyundai Accent alongside the best from the Japanese name brands. A generous five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty with roadside assistance and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty make the Accent a particularly good deal for anyone who does not want to buy a used car and intends to keep the vehicle for an extended period of time.
Far from cheap or plain, the Hyundai Accent looks elegant and substantial. The look starts at the front with integrated bumpers and large aerodynamic headlight enclosures that wrap around the front fenders. The Accent has a high roofline defined on either side by rain channels, while the windshield blends into the front of the roof without any visible trim. A sharp character line originates just behind the front wheel opening and slashes boldly across the doors, fading again just short of the taillights.
The back of the sedan roof sweeps toward the trailing edge of the trunk lid, giving it almost a coupe-like appearance. Unlike many modern cars, the Accent has a generous greenhouse with big windows; blacked-out trim both defines and unifies the side-window opening. This, coupled with a long wheelbase and relatively short overhangs, makes the sedan appear a tad bigger than it actually is.
The Accent coupe has a look all its own, though it shares its front fenders and defining character line with the sedan. The differences begin with a more aggressive two-slot air opening that replaces the sedan's fine-lined horizontal grille, and ends with a rounded tail that takes the tentative reverse curve at the base of the sedan's roof, boldly widens it, and fuses it with the horizontally curving quarter panel. The two-door Accent is unashamedly a hatchback, and makes no pretense to a separate trunk lid.
Not surprisingly, then, the coupe is as tall and wide as the sedan, and shares the sedan's 98.4-inch wheelbase, but at 159.3 inches overall it dispenses with a significant 9.2 inches of the sedan's rear overhang. The result is a short profile that looks like it should cost more than it does.
On both the coupe and sedan, a roof-mounted micro-antenna is aerodynamic, flexible, and said to improve signal strength.
One of the things we like best about the Accent is its interior. It has big windows that provide a great view which, from the driver's seat, is a commanding perspective. Accent cabins feature a conservative two-tone color scheme reminiscent of larger cars, and are trimmed out quite nicely, helping avoid the feeling of an econobox.
The dashboard wraps around to the door panels, and the center stack is nicely integrated, with large, well-positioned climate control knobs. The big speedometer and tachometer are located in a nicely contoured instrument pod in front of the steering wheel. Smaller fuel and coolant temperature gauges are set inside, along with a small LCD readout for the odometer and trip meter as well as gear-selection indicator for automatics.
The seats are contoured and finished in a classy cloth material that feels high quality. The driver's seat is six-way adjustable on all models.
We noticed several nice touches that kept our test sedan from feeling like a cheap econobox. Among them: Dampened grab handles, a thick roof lining, center folding front and rear armrests, a tilt steering wheel, a micro roof-mounted antenna, driver and passenger side-illuminated vanity mirrors, cabin air filtration, remote trunk and fuel cap releases, and a windshield shade band. There are decent-size pockets with a cupholder in each door. In addition, there are other storage places and a big glovebox.
The rear seat splits 60/40 for additional storage capacity. For better rearward visibility, the three rear-seat headrests slide down into the seatback when not needed. A fold-out center armrest with two cupholders is provided for rear-seat passengers.
Rear-seat legroom and headroom is not too bad unless the car is full of six-footers. Getting into the back seats is made easier by locating the rear wheels farther back, so the wheelwell does not intrude into the sedan's door opening as much.
Compared to the sedan, the coupe surrenders less than a half-inch of hip room up front, and less than an inch in the rear; otherwise its passenger-comfort dimensions are identical to those of the sedan.
Trunk volume in the sedan is a very respectable 12.4 cubic feet. Despite its shorter length, the hatchback coupe expands this to 15.9 cubic feet with the rear seats in place. Folding the back seats flat in either car greatly increases the total cargo volume and makes room for long and bulky items.
Nobody buying a Hyundai Accent will expect sizzling performance, yet the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is surprisingly snappy, even with the automatic transmission. An Accent GLS automatic has no problem keeping up with traffic as long as you stomp on the gas pedal, and it's more than happy cruising at speed on the freeway. We have not had a chance to check out an Accent with a manual transmission but expect it to be more fun to drive.
Hyundai's 1.6-liter four-cylinder is a modern, sophisticated engine with dual overhead camshafts and continuously variable valve timing. This DOHC/CVVT combination helps give the engine a broad power band with high fuel efficiency and low emissions. The engine produces 110 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 106 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm.
The EPA's City/Highway fuel economy ratings are 28/34 mpg for the manual, and 27/36 mpg for the automatic or for the Blue model, which is available only with the manual. The automatic does slightly better than the manual on the highway because its overall top gear ratio is numerically lower. In exchange, the stick-shift Accent should deliver snappier throttle response from cruising speeds. The Blue edition achieves its fuel economy rating by virtue of different gear ratios than the other manual-transmission Accents.
The sedan's ride is on the soft side. The power assisted rack-and-pinion steering provides reasonable feedback and the handling proved to be acceptable on some winding mountain roads near San Diego. Overall, the driving characteristics and performance make this a commuter car rather than a long distance cruiser.
The SE coupe is more stiffly sprung than the GS coupe or GLS sedan, and its front anti-roll bar is beefed up to 24 mm, versus the 21mm bar on the GS and GLS. And the SE's tires have stiffer sidewalls and wider treads, which makes for a firmer ride but more responsive handling. The SE's suspension makes it more resistant to body roll so it leans less in corners than the other models.
Four-channel, four-sensor ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) is available on some models. ABS allows the driver to maintain steering control in an emergency braking situation by preventing wheel lockup. EBD improves stability in hard braking situations by balancing brake force front to rear.
The Hyundai Accent is a competent subcompact car that's big inside and sprightly underway. It includes an impressive array of standard safety features and is certainly worthy of being considered alongside more expensive models from other manufacturers. The hatchback coupe adds a strong dose of sporty styling, plus more cargo-hauling versatility, with no significant loss of passenger space. It's available at a very attractive price, has a terrific warranty, and delivers exceptional fuel economy.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent John Rettie filed this report from San Diego.