2006 Hyundai Accent GLS Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS 4-Door

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Hyundai

There is an unfortunate tendency for successful automakers, especially those with humble beginnings, to forget their past. All too often, those who started life by using inexpensive subcompacts as their initial stepping stone to success abandon the entry-level market once they become established at a higher level. Not Hyundai.

The Korean manufacturer has come a long way in the two decades it's been selling cars in this country. Once it was the purveyor only of low-budget entry-level subcompact sedans. Today's Hyundai lineup includes the upper-middle class Azera sedan, the popular Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs, and the quick Tiburon sports coupe. All of those cars are considerably farther up the socioeconomic scale from Hyundai's humble beginnings, but there is still a Hyundai for people with small budgets. That is the Accent, an inexpensive and economical subcompact sedan. The Accent is not exactly an afterthought in the Hyundai lineup, either, as the newest generation debuts for model year 2006.

The third-generation Accent shows how far ``entry level'' has come over the years. It's larger than before, especially inside, where it can hold four people reasonably well, yet it's still small enough for easy parking. Power is from a new 1.6-liter, 110-horsepower twincam four-cylinder engine with continuously-variable valve timing. Safety equipment is comprehensive, and much greater than expected in the entry-level class, with four-wheel antilock disc brakes and six airbags as standard equipment. The 2006 Accent four-door sedan has recently been joined by a two-door version, an early-release 2007 model.

I've been driving an `06 four-door Accent for the past week. With the "Premium-Sport Package" upgrade, it's a pleasant and well-equipped small car with enough space and comfort to be more than merely a commute appliance. Even with an automatic transmission, it has enough power to hold its own in traffic and on the highway, and in comfort, fit and finish, and refinement it's equal to the best in its class. If it's not the sort of car to inspire passion, it is practical and economical, a transportation appliance in the best meaning of the term.

APPEARANCE: Don't look for sleek, sporty styling here. In common with most of the other current subcompacts, maximization of the passenger cabin in both length and height and a short hood and trunk gives the Accent four-door sedan chunky proportions. Think of a puppy that hasn't grown into its head and feet. The wheelbase has grown 2.3 inches, but overall length is only up by 1.8 inches. Height has grown by three inches. The wheels are positioned close to the corners, and are larger than most in the class, with standard 14-inch and optional fifteens. A simple chrome-accented grille, large faired-in headlights, and body-color door handles, mirrors, and protective side molding help to give it a more upscale appearance, and huge taillights distinguish it from the rear.

COMFORT: The Accent's large passenger cabin pays off for passengers. There is more interior room than in some cars a class higher. A two-tone dark-over-light color scheme mimics that of luxury cars, and both tight tolerances in fit and finish and improved fonts on the controls improve the interior experience, as does full and well-designed instrumentation. Front seat comfort is good, and the high roofline allows an upright seating position with a high eyepoint for both front and rear passengers. The driver's seat adjusts, manually, eight different ways. Rear seat head and legroom are better than expected, with width the limiting factor for three-passenger comfort. It folds with a 60/40 split for cargo convenience. Cabin air filtration, a rear-window defroster, twin 12-volt power outlets, and an AM/FM/CD audio system are standard, with air conditioning and power windows, mirrors, and door locks with remote entry part of the Premium-Sport Package. Despite the small rear deck, the trunk is large enough for the Accent's mission in life.

SAFETY: There is no reason for an inexpensive car to be less well-equipped for safety than an expensive one. So the Accent protects its occupants with a full suite of standard active and passive safety features. Four-wheel, four-channel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution ensure quick stops to avoid an accident. Five mile per hour bumpers help reduce the cost of low-speed incidents. If a crash occurs, passengers are protected by a safety cage around the passenger compartment, aided by front and rear crumple zones and side reinforcement. All seating positions have three-point safety belts and adjustable headrests. There are six airbags, dual front, front seat side, and full-length side curtain.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Structurally, the new Accent's increased rigidity not only improves its crashworthiness, it also improves its ride and handling. Although of typical layout for a small sedan, with its engine mounted transversely and driving the front wheels, independent front suspension by MacPherson struts, and a semi-independent torsion bad rear suspension, the Accent is well-executed and more refined than earlier small Hyundais. The suspension calibration is fairly soft but a front stabilizer bar reduces body roll and well-matched spring and shock rates ensure good comfort and compliance over poor surfaces and good handling. Engine-speed sensitive power steering allows light steering when parking and a more solid, stable response on the highway or at speed on a secondary road.

PERFORMANCE: The newest version of Hyundai's 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is an incremental improvement over its predecessor. The 16-valve twin cam unit now has continuously-variable cam phasing on its exhaust cam for improved efficiency and high-rpm power and reduced emissions. Horsepower is up about six percent, to 110 at 6000 rpm, with torque 106 lb-ft at 4500 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a four-speed automatic available. My test car had the automatic. The engine has enough low- and mid-range torque to work very well with the automatic around town and even while merging in to fast highway traffic, although it runs out of power above 70 mph or so. The Accent is not a sports car, so this shouldn't be a major problem. EPA mileage is 28 mpg city, 36mpg highway; in mixed but mostly city driving I averaged just over 28.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2006 Hyundai Accent is inexpensive, economical, and comfortable.

SPECIFICATIONS

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS 4-Door

Base Price $ 13,305 Price As Tested $ 14,870 Engine Type dual overhead cam 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with continuously-variable valve timing Engine Size 1.6 liters / 97 cu. in. Horsepower 110 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 106 @ 4500 rpm Transmission 4-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 98.4 in. / 168.5 in. Curb Weight 2403 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 21.8 Fuel Capacity 11.9 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P195/55 VR15 Kumho Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS and EBD standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / semi-independent torsion beam axle Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 28 /36 / 28 0 to 60 mph est 11 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Premium-Sport Package - includes: air conditioning, power heated mirrors, power door locks, remote keyless entry with alarm and panic alert, 15-inch alloy wheels with P195/55R-15 tires $ 1,500 Carpeted floor mats $ 65 Destination charge $ included

Complete specifications on the 2006 Hyundai Accent GLS and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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