2006 Hyundai Accent Review
A Cute Little Thing
By Steve Purdy
Automotively speaking the Japanese began eating our lunch 30 years ago by producing economical, dependable practical cars – better than US products at the time. Now the Koreans, in the US market for about 20 years, are beginning to eat everyone’s lunch, with well-designed, well-built cars featuring lots of content for the price. We usually refer to that as “value.” Watch out! Soon the Chinese will be eating everyone’s lunch and supper. And perhaps after that it will be the Indians. Just goes to show what a fast-paced world market the auto business has become.
In the meantime we have a little Hyundai Accent to evaluate. It’s a cute little compact 4-door sedan, I must say. Having just spent a week with a Civic Si the transition was a bit of a shock – from a fast, flashy, quick little sporty coupe to a tepid but competent little economy car. I just need to remember what our Accent is meant to be, that is, a small entry-level sedan meant to maximize efficiency and economy, which, of course, means minimizing cost. The sticker on our Accent GLS 4-door shows a base price of $13,305. A Premium-Sport Package adds $1,500 to the sticker and carpeted floor mats add another $65. No charge for freight, handling or delivery. The total is $14,870.
Speaking of content – let’s take a look at what we get for less than 15-grand: a state of the art dual-overhead-cam, 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing, 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive lockout (five-speed manual is standard but I don’t see any sign of an extra cost for the automatic), six airbags, 4-channel ABS with electronic brake force distribution, tilt steering column, 172-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with 6 speakers, and 60/40 split folding rear seats. The Premium-Sport package adds AC with cabin air filter, power windows, power heated mirrors, power door locks, remote keyless entry with alarm and panic mode, and 15-inch alloy wheels with 55-series tires. Pretty good content for an entry-level econo-box.
And, it’s really cute. This third-generation Accent is short and stubby, high and rounded with wheels nicely positioned out to the corners of the body. The idea, for sure, is to maximize interior room and effectuate the best possible handling. Climb in or pop the lid on the 12.4 cu.ft. trunk and you’ll be surprised at the volume inside this small package. I had rear seat passengers often this week and heard no complaints from back there – though I did notice that with rear seat passengers the ride became considerably bouncier. The trunk swallowed all that I asked and looks as if it could accommodate plenty of cargo.
Our test car is a sparkling sand beige metallic with beige cloth interior. The paint job is quite good with just a hint of orange peel – no more, in fact, than we have found on cars costing three times as much. Quality of materials and workmanship both inside and out are good. The two-tone interior is both pleasant to look at and comfortable to spend time in, and the controls are convenient and intuitive. My longest drive was about two hours and it was pleasant and easy.
One of the ways the Korean manufacturers chose to establish themselves as legitimate, quality purveyors of automobiles was to warranty them longer than anyone else. After all, how can a manufacturer back the car to this extent if it’s really shoddy? A great decision I’d say. The new vehicle warranty covers the whole car for 5-years/ 60,000-miles and the powertrain for 10-years/100,000-miles. Rust-through is covered for 7-years/unlimited-miles.
That little transverse front engine is pretty buzzy at higher rpms. Punch it to pass slower traffic (if you can find any) on the two-lanes and you’ll feel like you’re abusing the poor thing. Power is adequate, though, with 110-hp and 106-lb.ft. of torque. But remember this car is designed to be economical. It weighs just 2400-pounds. The EPA estimates the mileage to be 28-city/36-highway. With an 11.9-gallon capacity you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven filling this little tank. We achieved 33.5 mpg on our first tank.
Handling is OK, too. Nothing special. But it does feel better than purely an entry-level car. McPherson struts with coil springs in front and torsion beam axle with coil springs in the rear, four-wheel disc brakes, rpm sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering make it feel modern and stable. Upon first driving the Accent I was surprised by a tendency to lurch around at high speeds on the freeway but later in the week that sense went away. Was that just because I’d just come off a week with performance coupe? Perhaps. This is not the kind of car to push hard anyway. I wouldn’t want to try outrunning an assassin with the Accent but as a daily driver it would be easy to live with.
There was a time not many years ago that this class of car would be notoriously timid in traffic, uncomfortable to drive and not very durable. Not any more. The economy-minded consumer could buy this car as a daily commuter car, even for a substantial commute, and be perfectly content. That is to say, after a week living with the Accent I think it’s a great little car.
© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved