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SEE ALSO: Hyundai Buyer's Guide

The 1995 Accent is the newest Hyundai and it replaces the Excel. The Excel was responsible for Hyundai's early successes and heavily contributed to the company's growth in America. While the Excel was pretty much a bare-bones sub-compact econobox, the all-new Accent is a well-equipped entry-level automobile with wide appeal. It took five years to develop the Accent, and as it is a complete departure from the Excel, it required a new name. As a clean-sheet design, it required a lot of manufacturing changes in its production and assembly procedures and techniques. While the new 1.5 liter Alpha engine has the same displacement as its Mitsubishi-designed predecessor, it now has a single overhead cam, 3-valves per cylinder (two intake, one exhaust), multiport fuel injection, and distributor-less ignition. It is manufactured by Hyundai in Korea. The Accent also boasts a new chassis and suspension, as well as new steering and brakes. It incorporates the 1997 U.S. Federal safety requirements. A new 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission is available, as are four- channel anti-lock brakes. The Accent really is a new car from the wheels up.

Hyundai is certainly better known today than it was almost ten years ago when it made its entrance into the American automotive market with its then hot-selling Excel. The company had its ups and downs over the years. In the early nineties Hyundai decided it was in America to stay, and built new engine and assembly plants in Korea, as well as new car and parts storage and distribution facilities in the United States.

APPEARANCE: The all-new Accent 3-door sedan features rounded styling both outside and inside. It is slightly wedge-shaped from its low rounded nose to its super-short rear hatch, and the wheels and tires are set-off by ABS plastic wheel covers. Its smooth monochrome exterior styling is accented by plastic-coated body-colored front and rear bumpers, and black trim around all windows. The Accent has wide front doors for easy access, and side rub-strip for body protection.

COMFORT: For a subcompact model, the Accent 3-door is fairly roomy for four adults. Its front seats are contoured, while the rear bench seat folds forward when extra luggage space in needed. Almost all of the interior trim and accessories are rounded. Seats, windows, side mirrors and locks are manually adjustable. The trunk and fuel door have remote release handles. The basic Accent is well equipped and only air conditioning, AM/FM stereo, tinted glass and power steering are optional. The climate control system is quite efficient and quiet, while the AM/FM radio is effective around town, and pulls in distant stations as well.

SAFETY: Being a completely new model, the Accent is equipped with all of the government required safety features up through 1997. These include a new side-impact structure that uses a dual beam system and front and rear crumple zones. Additionally, there are dual air bags, and 5-mph bumpers. Four-channel antilock brakes are optional.

ROADABILITY: Several items contribute to the new Accent's smoother ride and more precise handling. Its chassis is longer, stronger and stiffer than its predecessor. Each outer side body panel is made from one piece of steel to increase strength and reduce noise and vibration. Improved handling and maneuvering are accomplished by the new fully-independent suspension layout. The rack-and- pinion steering is tied to a speed-sensitive power assist unit that provides more power when parking or driving at slow speeds, and less power and more road feel at higher speeds.

PERFORMANCE: The Accent's new 1.5 liter, four-cylinder, single overhead cam, 12-valve engine is rated at 92 horsepower, a 14 percent increase over that of the Excel, and its EPA highway mileage averages are higher too; 36 vs. 32, an increase of 12 percent. The new low-maintenance engine is equipped with distributorless ignition, self-adjusting valves, multiport, sequential fuel injection and an improved four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The transmission has a normal and economy setting, as well as an overdrive lockout button. With the increase in power and other engine and transmission improvements, the new Accent is a car that is worth a second look, especially as a second car or a car for around-town use.

CONCLUSION: With its new Accent, Hyundai is ready to be fully competitive in the subcompact car market. It has come a long way in structure, comfort and handling in the past ten years, and may even interest buyers in the compact auto market.