First glance: Shades of Hondas past and Opels present
Hyundai jumped right in with both feet. While its first couple efforts were stinkers, it has been producing some fine, very practical automobiles for the last few years automobiles that were snapped up in record numbers by the American car buyer. But successful as some of Hyundais cars have been, with the possible exception of the last Accent 3dr few incited any real passion in the buyer.
This latest Accent 3dr hatch should remedy that. Its got great European lines. It looks a lot like the Opel Corsa, an attractive sub-compact from General Motors of Germany that seems to be everywhere you look in Europe.
In the Driver's Seat: Small shape hides cavernous interior
With the 60/40 split rear seatbacks folded down, theres almost 16 cubic feet of cargo room, which, incidentally, is more even than the Toyota Yaris. I was able to accommodate Guide Aaron Gold and his wife Robin (visiting Vancouver from LA) and their several enormous pieces of luggage with no sweat. The larger part of the rear seatback folded forward in one motion. No need even to remove the headrests. Then after I raised the hatch and tossed in the bags, Robin easily slid into the remaining rear seat.
By the way, access to the back seat is simplicity itself. The spring-loaded front passenger seat folds up and out of the way so that a full size adult can just step in and assume one of the comfortable seats. Theres plenty of room for tall folks and for big ones too. Im just an inch or so under six feet tall and I had at least four inches of headroom. With the front seat moved ahead just the slightest bit, I had another three inches of knee room.
On the Road: Fun to drive, though not much of an image builder
At the risk of offending, oh, I don't know, maybe 80% of our readers, I think this car is eminently suited to drivers who are older and/or female. They are more likely to appreciate the Accent's full complement of standard airbags (all models) and standard antilock brakes (SE only). Young guys obsessing about their cool quotient probably wont like the Accent 3-door all that much; the high seat cushion doesnt really encourage slouching behind the wheel.
The late LJK Setwright, legendary British auto journalist, mused that it's far more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. While the Accents not exactly a slow car, it is, like most modern subcompacts, a real hoot to drive. The tight steering and incredibly stiff body - stiffness is up 39% over the previous generation Accent, which was no bowl of jelly itself - help a lot. The stiff body also provides a ride that promises to be rattle and squeak-free for many, many years.
Journey's End: Colin would buy one (with a stick shift)
I have one minor complaint with the automatic transmission version I tested. The Accents 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine puts out 106 hp and 109 lb-ft of torque, and 4 speeds just aren't enough. When you push even moderately hard on the gas pedal, the transmission has a tendency to drop down a couple of gears, causing the RPMs (and the noise level) to shoot through the roof. A 5-speed automatic or continuously variable transmission (CVT) would be better. Personally, I'd buy the 5-speed manual version which gets better MPG in town and promises to be even more fun to drive.
But the more important point is that yes, I would buy the Accent 3-door. It's roomy, fun to drive, economical, and has a long warranty -- and that's just what we need.