First Glance: Value never looked so good
Initially only available as a 4-door sedan (a 3-door hatch arrives later) the Hyundai Accent has become what Honda's Civic used to be before it grew in size and price. Everyone's favorite in the economy car category, the Civic looked good, was well-built and best of all, fun to drive. Just ask the kids who turn used Civics into sports compacts. The new Accent takes over where the Civic left off and that, I assure you, is one heck of a compliment.
Compared to the previous model the 2006 Accent offers more interior roominess and remarkably large trunk space thanks to a taller stance. No longer the awkward-looking little appliance it once was, the new Accent has a handsome, rounded profile featuring a roofline that sweeps from hood to trunk in one long curve. Head and taillights make a statement of their own: they're huge.
In the Driver's Seat: Sense and sensibility
Sightlines - what you can see outside when seated - are excellent all-round, making for a safer, more relaxed journey. The high roof provides easy access and means tall people fit comfortably. Seats adjust manually with the use of knurled knobs and a seatback lever and while I, personally, can live with manual seats, the knobs and lever are placed too far back. Better set 'em and forget 'em. Power windows, mirrors, remote door lock, are standard. Rear seat access is not easy because of the door-line but passengers won't be cramped and they'll appreciate sitting higher than those in front. The trunk is deep and lengthy.
On the Road: Lively but a bit noisy
Our tester came with a 4-speed automatic which is more than ample for most folk, however I'll be eager to try the 5-speed manual, especially when the 3-door GSi comes along in 2006.
The 4-speed automatic is EPA-rated at 28/36 mpg, while the 5-speed rates 32/35 mpg. Note the anomoly: the automatic has better fuel mileage on the highway. Don't ask. You won't be breaking any economy records but you won't be breaking your bank account buying gas, either. Remarkably for its price, the Accent has a sophisticated 4-wheel-independent suspension system. Combine this with a wider track, longer wheelbase and larger wheels and tires than its forebears, and you have a small sedan that handles in a sporting manner while still delivering a smooth ride.
Journey's End: Here comes the "V" word again...
I guess by now you're realising I have nothing but praise for the new Accent. It is ideally suited to today's economics, particularly fuel costs, and offers what most drivers - make that most families with two children - need. The interior is roomy, the trunk spacious, the ride comfortable and normally quiet. Those who like to add a little "spirit" to their driving needn't be disappointed, which I can attest to after tossing the Accent around a deserted parking lot, the roads north of Toronto being too straight for a west-coaster. Complaints were few, praise plentiful. Yep, that's value.