By Jim Bray
What do you do to make a good value even better? Add a hatch, if youre
Hyundai updating its popular entry level Accent.
When I test drove previous models of the Accent I thought they were nice vehicles
that would make a very good first car for someone just getting into the market,
or a nice second car for someone who wants a decent commuter vehicle thatll
get the job done without making a fuss or breaking the bank. It would also
work well for folk who tow a little car behind their behemoth RVs to
use for running around once theyve set up shop in an RV park.
For 2005, Hyundai has sweetened the deal with its Accent 5, a four door plus
hatchback version of the car previously available in only 3 and 4 door configurations.
Or, as it is so often called these days, a five door, though climbing in through
the hatch would be a bit silly.
The Accent is a straightforward front wheel drive economy car, offering basic
transportation that wont make its owners suffer for their buying decision.
It isnt easy to make an entry level car thats still reasonably
fun to drive, or that offers enough power, or that doesnt transmit howls
of wind noise on the road (or, due to a lack of sound deadening material, noise
in general). This is why, if given a choice and if it fits into their budget,
most people would undoubtedly choose a Lexus over a Lada.
The Accent manages to walk that fine line quite well. It wont push
you back into the seat with gobs of torque, it wont coddle you with massaging
seats or thrill you with a kick-butt audio system, but thats not what
one expects in a car of this ilk.
For 2005, all Accent models come with a buzzy 1.6L DOHC engine putting out
104 horses @ 5800 rpm and 106 ft-lbs torque @ 3000 rpm as standard issue. These
specs look pretty anemic, but in practice I had no trouble getting the Accent
up to highway speeds and it kept up with traffic just fine. Its no rocket
sled, but what do you want for the price?
A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, which is what my tester 5 door
had, and a 4-speed automatic tranny is available as an option.
Most of my time with the Accent 5 was spent in harsh winter conditions, doing
city driving. And the Accent performed just fine, though it takes a while to
warm up when its minus 20 Celsius outside (not as long as I do, though!)
and if you have more than two people in it it tends to fog up a tad if you
dont keep the defoggers running at all times. But our familys 92
Corolla is like that, too, and the Accent is a much nicer car than our old
Toyota, though of course it isnt really fair to compare a new car with
one thats 13 years old.
The Accent always started on the first try, too, regardless of how cold it
was, even after having sat idle for a couple of days. It didnt like it
much, but I cant blame it a whit; I didnt like being out in that
I managed to take the Accent on one highway trip and, other than the usual
complaints from this class of vehicle that its relatively noisy at highway
speeds and prone to crosswinds, it felt safe and comfortable and I cruised
along at a steady 120-130 Km/h with no fuss.
The independent suspension has MacPherson struts up front (Multi-link in the
rear), and you get stabilizer bars at both ends. Brakes are ventilated discs
up front and drums in the rear. Theres no ABS and/or traction control
Steering is power assisted rack and pinion and it feels pretty good for an
inexpensive car. The Accent generally goes where you point it and handles curves
quite well, though of course its no sports car.
My test unit came with what they call a comfort package which
includes air conditioning, keyless entry and security alarm, along with power
windows and power adjustable, heated outside mirrors. Given the choice between
those creature comforts and ABS/Traction control, Id opt for the comfort
in this case, since the front wheel drive/manual transmission Accent does just
fine on slippery roads anyway if you have any driving skills whatsoever.
Seat and steering wheel (tilt) adjustments are manual, and its easy
to find a comfortable driving position, though I could never find one that
was just perfect probably because the left foot rest is a little close
due to the small overall size of the vehicle and the location of the front
wheel well. But Ive experienced worse.
Seating is comfortable though snug for four, with adequate legroom and headroom
in the rear for those who arent too large. The driver and front seat
passenger get airbags, and other safety features include seatbelts with pretensioners:
3 point seat belts with height adjusters (which I find really handy) up front.
The rear seat splits 60/40 and folds down for extra storage space. All the
seats are cloth upholstered and quite handsome considering the entry level
status of the car. The insert design is repeated on the doors and is a nice,
The audio system is an AM/FM/CD/MP3 single disc player with four speakers.
It sounds okay with radio, but is a tad anemic when it comes to CDs.
Ergonomically its head and shoulders better than the tiny-buttoned thingy
in previous years Accents, though.
There are plenty of storage spaces, including door pockets, a reasonably
sized glove compartment, and dual retractable (though small) cup holders up
front. And since this versions a hatchback, you can haul a surprising
amount of stuff.
One quibble I had was the positioning of the rear window wiper, which sits
upright over the window rather than parking at the bottom, out of the way.
It was in the way when I was forced to sweep snow off the rear window, though
other than that it worked well and I was glad to see it included in the first
Hyundais brochure for the Accent says it offers worry free driving
for years to come, and thats probably true for the most part. The
company offers an excellent warranty and though I only had it for a week it
seems like a well put together vehicle.
Except that, in the interests of journalistic honesty (I know, thats
often an oxymoron) I must recount a problem I had with the Accent that was
serious enough to freak me out.
One night when I was sallying forth to visit a friend the cars lights
suddenly went out headlights and tail lights and instrument panel lights leaving
me completely in the dark other than for street lights, and leaving the Accent
nearly invisible to other drivers. The problem seemed intermittent, because
Id been driving the car for nearly a week when it first reared its ugly
head. Later, when I was ready to drive home again, the lights came on as they
should, only to fail again about a mile down the road. I could get them to
flicker back to life if I yanked and twisted on the control stalk, but they
wouldnt stay on.
It seemed like a loose connection in the stalk and would undoubtedly be fixed
quickly and relatively painlessly under warranty, but it was a pretty dangerous
fault to rear its ugly head! And it must have been as embarrassing as heck
for Hyundai since it happened to a pundit during a review!
Im confident that this problem was the exception rather than the rule,
since my experience with Hyundais has been much better than this incident would
indicate, but I would be remiss not to mention it.
My tester lists for just under $16,000 Canadian, which seems like a reasonable
price considering everything you get.