|1. 2009 Accent GLS comes with 110hp 1.6-liter V6, standard cruise control and six airbags
2. J.D. Power and Associates rated the Accent highest in its class in the 2008 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS).
3. ABS brakes only available in 4-door GLS model with optional package that includes power windows, locks, mirrors and remote keyless entry
The Accent has never really received the respect it deserves. For years now it has been an excellent platform for those who want to get from point A to point B economically. In fact, in 2008 J.D. Power and Associates rated the Accent highest in its class in their Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). This study is far more important than the Initial Quality study as it looks at three-year-old vehicles. Back in 2005, the Accent’s two competitors were the Chevy Aveo and the Scion xA (the predecessor to the xD).
What has made the Accent such a good choice in the past is Hyundai’s commitment to quality – even on such an entry-level vehicle. Make no mistake, the Accent puts the basic in basic transportation, and while you can call it inexpensive (the 4-door GLS model starting at just $12,920) it is certainly not cheap.
Hyundai is able to deliver such a high level of quality for so little money because the company has economized in other areas – namely in the technology of certain aspects of the car. This isn’t necessarily a critique, as there’s no particular reason the technology in a sub-compact car has to be cutting-edge. The old ideas and materials seem to work just fine.
MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD POWER AND FUEL ECONOMY
For starters, the accent GLS comes with an optional 4-speed automatic transmission. Sure a 5-speed would be nice, but every other car in this category comes with a 4-speed. A 5-speed might also improve acceleration and fuel economy, but as it stands fuel economy is very good at 26/35 mpg city/highway and acceleration is decent with a 0-60 mph time of 11 seconds. Besides, owners aren’t buying these cars based on acceleration numbers.
When it comes to performance, the only number people are likely to look at is the horsepower rating, which at 110 ponies is average among the competition – the competition rated at 117hp (Honda Fit), 128hp (Scion xD), 106hp (Toyota Yaris) and 107hp (Chevy Aveo/Pontiac Wave/Suzuki Swift).
Thanks to variable valve timing the 1.6-liter four-cylinder has some pep – maybe even enough to be fun with a manual transmission. The engine is, however, another area where Hyundai uses old technology – namely a cast iron block – to keep manufacturing costs, and therefore retail costs, down.
REAR SUSPENSION GIVES GOOD BACK SEAT ROOM AT EXPENSE OF RIDE QUALITY
The final economical approach by Hyundai is in the suspension where a torsion beam axle has been used. This design is compact, allowing for more interior room, but isn’t as sophisticated as a fully independent suspension. Regardless of this system’s limitations, the Accent handles nicely, thanks to direct steering and the advantage of a light chassis. It’s more fun than, say, a Yaris, but it doesn’t come close to the driving enjoyment of the Fit – although none of the cars in this class really do.
Most drivers really won’t notice it, but the stability and comfort in the rear of the car (particularly when hitting bumps on curvy parts of highway) could be improved significantly with an updated suspension.
SURPRISINGLY HIGH QUALITY (IF BASIC) INTERIOR
Outside and inside the Accent surprises. The exterior, while a passable design, features body-matched side-moldings, door handles and mirrors that make the car look like it costs more than it does. Inside, the dash is actually quite nice – even featuring a two-tone layout on our test car. Some models do get nicer instrumentation than the gray gauges with greenish lighting on our tester, an improvement that could make a big difference in the visual impact of our GLS. As for the HVAC controls, they are well designed, look great and are made of quality materials with a solid feel to them.
Oddly, while there is a massive tachometer on the dash, there is also no engine temperature gauge. What the Accent GLS does get for 2009 is standard cruise control.
The GLS’s interior comes equipped with a leather-coated steering wheel and shifter and our tester featured a $1,150 optional “Popular Equipment” package. This included power windows, mirrors and locks, keyless entry and tilt steering and brought the retail price to a hair over $15,000. For the record, that is less than any similarly equipped vehicle in its class, the closest being the Chevy Aveo for $15,365 and the most expensive being the Toyota Yaris at $16,285 (although the Fit, xD and Rio are priced almost identically.
SIX AIRBAGS AND OPTIONAL ABS
That package also includes ABS with Electronic Brake-Force Distribution. We should, however, point out that ABS isn’t even an available option on the three-door Accent.
Other safety highlights include six airbags including side curtain, driver and passenger front and driver and passenger side airbags. The GLS model even gets tire pressure monitors.
As for the space inside this sub-compact, it is certainly adequate and will be more than enough room for young families.
Since the JD Power survey that we mentioned earlier, the Accent now faces significantly more competition than it did back in 2005 – particularly from big industry players like Toyota and Honda.
Hyundai has, however, been at the sub-compact game in North American a lot longer than those two and while competition is now stiff, the Accent’s quality, reliability, added features and price make it a force to be reckoned with.
Quality interior controls Lowest “well equipped” price in class Best warranty in the business
Rear suspension could use some agility Once best-in-class, the 110hp engine is starting to lag behind Exterior due for a makeover and more style to keep up with new and hip competitors
The Accent GLS is economical and yet doesn’t look or feel cheap. Power is appropriate for the sub-compact class while city fuel economy is slightly below average and highway fuel economy is above average. Also of particular importance to economy car buyers and first time car buyers is warranty coverage and Hyundai has the competition beat with its 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and 5 year/60,00 mile limited warranty.
What the Accent really does offer is a remarkably solid package for the price, with options that you actually want, all the while beating every other manufacturer at the single most important aspect in the sub-compact market – price.