Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2008 Hyundai Accent

North Vancouver, British Columbia – You gotta admit, the Hyundai Accent GL Sport pictured here is a very stylish little hatchback for under $18,000. That seems like a pretty decent price for a sporty hatch with 110 horsepower, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, air conditioning, sunroof, power windows, remote door locks, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a standard five-year warranty.

It’s not until you take a closer look at this small, Korean-built subcompact hatch that you realize that something is missing – notably, the rear doors. While most of the Accent’s subcompact competitors, including its Kia Rio5 cousin, have four doors, the Accent hatchback is only available as a two-door. This leaves the Accent at a bit of a disadvantage for those buyers who want easy access to the rear seats. The Accent sedan is available with four doors, but that doesn’t help Accent buyers who want the convenience of a hatchback.

Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport. Click image to enlarge

As well, the 2008 Accent hatchback lacks some safety features which are standard or optional on many of its competitors: anti-lock brakes and side and curtain airbags. These features were available on the 2007 Accent GS Premium hatchback, but that model has been discontinued for 2008. ABS and side and curtain airbags are still available on the 2008 Accent GLS sedan, but not on the hatchback. It seems odd that Hyundai cannot make these features at least optional on the 2008 hatchback especially as they are available on the sedan.


Pricing and standard equipment

The 2008 Hyundai Accent model range starts with the L hatchback ($13,595) which has the 110-hp 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing, five-speed manual transmission, anti-theft immobilizer, power rack and pinion steering, 14-inch tires and steel wheels, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers and auxiliary jack, driver and passenger front airbags, manual side mirrors, rear wiper and washer, and roof spoiler. For pure economical transportation at the lowest price, this is the one to have.

Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport. Click image to enlarge

The mid-level Accent GL hatchback ($15,295) adds air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry/alarm system, power mirrors, seatbelt pre-tensioners, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, and rear centre armrest with cupholders. This would be the most popular Accent model.

The top-of-the-line sporty GL Sport hatch ($16,495) adds 16-inch alloys and tires, sport tuned suspension, fog lights, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, two tweeters, and power glass sunroof. This is the Accent for those looking for a sporty image, but it’s too bad the performance-oriented SR model is not offered this year.

The only major option available on all trim levels is a four-speed automatic transmission for $1,000. A block heater can be ordered as a $208 option.

My test car was a bright red GL Sport with the optional automatic transmission. With Freight and A/C tax, the total as-tested price came to $18,940.


Interior impressions

With its long doors and door openings, front seat access is easy and even rear passengers can get in and out of the Accent’s back seat without dislocating their vertebrae.

Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport. Click image to enlarge

The right front seat slides forward when the seatback is lowered, providing access to the rear seats, but unfortunately it doesn’t slide back to the original position when the seatback is raised. Though there are three rear seatbelts and three height adjustable head restraints in the rear, the Accent is really only wide enough for two adult passengers. Rear footroom and headroom is okay, but most adults will find that they need to move the front seats forwards by about two inches in order to have enough kneeroom.

The Accent GL Sport’s seats are covered in a sturdy fabric with attractive speckled seat inserts. The driver’s seat cushion is height-adjustable front and back via two dials on the side of the cushion, and the steering wheel tilts but doesn’t telescope. A folding armrest on the right side of the driver’s seat provides a comfortable resting place for the right arm on long drives. I found the driving position quite comfortable and outward vision very good. So as not to hinder rear vision, the three rear head restraints are designed to lie almost flush with the top of the rear seats. A rear wiper and washer help keep the rear window clean in poor weather.

The Accent’s instrument panel is simple and attractive and well-finished in a soft-touch textured plastic. Controls are straightforward and easy to use, and at night, the gauges and instrument panel are backlit in a cool green glow. The stereo in the GL Sport includes four speakers and two tweeters, has an auxiliary jack for iPods, and is CD/WMA/MP3 compatible. The sunroof in the Sport model is a power tilt/sliding dark-tinted glass moonroof with sliding sunshade.

Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport. Click image to enlarge

Storage in the Accent hatchback is decent for such a small car. A storage slot below the radio offers space for a few CDs, and at the bottom of the centre console is a small flip-out storage drawer, a 12-volt outlet and cell phone storage slot. In front of the shift lever is a tray and a cupholder/ashtray receptacle, and behind the shifter are two cupholders with flexible rubber cup grips, and another open storage bin for rear passengers. Both doors have bottle holders and map pockets, and the rear folding armrest has two built-in cupholders. There’s also the glove-box and an overhead sunglasses holder.

Folding down the rear seatbacks is a bit of a mish-mash: it requires removing the rear head restraints, pulling up the seat cushions, and folding down the seatbacks. The load floor is still uneven though, and there is no dedicated spot to store the head restraints. I found it easier to just fold down the rear seatbacks without pulling up the cushions and without removing the head restraints. The load surface is not as flat, but it’s a lot less hassle.

The rear hatch door is lightweight and lifts up easily. The trunk area has a carpeted floor and carpeted seatbacks and is quite roomy for a subcompact car (450 litres/15.8 cu. ft.). A privacy cover is standard equipment, however when the hatch is raised, the cover doesn’t raise up as well, making it more difficult to load the trunk. Underneath the cargo floor is a small temporary spare tire and jack.


Driving impressions

Weighing just 1080 kg (2380 lbs) with the automatic transmission, you would expect the Accent to be a feisty little pocket rocket. But while quick off the line, it accelerates weakly when passing and seems to run out of steam at higher revs. The 1.6-litre engine is quiet at idle and rumbles when accelerating hard but is reasonably vibration-free for a small engine. Highway cruising is quite comfortable and drama-free with the engine doing 2,500 r.p.m. at a steady 100 km/h in fourth gear.

Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
Test Drive: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport car test drives hyundai
2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport. Click image to enlarge

The Accent’s four-speed automatic transmission is surprisingly smooth and well-behaved and includes a manual on/off overdrive button on the shift lever for shifting from fourth to third gear. I found myself using this button quite often as the small engine needs to be kept revved up if passing or acceleration is contemplated. The standard manual transmission, which I drove last year, is a better transmission choice if you want maximum performance.

With the automatic transmission, fuel consumption is rated at a thrifty 8.3 L/100 km (34 m.p.g.) City and 5.9 L/100 km (48 m.p.g.) Highway with Regular gasoline. This isn’t the best fuel economy in its class, but it’s still quite economical.

With its short wheelbase and compact dimensions, the Accent hatch is easy to drive in a downtown environment. Its turning diameter of 10 metres (33 ft.) makes u-turns a snap, and no parking space is too small. The power rack and pinion steering is quite vague in its response but steering effort is low and high-speed tracking is good. I didn’t like the smooth, slippery leather steering wheel – you would think grip would be a priority for a steering wheel!

Handling is nimble and ride comfort is quite good, despite a short wheelbase and narrow track. The Sport’s larger, wider 16-inch Kumho Solus 205/45R16 inch all-season radials provided satisfactory grip in wet and dry conditions during my week-long test drive.

Standard front disc/rear drum brakes performed well in my regular urban/suburban driving routines, and seemed adequate for this lightweight car. But as I said before, ABS should be at least optional.

Verdict

A sporty-looking, well-finished small car with a practical hatchback design and a good warranty, the Accent GL Sport could use more horsepower and more safety features to stay competitive.


Pricing: 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport


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