For 2006, the three models of the entry-level Hyundai Accent share two body styles. The sedan is completely new, while the two-door hatchback (Accent 3-Door) and four-door hatchback (Accent5) remain unchanged from 2005. A new 3-Door hatchback will come later, but not a 5-Door hatchback.

The 3-Door is available as the Accent GS and GSi, while the Accent5 is available as a single model that can be upgraded with an optional Comfort Package.

Compared to its 2005 predecessor, the 2006 sedan has a longer wheelbase, wider track, larger exterior and interior dimensions, more power and larger wheels and tires, but its base price doesn’t change from 2005.

All models use a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, but the sedan’s version has continuously variable valve timing, which raises its horsepower to 110, versus 104 hp in the hatchbacks.

Sedan styling changes include a chrome-accented grille, body-colour door handles and mirrors, and roof-mounted antennae rod. Inside, the driver’s seating position has been raised 50 mm (2 inches), while rear-seat passengers receive an extra 38 mm (1.5 inches) of legroom. Interior volume increases by 104 litres (3.7 cu. ft.), with cargo capacity growing as well.

The sedan starts in GL configuration and includes five-speed manual transmission (that can be optioned to a four-speed automatic), 14-inch steel wheels, two-speed intermittent wipers, tachometer, rear defroster, digital clock, tilt steering column, driver’s folding armrest, two 12-volt outlets, CD/MP3 player with six speakers, and 60/40 folding rear seat. A Comfort Group package of manual air conditioning, power windows and locks with keyless entry, and power heated mirrors can be added.

The GLS sedan includes the features of the GL with Comfort Group, and adds heated seats, adjustable rear head restraints, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake distribution, six airbags, illuminated visor mirrors, tweeters on the audio system and 15-inch alloy wheels.

The 3-Door and Accent5 models come in three trim lines. The base GS includes a CD player with four speakers, 60/40 folding rear seat, driver’s multi-adjustable seat with lumbar support, power steering, variable intermittent wipers and rear window defroster.

The GL adds a rear wiper and washer, and CD/MP3 system with four speakers. A Comfort Package of air conditioning, power windows and locks and heated mirrors can be added.

The GSi includes CD/MP3 system, sport-tuned suspension, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 14-inch aluminum wheels, rear spoiler, sport-cloth seats, manual sunroof, power locks and a rear washer/wiper. Air conditioning and a four-speed automatic are the only options available.

The Accent has always been a decent little car for the money, and the improvements to the sedan should make it even more so. The new model addresses some of the car’s drawbacks, adding a more powerfully engine, six airbags and standard ABS, and it’ll be even better when the popular and functional hatchbacks are updated for 2007.

The Accent’s five-speed manual is one of the smoothest in this price point, and while everything’s plastic inside, the fit-and-finish is good and everything is textured. The newer model is very well-done for this price point, with a comfortable interior and more features than you’d expect for the cost. Once considered a minor automaker, Hyundai’s new product initiative and impressive leap in quality puts the Accent among the top contenders in the entry-level compact segment.

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