2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Hyundai Accent

North Vancouver, British Columbia – It was a bit of a surprise when the Hyundai Accent was named the most dependable subcompact car in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2008 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), ahead of the Scion xA (Toyota-model sold in the U.S.A.) and Chevrolet Aveo. The J.D. Power VDS measures problems experienced by the original owners of three-year-old (2005 model year) vehicles. The overall survey included responses from more than 52,000 vehicle owners.

The VDS is more significant than J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey (IQS) which only measures customer satisfaction in the first 90 days. In the 2008 IQS study, the Accent came third behind the Kia Rio and Honda Fit. The VDS is a better indicator of long-term reliability.

That’s a pretty good recommendation for Hyundai’s least expensive and smallest car which was redesigned for the 2006 model year and hasn’t changed much since then. The subcompact, Korean-built Accent, available as a two-door hatchback or four-door sedan, competes with popular subcompacts such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Aveo, and Pontiac G3 Wave, and less well-known subcompacts like the Kia Rio and Suzuki Swift Plus.

The Accent four-door sedan, the subject of this review, has only four competitors: the Toyota Yaris sedan, Kia Rio sedan, Chevrolet Aveo sedan, and Pontiac G3 Wave sedan – the Fit and Swift are only available as hatchbacks. The Nissan Versa could also be considered a competitor, but it is considerably larger.

Pricing and standard equipment

2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent. Click image to enlarge

2009 Accent sedans are available in four trim levels: L, GL, 25th Anniversary Edition, and GLS; ranging in price from $14,295 to $18,645. 2009 prices haven’t increased over 2008 prices with the exception of the top-of-the-line GLS sedan which has risen from $18,145 to $18,645.

Standard equipment on the base Accent L sedan includes a 110-hp 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing, a five-speed manual transmission, 14-inch all-season tires and steel wheels, two-tone interior and cloth seats, dual front airbags, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary plug-in and four speakers, variable intermittent wipers, rear window defroster, and immobilizer. An optional four-speed automatic transmission is an extra $1,000.

The Accent GL ($16,745) includes everything in the L plus power windows with driver’s auto-down feature, power mirrors, power door locks with keyless remote, air conditioning, and alarm.

New for 2009, the Accent 25th Anniversary Edition ($17,395) adds a standard automatic transmission, tilt/slide glass moonroof with sliding sunshade, front seat heaters, and front fog lights.

2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent. Click image to enlarge

Top-of-the-line Accent GLS ($18,645) adds 15-inch tires and alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution, side airbags in the front seats and curtain airbags in the roofliner, two tweeters, and cruise control.

All Accents come with an impressive standard five year/100,000 kilometre warranty and five year/100,000 kilometre powertrain warranty.

The as-tested price of my test car, a 25th Anniversary Edition sedan came to $18,840 including $1,345 Freight and $100 a/c tax.

Interior impressions

Once inside, I found myself immediately impressed with the quality and appearance of the rounded, two-tone instrument panel, the easy-to-read round gauges, and the simplicity and ease of use of the Accent’s controls, particularly as this is an economy car. The dash layout is pretty traditional, unlike the Yaris sedan with its centre mounted speedometer. I think many buyers still prefer the gauges behind the steering wheel.

The Accent’s front seats are covered in a coarse cloth with mesh-style seat inserts and I found them comfortable, although they may be too small for larger adults. The driver’s seat has a rotary height adjuster which raises the front half of the seat cushion, and an inboard folding armrest which is useful for resting your arm on long drives. In the 25th Anniversary Edition, both front seats have electric seat warmers with one temperature setting. These really help on cold mornings, but they’re too hot to be left on indefinitely. My only criticism of the seats is that the light grey colour would show stains quite easily and could look “worn” fairly quickly.

Four average-size adults can ride comfortably in the Accent, and there is an adequate amount of rear legroom, kneeroom, and headroom. A folding armrest in the centre rear seat adds a little bit of unexpected comfort. The rear seat has safety belts for three people, but it’s really only wide enough for two.

Storage areas include an open bin below the radio, a covered bin under the heater, an open slot and a flip-down coin tray near the door, door pockets front and rear, a mesh pocket on the back of the front passenger seat, and a glove-box. A cupholder under the centre stack serves as an ashtray while there are a two more cupholders of different sizes between the front seats. The radio face includes an auxiliary jack for iPods which can be stored in the open slot below it. A 12-volt powerpoint is located at the bottom of the centre stack.

The power glass sunroof tilts up or slides back, and includes a sliding sunshade.

As mentioned, driver and passenger front airbags are standard, but only the top-of-the-line Accent GLS has side and curtain airbags – these are important safety features, especially in a small car, and I think they should be optional on other trim levels. The front head restraints are height adjustable, but the rear ones aren’t – and there is no rear centre head restraint. Child-proof rear door locks and rear child seat anchors are standard.

The 60/40 folding rear seatbacks fold down using pull-type releases on the top of the rear seatbacks – they are not lockable. When folded, the seatbacks aren’t even with the trunk floor, which makes it more difficult to slide items through, but those are minor criticisms – the opening is still very handy. The Accent’s roomy trunk is fully lined and a small, temporary spare tire resides beneath the trunk floor.

2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent
2009 Hyundai Accent. Click image to enlarge
Driving impressions

The Accent’s 110-horsepower 1.6-litre engine offers decent off-the-line acceleration and around-town performance, but with the automatic transmission, it feels a bit weak in the 60 to 100 km/h range. The optional four-speed automatic transmission is surprisingly smooth but occasionally is reluctant to change into second gear when floored – which contributes to this weak acceleration. Still, its 0 to 100 km/h time of 10.2 seconds (with automatic transmission) is actually quicker than the Toyota Yaris sedan, Chevrolet Aveo sedan and Pontiac Wave sedan equipped with automatic transmissions, according to the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

Canadian Energuide fuel consumption ratings (L/100 km) with the automatic transmission are 8.5/5.9 city/hwy, while U.S. EPA ratings, which reflect more realistic driving conditions, are 9.0/6.7 city/hwy. I averaged 10.1 L/100 km (28 mpg Imperial) in a week of mostly city driving. For comparison, the 2009 Toyota Yaris sedan’s EPA rating is 8.1/6.7 city/hwy and the Chevrolet Aveo is 9.4/6.9 city/hwy.

At a steady cruising speed of 100 km/h, the Accent’s engine does 2,500 r.p.m. in fourth gear, and a handy on/off button on the floor shifter enables to the driver to shift into third quickly when extra power is needed. The Accent’s engine is growly under acceleration but muted at cruising speeds. There is some tire noise though and sound insulation is minimal.

The Accent sedan has a comfortable ride for a small car, with little of the choppiness you might expect with a shorter wheelbase. Its standard Kumho Solus 185/65R14-inch all-season radials are kind of small and cornering grip isn’t great in sudden transitions – but as it’s not meant to be a sports sedan, I really have no complaints. With its small exterior dimensions and tight 10 metre (33 ft.) turning diameter, the Accent sedan is easy to park and manoeuvre in parking lots and city streets, and the driver’s visibility is very good. Its power assisted rack and pinion steering is nicely weighted and it tracks well on the highway.

Front disc/rear drum brakes are standard, but unfortunately, the Accent L, GL and 25th Anniversary Edition aren’t available with anti-lock brakes, even as an option. Only the GLS has them. As well, electronic stability control isn’t available at all. The lack of these features may prove a disincentive for some buyers.

In NHTSA frontal crash tests, an Accent sedan equipped with front, side, and curtain airbags received five stars for driver and front passenger. But in side impact tests, the driver received four stars and the rear passenger received three stars. In IIHS frontal offset crash tests, the Accent sedan equipped with front, side, and curtain airbags was rated Acceptable. But in side impact tests, it was rated Poor.

Verdict

An attractive, nicely finished small sedan with a good reputation for reliability and a very good warranty, the Hyundai Accent sedan makes a great commuter car, but only the top model is available with anti-lock brakes, side airbags and curtain airbags, and stability control is not available at all.

Pricing: 2009 Hyundai Accent 25th Anniversary Edition

Base price: $17,395
Options: None
A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,345
Price as tested: $18,840
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

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First Drives

Test Drives
  • 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport, by Greg Wilson
  • 2008 Hyundai Accent L hatchback, by Peter Bleakney
  • 2007 Hyundai Accent GS Sport, by Greg Wilson
  • 2007 Hyundai Accent GS, by Chris Chase
  • 2006 Hyundai Accent GL, by Haney Louka
  • 2006 Hyundai Accent GLS, by Chris Chase
    Day-by-Day Reviews
  • 2008 Hyundai Accent GS, by James Bergeron

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Chevrolet Aveo sedan
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Kia Rio sedan
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Nissan Versa sedan
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Pontiac G3 Wave sedan
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Toyota Yaris sedan

    Manufacturer’s web site
  • Hyundai Canada
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