2006 Hyundai Accent GLS
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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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Getting paid to drive other people’s cars is a pretty plum gig, especially when the cars in question are a cut (or five) above your own set of wheels. Normally, test-driving an econobox like Hyundai’s redesigned 2006 Accent wouldn’t count as one of those must-be-nice moments, but the other perk of doing this job is getting to drive not just the posh, preferred rides of the well-heeled, but also the salt-of-the-earth cars that make up the bulk of rush-hour traffic.

Since the introduction of the Accent nameplate in 1995, this little car has fallen squarely into that everyday category, with its low price, reasonably solid construction and cheerful personality. The first two generations of Accent suffered from a few reliability issues, but if what organizations like J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports magazine have been saying about other recent Hyundais is true, then it’s fair to expect that this third-generation Accent will fare much better in the long term. But first impressions are what we’re all about here, so let’s leave the reliability evaluations to J.D. and his pals and talk about what this little car is like to live with for a few days.

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS
Click image to enlarge

When I picked up my test car, I had just finished up a week behind the wheel of Hyundai’s new Azera flagship — one heck of a downgrade, but there’s no better way to see where an automobile manufacturer’s priorities lie than to sample two cars as disparate as these. What stands out upon hopping into Hyundai’s least expensive all-new model is how un-cheap it looks and feels — it’s easy to see how Hyundai’s efforts to improve fit-and-finish have trickled down from the Azera to the Accent. The interior is noticeably improved over that of the outgoing version, with tight panel gaps and nicely grained, if hard, plastics making up the dashboard surfaces.

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS
Click image to enlarge

The buttons and knobs that live in the dash are all well-placed and fall easily to hand, with the exception of the switches for the front seat bum warmers (an uncommon feature for a subcompact, but more on that later), which are buried way down at the bottom of the centre console.

There’s also a surprising amount of space inside, particularly up front. Headroom and legroom are generous and there’s even a decent amount of shoulder room for a subcompact. Rear seat passengers should find their accommodations reasonably comfortable too, except for those over six feet — or those seated behind a tall front-seat occupant — who will find their knees uncomfortably close to the front seatbacks, but headroom is still adequate for all but the tallest rear-seat passengers.

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS
Click image to enlarge

All of this shouldn’t come as a surprise — this is still a small car, but as is the case with most new models, this one is bigger than the car it replaces. Wheelbase is up 60 mm to 2,500 mm, while length and width are up 45 and 25 mm to 4,280 mm and 1,695 mm respectively, dimensions that aren’t that far off those of the last-generation VW Jetta, for example.

While the interior should please with its attractive contours and surfaces, the exterior is a mix of handsome and goofy that should generate smiles among fans of small cars. It’s more attractive in person than in photos, and the front end has an endearing angry guppy look to it. Moreover, the doors close with a solid thump more reminiscent, again, of the old Jetta, than the car this Accent replaces.

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS
Click image to enlarge

Fire up the engine and the 1.6-litre four-cylinder settles into a quiet idle, with a faint four-banger vibration coming through the firewall. Once underway, the four-speed automatic transmission — a $950 option included in my tester — goes to work with remarkably smooth shifts for a little car. One gripe about the automatic’s performance is its tendency to behave a bit like a CVT under moderate acceleration, with the engine’s speed remaining almost constant as the car gets up to speed. Perhaps not a big deal to most drivers, but to an enthusiast’s ear, it gets annoying.

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS
Click image to enlarge

The automatic is a fine choice for drivers who see themselves using the car primarily for tooling around town, but get on — er and acceleration is best described as deliberate. A fair bit of engine noise gets into the cabin as the motor’s 110 horsepower hauls the car up to speed, but things quiet down nicely at city street cruising speeds. Out on the open road, the biggest aural intrusions are wind and tire noise. Again, engine noise is less of a factor, thanks in part to overdrive gearing that has the engine turning about 2,500 rpm at 100 km/h. No doubt a manual transmission would prove a better match for the small engine’s modest power output, and it’d certainly up the fun quotient, too.

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS
Click image to enlarge

Like the drivetrain, the suspension is tuned for the average driver looking for a comfortable small car, with spring and damping rates on the soft side. With two people riding in back, expect to hit the rear suspension bump stops regularly on rough roads, and even unloaded, soft rebound valving in the rear shocks allows a bit too much bounce over poor road surfaces. Again, it all works just fine for the non-enthusiast, but hopefully, the firmer suspenders Hyundai says will be fitted in the 2007 three-door version of this car will remedy those problems. But if the ride isn’t perfect, the suspension at least absorbs road imperfections without transmitting too much bump noise into the cabin.

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS
Click image to enlarge

While the equipment list for the $13,995 Accent GL is short, the so-called Comfort Group adds power locks, mirrors (heated) and windows and keyless entry, upping the price to $15,295. A top-of-the-line GLS like my tester includes all those items, and piles on uncommon subcompact features like anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and disc brakes at all corners, heated front seats, six airbags and 15-inch alloy wheels (in place of the 14s on GL models). With a manual transmission, the GLS is priced at $16,695; add $950 for the optional automatic and you’re looking at a subcompact worth $17,645. This is where you’d need to decide how important safety features like ABS and side and head curtain airbags are to you, as for that much cash, you could get into a reasonably well-equipped compact car.

Given the mission statement of subcompact cars — to provide little more than affordable transportation with a warranty — it’s difficult to say how many buyers will ante up close to $18,000 for one, even with the standard 5-year warranty and high level of safety equipment the Accent GLS includes. Chances are the GL fitted with the comfort package will be the big seller, but who knows: once drivers who spent twice as much to get the comfort and safety features they wanted see what less than $18,000 can buy, maybe they’ll be the ones saying, “must be nice.”


Technical Data: 2006 Hyundai Accent GLS

Base price $16,695
Options $950 (Automatic transmission)
Freight $1,345
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $18,990 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger subcompact sedan
Layout Front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves, CVVT
Horsepower 110 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 106 @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic (5-speed manual standard)
Tires 195/55R15
Curb weight 1,073 kg (2,366 lbs)
Wheelbase 2,500 mm (98.4 in.)
Length 4,280 mm (168.5 in.)
Width 1,695 mm (66.7 in.)
Height 1,470 mm (57.9 in.)
Cargo capacity 351 litres (12.4 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 8.3 L/100 km (34 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 5.9 L/100 km (48 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Regular
Warranty 5 years/100,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 years/100,000 km

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