By Paul Williams
Photos by Paul Williams and Greg Wilson
Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada
Photo: Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge
Vancouver Island, British Columbia – The all-new 2006 Hyundai Accent arrives at a time when Hyundai is busy releasing seven new products within a 24-month period. These days, Hyundai’s emphasis is on quality and value, and its numerous recent awards from J.D. Power and Associates and similar agencies attest to the company’s progress in achieving these goals.
But how does Hyundai, long known for budget transportation, establish itself in the minds of consumers as a purveyor of award winning vehicles?
The mantra from Hyundai is to “over-deliver” in all areas. It’s a proven sales technique where you give people more than they expect for a given price, and watch the orders come in. When it works, it’s hard to beat this strategy.
And it should work in the 2006 Accent. Even though this is Hyundai’s entry-level vehicle, the new Accent sedan (a three-door hatch arrives as a 2007 model in the first quarter of 2006) delivers a lot of car for the money. We thought we’d start at the top of the Accent model range, rather than the bottom (as is customary), in order to show what Hyundai can offer at a price below $18,000.
Photo: Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge
The most expensive of the three trim levels available on the 2006 Hyundai Accent is the $17,695 GLS with four-speed automatic transmission. It includes many desirable features typically found on more expensive vehicles and pushes the equipment envelope for subcompact cars (if you’d like one for $16,695, buy the Accent GLS with the five-speed manual transmission).
The GLS offers you the protection of six airbags and four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock (ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). Heated front seats provide additional comfort in the winter, and two extra speakers for the audio system enhance the sound. Externally, the 15″ alloy wheels identify the GLS for the sharp-eyed Accent watcher, but otherwise the exterior is the same as the five-speed, $15,295 GL with the comfort package (add $1,000 for the automatic transmission).
The comfort package for the GL includes popular features like air conditioning, power windows and power door locks, power and heated outside mirrors and a keyless entry system (of course, this is part of the GLS package). Externally, the 14″ steel wheels with covers differentiate the GL from the GLS, and behind the wheels are front disc brakes and rear drums.
For further savings, you can forego the comfort package, arriving at the base, five-speed manual Accent GL price of $13,995. The standard six-speaker audio system is AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA compatible, and cupholders are conveniently located between the front seats and in the doors (the driver’s seat is height adjustable, by the way). Intermittent windshield wipers, speed sensitive power steering, two 12-volt power outlets, an expensive-looking two-tone interior, tinted glass, tilt steering column, roof-mounted antenna, 60/40 split-folding rear seats with armrest and built-in cupholders round out the standard features.
So, $13,995 – $17,695 is the range from the least expensive to most expensive 2006 Hyundai Accent, and for this price you also get a five-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty with 24-hour roadside assistance.
But “content”, to use auto-manufacturer terminology, is only part of the picture. All these standard and available features offered for such a low price don’t add up to much if the overall vehicle doesn’t meet expectations.
Regardless of the trim level, “over-delivering” also extends to the interior and exterior dimensions of the Accent. Although it has a small engine and smallish 45-litre fuel tank typical of its class, the exterior and interior dimensions have grown to provide the substance of a compact car. Length is up 46 mm, wheelbase increases 58 mm, height is up 76 mm and width increases a modest 25 mm. Consequently, occupants will experience increased headroom, legroom and shoulder room compared with the outgoing Accent in a package that’s bigger overall than the previous model.
Under the hood you’ll find a new four-cylinder, 1.6-litre, dual-overhead camshaft engine with variable valve timing that generates 110-horsepower and 105 pounds-feet of torque. Compared with the outgoing model, horsepower us up six percent, and fuel economy is down to 7.4/6.2 L/100 km city/highway for the five-speed manual, and 8.3/5.9 L/100 km for the automatic (you may notice that the highway fuel economy is better with the automatic transmission, and this is explained by the lower final drive ratio for the fourth gear of that transmission).
Inside, the cabin looks and feels very stylish with its two-tone beige or grey trim, finely tailored and attractive fabrics, and quality plastic surfaces. The 351-litre trunk is also larger than the previous Accent.
Exterior styling is conservative and tidy, with big lights front and rear, and a swage line to make the car appear longer and sleeker (it is only 4280 mm long, after all). Contributing to an upscale look are the standard body-colour mirrors, door handles and side mouldings.
On the road the Accent impresses with its exceptionally smooth and quiet ride, and nimble handling. There’s no choppiness over road imperfections, and corners are taken without excess body roll. Highway cruising is almost silent at speeds up to 120 km/h. Noise in the cabin is barely noticeable, although fifth gear in the five-speed manual models does produce more engine noise at highway speeds than the automatic.
Photos: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge
Issues? There are a few. We’d like to see ABS and multiple airbags standard on the full range — in a little car, we want all the protection we can get. Concerning the engine, it is noisy under hard acceleration, and does have to be pushed to achieve decent acceleration on occasion, although it quietens down to a whisper when cruising. There is no cruise control available, however, and you can’t open the trunk from outside without the key.
As far as looks go, this is always a personal decision, but I’d like to see the front-end design taken just a little further to project more character from the grille and headlights. Hyundai has played it safe with the packaging, but a more fun and distinctive face for the Accent could create a real personality for this little car.
Competitors for the Hyundai Accent are the Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Aveo, and Suzuki Swift Plus.
But kudos to Hyundai for building such a high-quality vehicle at this price. This will be a first new car for many, and if our first drive is representative, they won’t be disappointed.
At A Glance: 2006 Hyundai Accent