2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback
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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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Merrickville, Ontario – At one time, entry-level vehicles were a common sight in Canada. Favoured by first-time buyers and second car shoppers, the little strippers (hatchback, roll-up windows, ‘natural’ air conditioning, optional radio) made owning a new car affordable.

If you’re old enough to need a second car in the family, you remember names like Civic, Corolla and Sentra – familiar names to today’s first- time buyers too, but generally not associated with the term ‘entry- level.’

What happened? Yesterday’s econobox grew up, got bigger, fatter, faster, better equipped and more expensive. With the economy improving throughout the nineties and fuel remaining relatively cheap, the Japanese manufacturers largely abandoned the hatchback and the entry-level sub-compact market in North America.

Although Toyota’s Tercel remained true to the hatchback faith until 1999, it would be five years before the hatch returned in Echo form in 2004.

Where the Japanese saw few returns, South Korean automaker Hyundai saw opportunity. It was a market Hyundai targeted right from the beginning and one that it has remained faithful to through the Pony (1984-87), the Excel (1986 – 93) and the Accent (1995 – 2006).

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback
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Since 1995, Hyundai has sold nearly 200,000 Accents in Canada. No wonder then that we have witnessed the return of the entry-level sub-compact. First came Kia with the Rio in 2001, then GM rolled out its Korean-built Chevrolet Aveo in 2004, followed by the Pontiac Wave. Toyota replaced the Echo with the Yaris for 2005. And more recently, Honda and Nissan have re-entered the entry-level with the Fit and the Versa respectively. The competition’s heating up and the choices for first-time buyers are pretty good.

Among the flurry of new model introductions, it would be easy to overlook Hyundai’s Accent, now in its 12th year of production and third generation. Hyundai has worked hard to keep the Accent up to date and ahead of the competition. Recently, the company introduced a redesigned Accent sedan and last week brought its new Accent two-door hatchback to Merrickville, near Ottawa, for Canadian media to test.

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback
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The derogatory ‘stripper’ term no longer applies. Standard equipment on the Accent GS two-door, priced at $13,495, includes such features as AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with four speakers, power steering, power brakes, tilt steering wheel, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with fold-down armrest, reclining front seatbacks, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, two-speed intermittent wipers, rear window defroster, rear wiper and washer, tachometer, digital clock and two 12-volt power outlets. A rear spoiler is also standard, as are body-coloured exterior door handles and mirrors, tinted glass and a rear mounted micro antenna. The standard tires are large 185/65R14 all-season radials.

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback
Click image to enlarge

Step-up to the GS Comfort level at $15,195, and you get air conditioning, power windows and door locks, power adjustable outside mirrors and keyless entry with alarm system.

Add another $1,500 to the mix and you get features unheard of in an entry level vehicle – heated front seats, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock system and electronic brakeforce distribution, six airbags (two front, two front-seat-mounted side, and side air curtains), illuminated vanity mirrors, fog lamps, six speaker audio system and aluminum alloy wheels.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic is optionally available for $950.

The Comfort edition is likely to be the big seller, but the combination of enhanced safety and comfort features of the premium level will be a strong attraction for many buyers.

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback
Click image to enlarge

For the younger buyers and driving enthusiasts, Hyundai has the GS Sport which includes all the features found on the GS Comfort plus 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels and P205/45VR16 tires, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, power sunroof, and six-speaker audio system and sport-tuned suspension. The GS Sport is priced at $16,195. Suspension modifications include a 24% stiffer front spring rate and 11% stiffer rear spring rate, a larger stabilizer bar (24 mm), strut valving and high performance steering gear.

If that’s not enough, coming this Fall, Hyundai Canada will bring the Accent SR exclusively to Canada. This package, based on the SR concept model shown in Chicago earlier this year, will feature a ground effects package with side skirts and fender flares, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels fitted with P215/45R17 high performance tires, chrome tipped exhaust and free-flowing air intake. Prices have not yet been announced but reporters were assured it would be under $20,000.

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback
Click image to enlarge

One would think that with the level of standard equipment offered in the new Accent hatchback that there must be a trade-off somewhere, but if there is, we couldn’t find it. We were particularly impressed with the under-hood finishing – the absence of electrical tape on exposed wiring and the clean look of the engine cover – and the choice of interior materials.

Interior plastics have a nice feel, while the cloth seat covers appear very durable. A nice touch, recognizing the limited rear leg room in the back of a two-door subcompact hatchback, is the well-padded, cloth-covered seat backs. You won’t bruise your knees sitting in the back of an Accent hatchback.

Hyundai has made big gains in quality in recent years. In the recent J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, Hyundai moved from 11th spot in 2005 to 3rd in 2006, behind only Lexus and Porsche, two premium brands. And in the 2005 J.D Power Vehicle Dependability Study, Hyundai recorded a “dramatic” 31% improvement over its 2004 ranking, although the company still ranked just below the industry average for long-term dependability.

Naturally, Hyundai is feeling good about the quality story. At the media introduction, Hyundai Canada president Steve Kelleher proudly displayed a copy of the Detroit Free Press with the headline “Hyundai leapfrogs Toyota in quality,” referring to the Initial Quality Study.
Gaining a reputation for building quality products is obviously important to Hyundai and it shows in the 2007 Accent hatchback.

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback
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Like any two-door car, getting in and out of the Accent can be challenging, particularly for tall people, but once back there it is reasonably comfortable with adequate headroom. The front passenger seat will move ahead automatically on its tracks to allow access to the rear, but the driver’s seat does not. If carrying rear passengers is routine, then the Accent sedan makes more sense. The hatchback is available only in a two-door bodystyle and there are no plans to build a four-door hatch.

Rear storage space is large by sub-compact standards: 450 litres (15.9 cubic feet) behind the rear seat, twice as much as the Yaris two-door or Aveo four-door competitors, but less than the Honda Fit four-door hatch which has 603 litres (21.3 cu. ft.) of cargo space.

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback
Click image to enlarge

The driver’s seating position is 50 mm (2 in.) higher than the previous generation Accent, which provides a more comfortable seating position and better visibility. The front seats have armrests and both the armrests and the door recesses are easy on the elbows.

The driver faces an attractive gauge cluster, located in a traditional position behind the wheel. Audio and heater/AC controls are centrally located on the centre stack. There are two cupholders in the centre floor console and two in the pull-down rear centre armrest.

On the road, the Accent is surprisingly quiet and comfortable. We were impressed with the ride quality and the serenity of the cabin. The Accent insulates passengers well from exterior noise, rough roads and the vibrations of its own drivetrain.

Acceleration from the 1.6-litre double overhead cam, in-line four-cylinder engine is on a par with competitors in its class – that is, not particularly peppy. Rated at an estimated 110 horsepower, it barely edges out the competition which range from 103 (Suzuki Swift+) to 109 (Honda Fit).

Most of our driving time, on paved roads around the Rideau Lakes, was spent with an Accent GS Comfort equipped with an automatic transmission. On one stretch, once used for the Rideau Lakes Rally, the hatch held to the road very well and was deceptively fast.

2007 Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback
Click image to enlarge

However, entering a corner too quickly induced understeer and braking too hard required some time to regain forward momentum. A manual transmission would more effectively manage engine rpm and power availability when exiting corners, but our time with a five-speed Sport was limited to a few minutes of highway driving. Still, the Accent hatch, even with automatic transmission and ‘Comfort’ trim is a big improvement over earlier Accents.

Standard safety equipment on the Accent hatch includes the height-adjustable three-point seat belts with pretensioners and force limiters, and dual front airbags which are found in all cars in this class. Unlike Honda which includes six standard airbags on all trim levels and GM which makes six airbags optionally available on all trim lines, front seat-mounted side impact airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard equipment only on the top-of-the-line Accent GS Premium. This is disappointing, as six airbags are available on all trim levels in the U.S. Still, at least they are available, unlike in the 2006 Toyota Yaris hatchback.

Following the strategy that has brought success to Hyundai in North America, the 2007 Accent two-door hatchback delivers a higher level of content at a lower price than competitors. At one time consumers may have been justified in suspecting that quality might be the trade-off that made this strategy work, but as evidenced by the its strong gains in recent quality surveys, Hyundai can deliver a quality product at an affordable price.


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