1996 Hyundai Accent
1996 Hyundai Accent

Now think about this: in the fall of 1994, when Hyundai launched the then-new Accent (which replaced the old Excel), the starting price for a four-door was $9,995. What a flash from the past! For that affordable amount, the Accent arrived with excellent fuel economy, a much, much improved suspension (for better ride comfort) and decent performance from a choice of two engines.

At launch day, the Accent in 1994 was the least expensive four-door sedan this side of a Lada. And the base car was not an empty stripper, either.

Standard equipment on the base L model included left AND right side rear-view mirrors, front and rear mud guards, body coloured front and rear bumpers, power steering with tilt wheel, intermittent wipers and rear defroster, height adjustable front seatbelts, child-proof safety locks and a child seat anchor.

Move up to the four-door GL and standard things included lumbar and tilt for the driver's seat, remote trunk release, digital clock, AM/FM cassette, tinted glass, cup holder, tachometer (with five-speed manual transmission) and full cloth seating. In short, Hyundai then (and now) priced and equipped the GL so that it will clearly be the high-volume seller.

Initially, power for all Accents at that time came from Hyundai's own 1.5-litre Alpha engine: 92 horsepower (versus, say, 100 hp in the then-new Toyota Tercel) and 97 foot-pounds of torque at a low 2,700 rpm. This single-overhead cam engine, with three valves per cylinder and electronic fuel injection, when mated to the standard five-speed manual transmission should zip even an older Accent from 0-100 km/hour in about 12 seconds.

However, this engine has always strained when going up even small hills and the five-speed shifter is a bit rubbery, but not sloppy. Hyundai from day one offered an optional electronically controlled four-speed automatic with overdrive - but be alert to a number of potential problems with it.

In terms of power, the double overhead cam version of this four-banger is a more powerful choice. Worth looking for on the used market.

This generation of Accent (1995-1999 model years) also came as a three-door hatchback. The hatchback could be equipped with pretty much the same range of features as the sedan - including dual airbags, anti-lock braking, manual sunroof, and metallic paint.

Stylistically, the 1995-1999 Accent is a pleasant looking car, though not a standout. Inside, Hyundai gave the Accent more head-, hip- and legroom than in the old Excel. Instruments and controls are laid out in a clean and simple way and seating is reasonably comfortable.

Ride quality for this generation of Accent is at least as good as the Tercel. The suspension absorbs most bumps and creates a stable highway ride. Skinny standard tires hurt the handling, though they are great for fuel economy. Cabin noise has always been an issue.

Accents from these years are inexpensive and relatively easy to find. If you're looking at one, pay particular attention to the automatic transmission. It's suffered from a fair share of problems, as the buyer's alerts indicate.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada's web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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