2003 Hyundai Accent GSi
2003 Hyundai Accent GSi; photo by Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

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Back in the 1980’s, Hyundai made a name for itself in Canada as a builder of affordable small cars, but with its earliest models plagued by durability problems, the word “cheap” became one of the most common adjectives used to describe Hyundais.

The first-generation Accent showed improved quality, but that car still left plenty of room for improvement, some of which came with the second-generation Accent, introduced in 2000.

The 2000 model continued to be offered in 3-door hatchback and 4-door sedan configurations and used the same 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine (92 horsepower) as the previous generation Accent, which was again matched to five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions. In 2001, a 1.6-litre engine with 106 hp became standard in all but the entry-level hatchback model. The 1.5-litre engine was dropped altogether in 2004.

2003 Hyundai Accent GL
2003 Hyundai Accent GL. Click image to enlarge

The 2003 model got refreshed front and rear-end styling, and in 2005, a four-door hatchback model was added to the lineup. The Accent sedan and two-door hatch were redesigned in 2006, but the four-door hatch was sold alongside these new cars before being discontinued for 2007.

Fuel consumption ratings in 2000 were 8.4/6.0 L/100 km (city/highway) with a manual transmission, and 9.2/6.1 L/100 km with the automatic. In 2001, the 1.6-litre engine earned ratings of 8.7/5.8 L/100 km (manual transmission) and 9.4/6.1 with the automatic. By 2005, ratings had improved somewhat, to 8.1/6.5 L/100 km with the manual transmission, and 8.9/6.2 with the automatic.

But despite the reliability gains Hyundai made with the second-generation Accent, the car’s overall reliability picture is only so-so.

Automatic transmission problems are the main culprit. In many cases, the problem can be linked to bad electronic sensors on the transmission, but mechanical failures are also common enough to be a concern.

Engine starting problems appear to be a regular occurrence, too. If the posts in this thread at Hyundai-Forums.com are any indication, most of the common causes of this are electrical in nature, which can be very difficult and frustrating to diagnose properly.

2003 Hyundai Accent GSi
2003 Hyundai Accent GSi; photo by Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

A check engine light, triggered by fault codes in the computerized engine control module, is a common sight for many Accent owners. While this rarely renders a car undriveable, the myriad possible causes (mostly electronic emissions control sensors) can be tough to diagnose, though most repairs are simple enough for a competent DIY mechanic to tackle.

From a safety point of view, all 2000-2004 Accents feature an airbag for the driver as standard equipment, but ABS and side airbags were never available, even as an option. In U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the 2000-2006 Accent received at least a four-star frontal crash rating for driver and passenger. In side impact testing, early models of the second generation Accent didn’t fare well, earning three stars for front seat occupants, and just two for rear seat occupants. Revisions to the car halfway through the 2003 model year earned later versions of the car improved side impact ratings to at least four stars for front and rear passengers.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) never crash-tested the second-generation Accent.

2003 Hyundai Accent GSi
2003 Hyundai Accent GSi; photo by Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

Resale values are definitely affordable, according to Canadian Black Book, ranging from $3,050 for a 2000 GS hatchback with a manual transmission, to $7,875 for a 2006 GL four-door hatch model with the automatic gearbox. A basic 2004 GS two-door hatch with manual transmission and air conditioning is worth $5,300.

Shop cautiously if the Accent is on your list. A work-over by a trusted mechanic is an absolute must here, as are detailed service records. The engine’s mechanicals are tough, but the transmissions – particularly the automatic – are these cars’ weak point.

Given the frequency of automatic transmission problems and the expensive repairs that a problem like this is in an out-of-warranty car, I suggest only considering and Accent if you’re looking for a manual-transmission model and are assured that the car you want is in very good mechanical shape.


Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) October 2009:

Price today
Price new
Accent5 hatch
Accent sedan
Accent sedan
Accent sedan
Accent sedan
Accent sedan
Accent sedan

Online resources
  • Good places to look for Accent information include HyundaiPerformance.com, where you’ll find both an Accent forum that covers all generations, and a general Maintenance and Help section. The only thing missing are sections specific to each generation of Accent. The second-gen Accent gets its own forum, though, at Hyundai-Forums.com. HyundaiForum.com has a general Accent forum, too, and you’ll find a number of Accent-related discussions in the forums at Edmunds.com.

  • Transport Canada Recall Number 2000114. Units affected: 37,174

    2000-2001: On certain vehicles, driving for extended periods in extremely cold ambient temperatures can cause moisture to freeze inside the throttle body idle speed control circuit and in the throttle body bore, resulting in a higher than normal engine idle speed, and the throttle valve not closing fully. This condition may result in reduced braking effectiveness on deceleration, which in turn could result in a vehicle crash. Correction: Dealers will install a modified PCV hose and, on manual transmission equipped vehicles without air conditioning, install a condenser cover.

    Transport Canada Recall Number 2000113. Units affected: 4,830

    2000: Certain vehicles have an insufficient amount of lubrication between the windshield wiper motor drive arm pivot and the wiper linkage dust cover that may bind and cause the wiper linkage to separate from the windshield wiper motor. If this occurs the windshield wiper motor will still operate but the windshield wipers will not function. This condition can result in reduced driver visibility during inclement weather and a possible crash. Correction: Dealers will replace the rubber boot (dust cover) which covers the ball joint connection and lubricate the new boot where it contacts the wiper arm.

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    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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