Review and photos by Chris Chase
Hyundai’s history in the subcompact segment started in the mid-1980s, with the introduction of the Excel. The 1995 model year brought with it an all-new subcompact, the Accent, which was redesigned into its third generation in 2006. This review picks up on that third-generation model as Hyundai prepares the fourth-gen, 2012 model for its introduction.
For 2006, the sedan was the first version of the Accent to be replaced; the three- and five-door hatchbacks were carried over, and a new hatchback – a three-door only – was added in 2007.
All Accents were powered by a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder. In the new 2006 sedan, the motor featured variable valve timing, which helped boost horsepower to 110, from 104 in the carried-over hatchbacks. The redesigned 2007 hatch got the new motor when it was introduced. Transmission choices were a five-speed manual and an optional four-speed automatic.
The new engine was a leap forward for fuel consumption, which hadn’t been an Accent strong suit. The 2006 sedan was rated at 8.3/5.9 L/100 km with the automatic transmission, compared to 8.9/6.2. Manual cars were more efficient in both cases. In 2009, efficiency took another jump forward, as the Accent’s ratings improved to 7.9/5.6 L/100 km (with the automatic), and improved a little more again in 2010, to 7.6/5.5, thanks to low-friction engine oil, a “smart” alternator and an economy indicator in the dashboard.
2007 Hyundai Accent GS Comfort (top); 2008 Hyundai Accent GL Sport (bottom photo by Greg Wilson). Click image to enlarge
While the Accent was a big improvement over the Excel it replaced, its overall quality hasn’t reached that which has been achieved by some of Hyundai’s other recent models. The third-generation Accent still suffers from automatic transmission problems – albeit relatively minor ones – caused by a faulty speed sensor/pulse generator – when this small electronic component fails, it can cause poor shift quality, and, it seems, a loss of drive altogether in the worst cases.
Consumer Reports also notes complaints from many owners about batteries that go dead rather suddenly and cause problems with starting and other electrical systems.
The emissions control system is a trouble spot, too, with CR again reporting complaints about the check engine light coming on thanks to a bad sensor somewhere in the system.
Overall, though, CR gives the Accent an above-average reliability rating in 2007 and 2008, and average in 2009 (CR doesn’t have reliability data for 2006 and 2010).
2006 Hyundai Accent GLS (top); 2007 Hyundai Accent GL Comfort. Click image to enlarge
Crash safety is only so-so, depending on which of the two big U.S. testing agencies you ask. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Accent an “acceptable” rating in its frontal offset crash test due to a high likelihood of lower leg injury to the driver. The IIHS side impact test revealed a good chance of rib fractures or internal organ injuries to the driver, while indicating a possibility of pelvis fracture for a rear seat passenger. That result netted the Accent a “poor” rating in side impact safety.
From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Accent earned five stars for driver and front passenger protection in its frontal crash test, and four and three stars respectively for front and rear seat occupant safety in side impacts.
It’s worth noting that the IIHS frontal offset test is a better test of a car’s structural strength than the NHTSA’s “full frontal” test, because in the IIHS test, the same amount of force is being applied to a smaller area of the car’s front-end structure. Another fact to note is that the cars used in both organization’s tests had side airbags, which could only be had in Canada on top-trim models (both sedan and hatch through 2007, and then sedan only from 2008 onward).
2006 Hyundai Accent GLS. Click image to enlarge
Pricing, per Canadian Black Book, ranges from $4,850 for a 2006 GL sedan with manual transmission (the old-style two-door hatch is less expensive in GS trim, at $4,050), to $12,825 for a 2010 GLS sedan (which could only be had with the automatic). If you want an efficient, inexpensive car that’s also a little bit of fun to toss around, try a 2009 GL hatch with the sport package, which added 16-inch wheels/tires and a tighter suspension. It’s no Mini Cooper, but it’s a far sight better than the base car, whose soft suspension sets the car bobbing and bouncing down the road.
The Accent is a well-established nameplate from a company that has just about come into its own, thanks to successive improvements in every car it redesigns. While I generally think highly of Hyundai, the Accent doesn’t quite seem to have shed its reputation for so-so dependability, and crash safety concerns are a cause for worry, too.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) January, 2011:
2006-2007:On certain vehicles, the stop lamp switch may have been incorrectly installed during vehicle assembly. This could prevent proper brake lamp operation. Failure of the brake lamps to illuminate when the brakes are applied may result in the following road users being unaware of the driver’s intentions, increasing the risk of a crash causing injury or death. A malfunction of the switch may also cause the brake lamps to remain illuminated when the brake pedal is released. Additionally, a faulty switch may affect the operation of the brake-transmission shift interlock on automatic transmission-equipped vehicles so that the transmission shifter would not be able to be shifted out of PARK position. It may also cause the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) light to illuminate, and it may not deactivate the cruise control when the brake pedal is depressed. Correction: Dealers will replace the stop lamp switch assembly.
Crash test results
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 vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.