Pros: Interior quality, Improved styling, Improved engine
Cons: Price with options, Acceleration, 5-speed manual
When Hyundai introduced the Accent in 1994 I would have bet the farm that it wouldn't have been successful. The Accent offered tepid performance, very little in the way of creature comfort, and the fact that it was coming from a brand that gave us the Excel, I was sure it would flop. Fast forward twelve years and the Accent is not only still with us, but it's better than ever.. Can "better than ever" be good enough for this little sedan to compete in this better than ever market?
The late versions of the second generation Accent (2003-2005) were perhaps one of the worst years for the Accent in terms of styling. The Accent was boxy, had an awkward front-end, and looked every bit the part of your stereotypical economy car; small and cheap. The frumpy styling of the Accent has been replaced this year with a more modern design, sporting smoother lines and a tastefully styled front fascia. While the Accent's new sheetmetal isn't either exciting or the least bit original, it's a vast improvement over the styling of last year's sedan.
Hyundai has given its redesigned Accent a new DOHC 1.6 liter 4-cylinder this year, yielding six more ponies than last year's engine (now up to 110 horses). The 2006 Accent, however, has put on over 100 pounds over the past year, hampering any chances of an improvement in acceleration. Stab the throttle from a stop and the Accent moves adequately up to highway speeds, however when compared to many compact sedans on the market i.e. the Mazda3 and Civic, the Accent feels downright anemic. The 2006 Accent may not be any quicker than last year's GLS sedan, though it does feel more refined throughout its powerband, exhibiting less engine complaint than last year's engine.
The Accent's standard 5-speed manual (an automatic is optional for $850) is more of a basic unit, designed for utilitarian purposes versus performance. The throws of the shifter are long and gear engagement can be rough, especially between 1st and 2nd gears. On a positive note, the Accent's clutch is light and forgiving helping make this a relatively easy transmission to operate.
Handling has improved into the Accent's 3rd generation, however this car is still far from offering the cornering abilities of the Civic and Mazda3. The Accent tends to lean in sharp turns and steering feedback is merely acceptable. Equipped with the standard 14" P185/65HR rubber (15" tires are available with the $1,500 premium sport package) road holding was adequate, though the Accent is still not a car I would want to take on anything but moderately twisty roads.
The Accent has consistently been one of the nosiest little cars on the market; especially the first generations where 70 MPH cruising meant high levels of engine and wind noise. With improved insulation and a more refined engine, the new Accent’s cabin is able to handle much higher speeds without the need for earplugs. The new Accent also does a good job absorbing bumps and road imperfections in the road. Though the Accent is far from offering a cushy ride, its suspension absorbs moderate bumps in the road just as well as its Japanese competition. If you are looking for a sportier ride, the Kia Rio (essentially the same car as the Accent) comes with a slightly stiffer suspension.
The Accent’s 1.6-liter engine is more refined than ever, however its ability to tackle steep inclines is still one of its major underpinnings. Like last year, the new GLS sedan can only accomplish steep hills with a heavy right foot and most of the time a downshift into 4th gear. Having to downshift into lower gears isn't much of a gripe, however the Accent's manual transmission has a relatively low 4th gear ratio making it an uncomfortable gear for tacking steep hills at high speeds. With the increased refinement of this new engine, however, engine noise has been reduced, making the new Accent much more tolerable when covering mountainous terrain.
Though the Accent has a smaller engine with fewer horsepower than just about every car in its compact class, it doesn't reward the driver with better than average fuel numbers. With an EPA rating of 27 city and 35 on the highway (36 MPG with the taller geared automatic), the Accent ranks nearly 4 MPG less than the more powerful Civic and Corolla.
The biggest improvement with the new Accent is its interior. Last year the Accent's interior looked shoddy and felt cheap; it certainly wasn’t as refined as the materials used in its competition. The 2006 Accent still doesn't provide Honda quality, though the interior is styled tastefully and the materials feel more solid this year. Other than the HVAC controls being located a bit too low on the dash, the Accent's interior is well organized with most of the switchgear logically placed. The instrument cluster has also been improved this year, offering attractive and easy-to-read instrumentation.
The seats in the Accent GLS have become more bearable this year. Though still a bit stiff, the Accent's front seats come with heavier pronounced thigh bolsters and good upper body support. The materials used for the Accent’s cloth seats have also been improved, offering better quality than last year's GLS sedan. The 60/40 split rear seats are made of the same sturdy materials, however they too are a little on the stiff side.
The only slight gripe I have with the Accent is its somewhat scant amount of standard amenities. Some of the few noteworthy standard amenities for the GLS include a basic 172-watt AM/FM single disc CD player with 6-speekers, 8-way manual drivers seat adjustments, 6 air bags, and cup holders in both the front and rear (with bottle holders located in the rear doors). If you want amenities like power windows and door locks, you'll have to shell out an additional $1,500 for the #3 package. This package adds air conditioning, power windows and door locks, 15" alloy wheels with performance. As far as I know, a facotry sunroof is not available.
Though the Accent looks small from the outside, its cabin is quite cavernous, boasting more interior space than just about every car in its class. I imagine occupants up to 6'+ will have no problem with interior space. Being just shy of 5' 7" I had no gripes at all with head or legroom throughout the cabin. Though still limited, stowage space in the 2006 Accent has also improved. With a couple small cubbies in the cabin and a larger trunk, the Accent offers about the same stowage space as the Honda Civic and Mazda3.
Costing around 2,000 dollars more than last year's GLS sedan, the '06 Accent carries a sticker price that almost matches the base price on the better equipped Civic DX or Mazda3i. My bare bones tester, equipped with no options, came to just over 14,000 dollars (included was a 1,500 dollar dealer mark-up). In comparison to a comparably equipped Civic DX and a Mazda3i sedan, the Accent has them beat by a mere 1,500 dollars; a price you most likely will get back with a Civic in the 1st year do to the Accent's poor resale value. If you opt for the Accent's #3 package ($1,500), an automatic transmission ($850) the new Accent has the potential of topping out at nearly 16,000 dollars or about as much as a Civic LX. Some dealerships have the audacity to add mark-ups on these cars, so be careful not to pay unnecessary expenses. Hyundai does have its competition beat in one category; warranty. If anything happens to your new Accent GLS sedan, Hyundai offers a 5 year/ 60,000 miles bumper to bumper warranty and a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
Although the 2006 Accent is better than any of its predecessors, there are better cars out there with better reputations, better resale value, more amenities, and better performance for just a couple grand more. If you are in the market for an economical hatchback, I do recommend checking out the Accent GLS, but do yourself a favor and check out the offerings from Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Ford, and even Chevrolet before making any final purchases.
Thanks for reading!