2006 Hyundai Accent
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Stiffer gasoline prices will almost surely prompt more small car buyers to consider the redesigned 2006 Hyundai Accent GLS sedan, but this auto has a lot more to offer than high fuel economy.
The compact, front-wheel-drive Accent GLS sedan is bigger and more powerful than its predecessor. It's almost two inches longer, one inch wider and three inches higher than the 2005 GLS sedan.
(A sportier two-door hatchback version arrives later in the model year as a 2007 model, but wasn't available for testing.)
The solidly built sedan's wheelbase has been stretched 2.3 inches to 98.4 inches to help provide a smoother ride and to improve straight-line stability. And a widened track allows improved handling and a more purposeful-looking stance.
Moreover, the GLS sedan has shaken off its predecessor's "cheap car" look. It is more smoothly styled, with such items as body color outside door handles, mirrors and bodyside molding help give it an upscale appearance.
The new car has more standard equipment than one might expect for its relatively low prices. It is sold only in the GLS trim level and has a list price of $12,455 with a 5-speed manual gearbox and $13,305 with a 4-speed automatic transmission.
Standard items include supportive front bucket seats, an AM/FM/CD sound system with six speakers, a tilt steering wheel, a tachometer, a manual 8-way adjustable driver's seat with a fold-down armrest, a center console, intermittent wipers, a rear defroster, illuminated visor mirrors and a split fold-down rear seatback.
Safety Items Trump Rivals
However, it won't be easy for GLS buyers to bypass the $1,500 Premium Sport Package because it contains air conditioning, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, heated power mirrors and wider (55-series) tires on 15-inch alloy wheels. (Air conditioning is a stand-alone $800 option.)
The new GLS rolls on larger standard wheels and wider tires. But those 14-inch wheels and 65-series tires still are rather skinny, although an improvement over the 13-inch wheels and 70-series tires on the 2005 GLS.
Hard-Working Thrifty Engine
Estimated fuel economy is 32 mpg in the city and 35 on highways with the manual transmission, which needs a more precise shifter, and 28 and 36 with the responsive automatic.
The engine is a high-rev unit that must work hard for the best performance. It's noisy during the full-throttle operation often needed to stay with fast traffic, but otherwise is generally quiet.
Lazy High-Speed Passing
The power steering is quick, and the ride is supple over rough streets, although the soft suspension discourages fast driving on bumpy roads. Handling is pretty good with the wider tires if the car isn't driven too hard, but the thinner standard tires don't provide as much road grip.
The brake pedal needs a more positive feel, although stopping distances from highway speeds are commendably short.
Gauges are easy to read, and the nicely designed interior has an attractive two-tone color scheme for a more upscale appearance—although some trim is marginal. The driver's seating position has been raised two inches for the higher viewpoint some drivers prefer, and all-around visibility is good. Sound system controls are conveniently placed high and climate controls are large. There are two 12-volt outlets.
The glove compartment won't hold much more than a pair of gloves and the owner's manual. But there are a fair number of storage areas, including doors with pockets and bottle holders. Front cupholders are set a bit too low and rather far back on the console.
The fairly roomy trunk has a low, wide opening, and seatbacks fold forward to enlarge the cargo area. However, the pass-through opening between the trunk and rear seat area is just moderately large.
Hyundai continues to improve quality, although it has a way to go to command the resale value of Toyota or Honda models. However, its long warranty, which includes 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage, continues to draw customers.