Accent

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2008 Hyundai Accent Test Drive Review

Picture of 2008 Hyundai Accent SE 2-Door Hatchback FWD For basic transport with the best warranty, look no further.

5 /10
Overall Score

New for 2006, the Hyundai Accent is a subcompact car built on skimpy bones. It sells on price rather than any particularly redeeming qualities you can see, hear, or feel. It's not safe, it's not handsome, but there are few new cars this cheap to buy and run.

Look and Feel

3/ 10

The Accent comes as a two-door hatchback or four-door sedan. I think the hatch looks better, but both belong in the Ugly Section. Individually, each visual detail is good. The oversize headlights, vertical taillights, mirrors, door handles, the grille with the little kink above the Hyundai badge—they're all fine. Clumped together on the Accent's stubby body, however, they look cheap. On the standard 14-inch wheels with plastic hubcaps, the Accent is pretty as in pretty bad. Look at a Honda Civic or any number of small cars to find out why the Accent looks as if its dressed 20 years too late.

The interior, remarkably, pulls off a clean and stylish look, with an available two-tone dash, a silver-painted radio surround, and attractive gauges. It's convincing in quality until you run your fingers over the rock-hard seats, feel the brittle plastic on the doors, or pull on the turn signal stalk. You get what you pay for.

Performance

6/ 10

The Accent's engine is a bright spot. A 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder makes 110 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque, with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is sluggish and makes the Accent feel slower than it is (you'll need 11 seconds to get to 60 mph). The manual is a much better choice, and it delivers better fuel economy (an EPA-estimated 27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, 29 mpg combined; the automatic is 24/33/28). Engine noise is controlled, as is the ride quality. Handling is clumsy without the larger, wider tires found on higher trims, and the steering has a light and disconnected feel from the road. Braking is adequate.

Form and Function

7/ 10

While the seats are too firm for long-distance drives, there is enough room in the Accent sedan for four people, and the back seat features head rests for all three seating positions. Visibility is superb. Cargo capacity on the sedan is 12 cubic feet. The hatchback has 16 cubic feet, and more still with the seats folded. The climate and radio controls are very simple. The front center console has two cupholders. Rear passengers get another two in the fold-down center armrest. The front door pockets have larger openings for bottles and there is another sealed compartment behind the gear shifter. A tilt steering wheel is standard. The driver's seat is eight-way adjustable.

Tech Level

4/ 10

The Accent in base GS trim has no stereo or air conditioning. This hatchback-only trim has crank windows, manual locks, and manual mirrors. This is how Hyundai can price the car for less than $11,000. The GS can be ordered with these essentials for a couple grand more. The mid-level GLS sedan has all these features, plus body-color door handles, mirrors, and door handles. Remote keyless entry and 15-inch alloy wheels are optional.

The top SE hatchback has a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob made by B&M Racing, a rear spoiler with a rear wiper/washer, sport suspension, fog lights, illuminated vanity mirrors, metal-look interior trim, and 205-width tires on 16-inch alloy wheels (quite big for a small car). The hatchbacks have other available options that were not factory-installed, such as a 570-watt Kenwood stereo.

Safety

4/ 10

Six airbags are standard on all Accent trims: Dual front, dual front side, and front/rear head curtain. A tire-pressure monitoring system is standard. Traction and stability control are unavailable. Anti-lock brakes used to be standard, but Hyundai removed the four-wheel discs and put drums on the rear. This is a cheaper and less effective setup than having discs at every corner. Only the SE has standard ABS with four-wheel discs. They're optional on the GLS sedan and not on the GS.

Crash-test results are bad. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the 2008 Accent with five out of five stars for both occupants in a frontal crash, but only three for the rear passenger in the side test and four for the driver. The Accent scored worse in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), earning an "acceptable" for the moderate front overlap and roof strength and the worst "poor" in the side test.

Cost-Effectiveness

6/ 10

The 2008 Accent starts at $10,775 for the GS hatchback, $12,925 for the GLS sedan, and $14,575 for the SE hatchback. A five-year/60,000-mile warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty are class-leading and unmatched by anyone in the business. The price is great, but the lack of basic features, poor safety ratings, and terrible styling make the Accent one of the worst small cars to pick when there are so many better ones out there.

Updated

Clifford Atiyeh is a reporter and photographer who has spent a good portion of his life driving cars he doesn't own. He is vice president of the New England Motor Press Association and committed to saving both manuals and old Volvos.

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