Over the years, Hyundai has transformed from a company that offered one inferior small car into a powerhouse that sells near-luxury cars like the Azera and capable SUVs such as the Santa Fe and Tucson. There’s also the 2006 Accent, the company’s entry-level small car, a totally redesigned model that best demonstrates Hyundai’s continued commitment to one of its main goals – offering customers capable cars that are well-backed and affordably priced.
Many automakers have attempted to spread their reach to each slice of the car buying pie, though inexpensive compact cars have received little attention because they are usually unprofitable. Until now, that is. Hyundai claims that most shoppers who check out the 2006 Accent will be first-time buyers or those looking for a second car, but with gas prices as high as they are, buyers across the demographic scale are considering smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Regardless of what draws them in, individuals contemplating the purchase of an Accent will find a car with a strong focus on safety, economy, and unexpected creature comforts.
For compact car buyers afflicted with the indecisive gene, the 2006 Hyundai Accent may be the perfect choice – there is but one trim available, the GLS, leaving the issues of color and a few select options as the only stumbling blocks. Those add-ons include air conditioning, a four-speed automatic transmission, power windows, power door locks with keyless entry, power mirrors, and upsized 15-inch alloy wheels with 195/55 Kumho tires.
Those are nice options, but the 2006 Hyundai Accent sedan already comes well equipped at its estimated starting price of $11,995, which includes a $495 destination charge. The three-door version, due to go on sale in the spring of 2006 as a 2007 model, will likely feature a lower starting price.
Among the items included in that sub-$12,000 base price are a four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission; power steering; body color door handles, bumpers, and mirrors; antilock disc brakes; two front, two front side, and front and rear side curtain airbags; and fold-down armrests for the driver and rear passengers. There’s also a 172-watt, six-speaker audio system with a single-disc CD player that offers surprisingly good sound quality; dual illuminated vanity mirrors; a tilt steering wheel; an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat; and, of course, Hyundai’s stellar warranty. That includes ten years or 100,000 miles of powertrain coverage; five years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage; and seven years/unlimited miles of corrosion protection. As an added bonus, Hyundai throws in five years/unlimited miles worth of roadside assistance.
Nuts and Bolts
Like its corporate twin, the Kia Rio, the 2006 Hyundai Accent gets its motivation from a 1.6-liter, 16-valve, dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine that features continuously variable valve timing. Horsepower peaks at 110 at 6,000 rpm with torque registering 106 lb.-ft. at 4,500 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission is standard fare, while a four-speed automatic, which adds 37 lbs. to the Accent’s 2,366-lb. curb weight, is optional. Hyundai suggests that Accents with a manual transmission will get as much as 32 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway; the automatic changes those figures to 28 and 36, respectively.
Suspending the front-wheel-drive 2006 Hyundai Accent above pockmarked city streets and smooth freeway pavement is a MacPherson strut system in front and a torsion beam axle in the rear. Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard. A power rack-and-pinion steering system with a tight 33.1-foot turning circle makes quick work of U-turns and cul-de-sacs. Charged with stopping the redesigned Accent is a four-wheel power disc brake setup, featuring vented rotors in front and solid rotors out back. An antilock brake system with electronic brake force distribution is standard. Connecting it all to the road are 14-inch steel wheels and 185/65 Kumho tires. Six-spoke, 15-inch alloys wearing 195/55 Kuhmo Solus HP4 Plus tires are optional.
Like many cars in its class, the 2006 Hyundai Accent offers a look that is neither inspiring nor offensive. There are mild creases in the hood that line up with the large, swept back headlights and continue rearward to blend in well with the A-pillars. The face of the Accent features a small, chrome-trimmed grille with the brand logo presented prominently just below the hood. Below the front body-color bumper is a black fascia insert. Along the flanks are recessed creases that run from the rear of the front fender to the taillight, with thin body-color side moldings glued onto all but the quarter panel. The side profile also exhibits the Accent’s expansive greenhouse, lower cut line that demarks the rocker panels, slightly flared wheel wells, and body-color mirrors. Wrapping things up at the rear are simple yet effective red taillights, body-color trunk lid trim, and a slight upper lip that creates a very subtle spoiler. Standard wheel covers are ho-hum, but the optional alloy wheels spice up the Accent’s exterior nicely.
Considering its $11,995 starting price, the 2006 Hyundai Accent’s interior packs some nice surprises and garners only a few complaints. The front bucket seats and the rear 60/40 split folding rear bench are on the stiff side, but they’re supportive and fairly comfortable. Every passenger is afforded an adjustable headrest, though back seat drivers suffer from a lack of foot, leg, and headroom – making enough room for adult rear seat riders requires those in the front seats to slide forward and likely bang their knees against the hard plastic dashboard. Standard on all models and somewhat unusual for this class are padded fold-down armrests for the driver and the rear passengers. Those are points where drivers and passengers will choose to rest their arms, as the door armrests and window sills are covered in hard plastic. That same material is used on the dash and instrument panel, and while a rubberized or soft plastic is preferred, at least the finish is low-gloss rather than shiny. Primary systems like the radio and climate control are within easy reach of the driver, and utilize simple, logical buttons and dials. Seats are upholstered in a durable cloth fabric, and a mesh material is used for the headliner, unusual for this class and price point. Controls for power options, when equipped, are placed on door panels that mirror the two-toned scheme used on the dash. Storage in the 2006 Hyundai Accent is plentiful and includes a trunk offering 12.4 cubic-feet of space, a cubby next to the spare tire for extra gear, that fold-down split rear seat, five cupholders, and seatback and door pockets.
Hyundai has a plan for making its name synonymous with safety, and the 2006 Accent takes one more step toward that goal. A total of six airbags comes standard, including two front, two front side, and two full-length side curtain airbags. In addition, all Accents come with four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, three-point seatbelts for all five passengers, and front and rear crumple zones. Like all passenger cars, the 2006 Hyundai Accent has been designed to achieve top scores in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash safety tests. Front and rear five-mph bumpers are also featured, aimed at absorbing slow-speed crash energy with minimal repair costs.
After spending several days and a few thousand miles behind the wheel of a 2006 Kia Rio recently, driving the 2006 Hyundai Accent, the Rio’s corporate twin, would seem like reconnecting with an old friend. However, Hyundai and Kia representatives are quick to point out that each company has its own brand identity and infuses its respective cars with unique DNA. To that end, a back-to-back drive of the Accent and Rio demonstrates the Hyundai’s softer ride and lighter steering. To differentiate the nameplates, Hyundai is choosing to go in the direction of affordable and comfortable cruisers, whereas Kia is aiming for sportiness on a budget. In domestic terms, it would be much like Buick versus Pontiac.
Given that the 2006 Accent is a low-priced commuter car, chances are that most buyers won’t mind (or may not even notice) the car’s vague, uncommunicative steering and soft suspension. Indeed, the setup swallows potholes and road irregularities with confidence and little disruption to the goings on in the cabin. The brake system is effective and features a pedal that is easily modulated. Visibility is quite good thanks to the expansive glass, large exterior mirrors, and rear headrests that retract. Interior noise is mainly limited to some tire and wind noise, all of which can be easily canceled out by the 172-watt sound system.
That leaves for discussion the four-cylinder engine with its 110 horses and 106 lb.-ft. of torque. In a time of 200+ horsepower family sedans and 140-horsepower Honda Civics, the Accent’s 1.6-liter engine falls a bit shy of being termed a powerhouse, but there is plenty of giddyup for the everyday commuter. Not an abundance, mind you, but enough. Highway passes require a moment of preparation and result in an engine that screams for mercy as the floored accelerator plays havoc with the tachometer. But it gets the job done, and given this car’s price and purpose as inexpensive basic transportation, the Accent performs as intended. Our choice of Accents was limited to automatic transmission-equipped models only, each of which offered smooth, if not seamless shifts.
For shoppers looking for inconspicuous, inexpensive transportation with a focus on safety, the 2006 Hyundai Accent is definitely worth some attention, and maybe even a test drive. It should be especially appealing to those looking for a few standard creature comforts and that 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. No, buyers won’t find an optional navigation system or supercharger, though they will enjoy seating for five, a starting price of less than $12,000, and fuel economy as high as 35 mpg. Not a bad deal.
Now if only Hyundai could add a splash of life to the exterior styling and handling – you know, like little brother Kia did with its version of the Accent, the Rio.
What is most impressive about the 2006 Hyundai Accent? We’d like to say it’s the driving character or style, but really it’s the price and powertrain warranty.
What is least impressive about the 2006 Hyundai Accent? That would be the dull driving character and the bland styling.
How does the base price for 2006 Hyundai Accent sedan compare with the 2006 Rio? The Accent is expected to start at $11,995 including a $495 destination charge. The Kia Rio starts at $11,110, which includes a $540 destination charge.
Test Vehicle: 2006 Hyundai Accent GLS
MSRP: Estimated base price is $11,995 (includes a $495 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 1.6-liter four cylinder
Engine Horsepower: 110 at 6,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 106 lb.-ft. at 4,500 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Curb Weight, lbs.: 2,366
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 32/35 mpg
Length: 168.5 inches
Width: 66.7 inches
Wheelbase: 98.4 inches
Height: 57.9 inches
Legroom (front/rear): 42.8/34.3 inches
Headroom (front/rear): 39.6/37.8 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: 5
Max. Cargo Volume: 12.4 cu. ft.
Competitors: Chevrolet Aveo, Kia Rio, Scion xA, Scion xB, Suzuki Reno, Toyota Echo
Photos courtesy of Hyundai Motor America