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Test Drive Impressions

Test Drives with Colin Hefferon

Reviewed by Colin Hefferon

The Hyundai Accent 3 door hatchback
The Hyundai Accent 3 door hatchback.  Cheap chic.

Hyundai has another winner on its hands with the completely re-designed 2007 Accent 3door hatch. Its go-kart like handling, strong safety kit, great fuel economy and compact footprint make this incredibly roomy Euro-style hatch perfect for urban drivers. Stylish small cars like this one dominate the byways (and the highways) of the world outside North America - especially in those places where gasoline costs $6/gallon. Price range: $10,995- $17,285, EPA mileage 32/35 manual, 28/36 automatic.

First glance:  Shades of Hondas past and Opels present

The 2007 Hyundai Accent 3-door, sold in GS and SE trims, doesn’t look at all like the 4-door Hyundai Accent sedan introduced in 2006. Personally, I think the 3-door coupe is the more attractive in almost every way. It reminds me of the old Honda Civic CX – the much-missed sub-compact 3-door hatch sold here until the mid ‘90s. When Honda abandoned the entry-level marketplace - epitomized by the Civic CX - to answer the siren call of higher profit per unit, it left the low price import slot open.

Hyundai jumped right in with both feet. While its first couple efforts were stinkers, it has been producing some fine, very practical automobiles for the last few years – automobiles that were snapped up in record numbers by the American car buyer. But successful as some of Hyundai’s cars have been, with the possible exception of the last Accent 3dr few incited any real passion in the buyer.

This latest Accent 3dr hatch should remedy that. It’s got great European lines. It looks a lot like the Opel Corsa, an attractive sub-compact from General Motors of Germany that seems to be everywhere you look in Europe.

In the Driver's Seat:  Small shape hides cavernous interior

The Accent 3door may be small on the outside but it’s incredibly roomy on the inside – in both the front and rear. It’s actually a sub-compact but so efficient is the use of interior space that the US Government agency in charge of such things has classified it as a compact.

Simple controls make Accent easy to drive With the 60/40 split rear seatbacks folded down, there’s almost 16 cubic feet of cargo room, which, incidentally, is more even than the Toyota Yaris. I was able to accommodate Guide Aaron Gold and his wife Robin (visiting Vancouver from LA) and their several enormous pieces of luggage with no sweat. The larger part of the rear seatback folded forward in one motion. No need even to remove the headrests. Then after I raised the hatch and tossed in the bags, Robin easily slid into the remaining rear seat.

By the way, access to the back seat is simplicity itself. The spring-loaded front passenger seat folds up and out of the way so that a full size adult can just step in and assume one of the comfortable seats. There’s plenty of room for tall folks and for big ones too. I’m just an inch or so under six feet tall and I had at least four inches of headroom. With the front seat moved ahead just the slightest bit, I had another three inches of knee room.

On the Road:  Fun to drive, though not much of an image builder

The fun started for me when I opened the door and slid behind the wheel. I had no trouble doing that because the seat is set two inches higher than the seat in the last generation Accent. This makes for an incredibly comfortable ingress (and egress) as well as a very convenient seating position.

One giant leap for safety: Side airbags standard in all Accents At the risk of offending, oh, I don't know, maybe 80% of our readers, I think this car is eminently suited to drivers who are older and/or female. They are more likely to appreciate the Accent's full complement of standard airbags (all models) and standard antilock brakes (SE only). Young guys obsessing about their cool quotient probably won’t like the Accent 3-door all that much; the high seat cushion doesn’t really encourage slouching behind the wheel.

The late LJK Setwright, legendary British auto journalist, mused that it's far more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. While the Accent’s not exactly a slow car, it is, like most modern subcompacts, a real hoot to drive. The tight steering and incredibly stiff body - stiffness is up 39% over the previous generation Accent, which was no bowl of jelly itself - help a lot. The stiff body also provides a ride that promises to be rattle and squeak-free for many, many years.

Journey's End:  Colin would buy one (with a stick shift)

The ’07 Accent 3dr promises to be another winner for Hyundai – the South Korean giant is really on a roll these days. The Accent’s cute as a button and practical as all get out. Its lean 3-door hatchback body makes it an ideal city runabout. Although it’ll doubtless get much of its use as a one-person commuter, it would also be suitable for a family. Even with four adult occupants (or five, if the back seat occupants are small), there’s still a ton of cargo space behind the rear seats.

I have one minor complaint with the automatic transmission version I tested. The Accent’s 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine puts out 106 hp and 109 lb-ft of torque, and 4 speeds just aren't enough. When you push even moderately hard on the gas pedal, the transmission has a tendency to drop down a couple of gears, causing the RPMs (and the noise level) to shoot through the roof. A 5-speed automatic or continuously variable transmission (CVT) would be better. Personally, I'd buy the 5-speed manual version which gets better MPG in town and promises to be even more fun to drive.

But the more important point is that yes, I would buy the Accent 3-door. It's roomy, fun to drive, economical, and has a long warranty -- and that's just what we need.

Top photo © Hyundai.  Additional photos © Colin Hefferon

Vancouver-based Colin Hefferon regularly tests and reviews new vehicles. Though an automotive enthusiast by nature, Colin takes the perspective of the average car owner. Which, after all, is most of us! Colin Hefferon is the road test editor for About Cars where more of his car reviews may be found.

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