Jude P. Morte / Jude P. Morte | September 18, 2006 00:00
Underrated simplicityOne popular basketball shoe in the late 1990s was the Nike Air Pippen II. At that time the third Nike basketball shoe named after a professional player (the first two were Michael Jordan and Penny Hardaway), the Scottie Pippen-endorsed shoe was a sales hit here and abroad due a simplistic, low-key, smooth yet fully functional design.
One passenger car in the mold of the Air Pippen II would be the Hyundai Accent. Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (HARI, official distributor of Hyundai products in the country) brought in a passenger car that totes a simplistic, low-key, smooth yet fully functional approach to those starting out with family life or the college kid who wants decent yet reliable transport. How the Accent maintains a low profile yet retains individuality is the reason for today's test drive.
Less is really more
The Accent's interior defines the meaning of the words "wholly simplistic." A clean two-tone (dark grey/light grey) wraparound interior colorway is eye-pleasing, with only the steering wheel, the five-speed manual transmission (m/t) stick, door handles/door locks and the armrests providing a dark contrast to the light grey lower part of the Accent's cabin. The nice view from the front seats (along with the short hood) allow for a full view of what's ahead. Seating is good for four but cramped for five, and gets tighter for rear passengers if the front occupants are as tall as (six-foot, seven-inch Ginebra player) Eric Menk.
The airconditioning blows either Arctic cold or decent heat, but the vents give out a pungent smell during the first 15-20 seconds of use. The Sony Xplod MP3/CD head unit replicates tunes decently but needs an amplifier for better sound highlights. And speaking of the head unit, it would be better if the Sony Xplod provided a larger interface, for the controls are hard to see, and hard to use as a result.
From the outside it appears you won't have any trunk space, but when you load cargo the Accent extends surprisingly far, allowing for 12.4 cubic feet of space but sacrifices somewhat in backseat comfort. The good news is that the backseats fold down in a 60-40 split to handle bigger cargo. You can hold up to eight drinks within the Accent's cabin, with four cupholders each for front and rear passengers. However, the two cupholders between the front occupants have hard plastic nubs that can puncture the thin plastic of a McDonalds beverage container. It would be best to place canned drinks or mineral water bottles within the confines of the aforementioned cupholders.
When viewed from the sides, the Accent's exterior is reminiscent of a slightly squashed Vios, pull-type door handles and all. The front headlights look similar to its Tiburon (Hyundai's sportscar coupe) sibling, while the rear lights have enough red LEDs (light emitting diodes) in them to distinguish themselves from the unit's eye-catching blue onyx paint.
Nothing on it, nothing to it
Just because the Accent looks small inside and out doesn't mean that there's nothing on it, specifically under the hood. The inline four cylinder 16-valve 1.5-liter double overhead camshaft CRDi (common rail diesel injection) powerplant puts out 110 hp and a whopping 235 NM of torque to good use, with the five-speed m/t doing a decent job of handling all that torque at low rpms. It can be a handful at low speeds due to the high torque level, but it's easy to enter the powerband (2000-plus rpm) and activate the variable geometry turbo (2750-4250 rpm). The results are good for a 1.5-liter diesel passenger car - a C5 tested 179kph top speed and an 11 kilometers per liter consumption rate on five days of normal city driving.
The aforementioned five-speed m/t can be fairly easy to use, requiring a light foot on the clutch and gas pedals. The tranny also has a unique dogleg reverse gear similar to the late 1990s taxi model Daewoo Racers. To engage reverse, depress the clutch pedal, put your right hand on the m/t stick, pull up a plastic ring around the stick and move it to the leftmost side of the m/t box. Conversely, just depress the clutch pedal, put your right hand on the m/t stick, swing the stick to neutral (while on the clutch pedal and without pulling up the plastic ring) and place it in the leftmost side of the m/t box. To this writer the Accent's transition between reverse and first gear is a big plus, which can save time and effort during parallel parking, unlike the lower rightmost-leftmost reverse-first gear transition of Japanese cars.
In the handling department, the Accent GLS does fairly well in everyday circumstances, despite riding on a MacPherson strut front and a torsion beam rear suspension. The front end has decent grip but during hard cornering there's significant traction loss. Minimal noise comes from the 195/55 R15 Kumho Solus tires, with tire squeal occurring at 70-80 kph and plowing at 85-plus kph.
Perhaps the only question mark about the Accent is its safety systems. There's no ABS (anti-lock braking system), making the Accent exert oversteer during hard, heavy braking condition. It's a good thing the power-assisted electric steering setup provides a light but crisp response, especially when one has to apply opposite lock to keep the sedan's rear end from slapping around. There are seatbelts to put you in place, but there are no airbags nor torsion beams should a collision occur.
In a time where cars (and auto manufacturers) are trying to outdo each other with their technological complexities, the Hyundai Accent takes on an air of minimalism. With just enough updated diesel technology to bring occupants QUICKLY to their intended destination and a simple, no-frills interior, the Accent is sure to give customers the feeling of underrated simplicity.