Just over two years ago, Hyundai's Philippine distributor brought forth the all-new Hyundai Accent, following up on the success of the Tucson that they launched a year before, and helped propel Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. to where they are now.
While the initial gasoline-powered Accent 1.4L and (later on) the 1.6L versions were generally well received by the market in terms of design, value, performance and comfort, there has been an unusually strong clamor for a CRDI version. It's quite understandable as the previous generation Accent 1.5L CRDI sedan became an unassuming hit with its power and outstanding efficiency in the city, and the taxi market had quite an impact on the Accent CRDI's reputation as well.
Hyundai has listened to their customers, and here's the result: the new Hyundai Accent CRDI.
Design-wise, there are no changes to the Accent from the front, as it still features Hyundai's very-well received Fluidic Sculpture design statement. The major change is in the back, as the trunk has been removed in favor of the hatchback form factor making -in a way- this Accent the successor to the Getz CRDI that was sold alongside the original Accent CRDI sedan. The back end actually looks quite familiar, as it appears to be an updated version of the previous generation Hyundai i30's tailgate.
The interior is also exactly the same as the sedan versions we drove before; from that, we can already tell you that the cabin is a nice place to be. The double wing-style dashboard looks good, the switches, panels and buttons -practically everything the driver and passengers touch- are of great quality. What I did find unusual given the price point is the lack of a climate control system (manual aircon only) and a 1-DIN audio system instead of a fully integrated one. Nevertheless, the steering wheel controls for the audio system work well, the Bluetooth works perfectly and the A/C is very powerful, even when matched up against the incredibly hot 2013 summer season in the metro.
With a twist of the key, the 1.6 liter CRDI engine vibrates to life; it is, after all, a diesel. Once it idles the twin-cam, 16-valve, variable geometry turbo motor does run quite smoothly and quietly. There is 128 PS readily available, along with 260 Newton meters of torque; undoubtedly surpassing the torque and power figures of its gasoline powered competitors like the Jazz 1.5 and Fiesta 1.6. Making sure that power and torque gets to the road is a choice of two transmissions: a 4-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. This particular example is the former.
The car is smooth in the city, and the 2-pedal arrangement makes easy work of traffic. In terms of economy, the Accent CRDI can easily do 13.4 km/l in moderate to heavy traffic, and at around midnight when the streets are clear, 17.8 km/l (1 passenger) is the norm without really trying that much. On the highway, at an 80-100 km/h cruise, expect to get 24.5 km/l (2 passengers). Any faster and the fuel economy will quickly drop, as the ratios of the 4-speed auto are not that efficient for high speed highway driving. There's no shortage of power and torque, but I think the 6-speed manual can definitely do better, as it is quite apparent that the torque converter sacrifices power and efficiency for automatic shifting convenience.
The Accent hatch does well to suppress the rough concrete and bumpy tarmac that is normal in the city. I'm surprised they haven't stiffened the rear suspension a bit, something we found unusual in the Accent sedan we tested 2 years ago. It's not a problem on the avenues and boulevards in the metro, but in gated villages and communities where speed bumps/humps are found in nearly every corner, the rear suspension will easily hit the bump stops inside the shocks. Drive slow and it's fine, but it can get quite jarring if you don't spot the speed bump in time and slow down appropriately (a common occurrence if the village you're driving in didn't paint them), and that goes double if you have passengers in the back.
Overall, the Accent Hatchback CRDI with the 4-speed automatic is a stylish, practical and efficient city hatchback with plenty of space for 5. This variant does have two sticking points: the uber-soft rear suspension and the price. At PhP 868,000, this automatic variant is quite steep for the class and the size, even if I found the diesel powertrain to be quite good, efficient and fun to drive everyday.
If you're in the market for the Hyundai Accent Hatchback CRDI, I would recommend the manual version;. Given that the manual costs exactly PhP 100,000 less, it's a much more convincing proposition on the showroom floor.
Only a full test of the manual variant would reveal if it's more fun and, more importantly, whether it can match or surpass the 39.67 km/l fuel economy figure achieved by Tito Hermoso in the previous Accent CRDI M/T seven years ago.