Hyundai Accent LTD(2001)

Accent

Hyundai is working hard to shake its image as a car that flies around the corner with a Domino's pizza bucket on the antenna. When Hyundai first started sending its bargain-priced vehicles (like the Excel) to our fair shores in 1986, sales took off. Then, as parts began falling off, the company's reputation dropped off -- as in, off a cliff.

Hyundai could have left the U.S. market in disgrace (like Fiat ... Renault ... Peugeot ... Alfa ... Yugo ... but we digress), but they didn't. Instead they kept plugging away, and they're making good progress. The Hyundai Accent has been completely redesigned for 2001. And Hyundai has added a terrific warranty to help combat reliability qualms. In fact, it's one of the best warranties around -- a bumper-to-bumper warranty for 60,000 miles or five years, and a powertrain warranty that's good for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Fortunately, the warranty isn't the only thing that's been improving. The cars have been improving too.

The 2001 Hyundai Accent is a solid, decent little front-wheel-drive vehicle that, while short on luxuries, does an adequate job of providing basic transportation. And, with a cars.com target price of under $9,500, the Accent is Hyundai's lowest-priced car. In fact, it's one of the lowest-priced cars you can buy.

Driving Experience

Despite its very cheap price, the Accent is not a bad little car. It feels less substantial than, say, a Honda Civic, but it's a lot less expensive too. The 1.6-liter engine is adequate to the task, although you're aware that it's working hard. Step on the gas, and you'll hear the engine buzz loudly and feel the transmission downshift. It's unrefined, no doubt about it. But it gets the job done. The Accent we test-drove came with automatic transmission; the manual version might provide slightly better performance.

With a curb weight of less than a ton, the Accent handles like, what? The little car that it is. It corners well enough, and it can even be fun to drive, in a carefree sort of way. The car felt better put together than the earlier Hyundais we remember driving.

On the highway, it's a slightly different story. The Accent is easily knocked around by crosswinds, which can be a bit nerve-rackingparticularly when you realize that every other vehicle on the road is bigger than yours. It's better as a commuter car than a highway cruiser. Around town, it feels small but perfectly adequate. On the highway it's a tad scary.

Driver and passenger air bags are standard -- and you'll need them if you get hit by anything in a car this small. In fact, if you have an accident in this car, hope you hit something straight on, because side air bags are not available. Neither are antilock brakes.

Interior

When you climb inside the Accent -- at least the base model -- what you notice is what's missing: power locks and power windows, for starters. They're available at an extra cost. At first it's almost a novelty, seeing a car without these commonplace conveniences. But, having gotten used to these features in other cars, we're not so sure we'd want to do without them every day. On the other hand, there are people who want "just transportation," and it's nice to see a car maker offering that for $9,500.

The interior has a fair amount of space. Even Don King would find the headroom adequate, and the amount of space in the back won't result in any constitutional challenges from your passengers based on "cruel and unusual punishment." The room in the back comes at the expense of trunk space, which is limited.

More good news: Visibility is decent, and there are lots of little thoughtfully placed bins all over the cabin for storage. That way, interior pieces that fall off can be conveniently stored for later reinstallation.

The steering wheel was too low for our liking. We wished it was adjustable -- but what do you want for less than 10 grand? We all hated the upholstery too. The pattern was designed by the same folks who make the discount cocktail napkins for the Party Store.

Keeping that price tag in the four-figure range meant consigning air conditioning to the options list. The Accent does, however, have cup holders; a center console; carpeting in the trunk; remote, manual side mirrors; reclining front seats; and intermittent wipers.

Ergonomics

A cheap price tag gets you the virtue of simplicity. Heating and ventilation controls are straightforward and easy to use, and the stalks hold the usual assortment of switches for the lights and windshield wipers. We did find the radio controls a little puzzling, but then again, why should a car with window cranks have a "seek" button on the tuner?

Styling

The wizards in the Hyundai styling department have succeeded in making a little car that looks like ... well, it looks like a little car. It's not beautiful, but it's by no means ugly. In fact, we found it kind of cute. And, given how small it looks on the outside, there's a surprising amount of room on the inside.

Reliability

Because it's a bare-bones car, the service and maintenance are pretty straightforward. However, if you live outside of an urban area, you might find it hard to track down parts for the Accent.

We would give the Accent above-average marks for reliability. Considering the low price of the Accent, we bet you'll be pleasantly surprised how reliable it is.

Overall comments

Got a year or two of grad school left, and then maybe you'll think about starting a family? Do you need another car to get you to the train station, or an extra car for around town? Do your immediate career opportunities involve words like "fries with that?" and "30 minutes or less"? This may be the car for you. Just don't expect champagne on a beer budget. This is beer on a beer budget.

There aren't a lot of new cars that sell for less than $10,000 these days. There's the tiny Suzuki Swift, the two-door Toyota Echo, and the Daewoo Lanos (see earlier paragraph about leaving in disgrace), which, like the Accent, is made in South Korea. Among these, none stands out for creature comforts, although the Echo at least offers the security blanket of Toyota's well-deserved reputation for reliability.

On the other hand, Hyundai offers that great warranty. So, while you don't get Toyota's reputation, you at least know that stuff will get fixed if it does break.

If you've got only $10,000 to spend, the Hyundai Accent is a pretty good choice. The car is decent and the warranty is great. The best alternatives, in that price range, are probably the Echo or a two-year-old Honda Civic or Ford Focus, both of which are more refined and more solid. But they're used and have a shorter warranty. So drive an Accent -- if it feels substantial enough to you, the warranty makes it hard to go wrong.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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