The Hyundai Accent GS three-door is the cheapest new car on sale in the United States today. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $9,970 or $10,665 with the freight charge.
At first glance it is astounding that the least expensive new vehicle costs so much. And that price buys a five-passenger subcompact with crank windows and no radio, air conditioning or adjustable steering column.
But what the car does include is also astounding: six air bags and adjustable head rests at all seats, height-adjustable driver’s seat and a folding armrest, digital clock, remote fuel-door release, 60/40 folding back seat. It is wired for a radio with four speakers and an antenna. And of almost priceless interest is Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
This Accent came out in response to last year’s run-up in fuel prices and was tweaked for 1 more mile per gallon. Its 110-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder has fuel economy ratings of 27 city and 33 highway on 87 octane.
It is a free-revving engine and fun to push with the five-speed manual. There’s even a tachometer next to the speedometer. The suspension is a little soft for sporty driving, but the setup handles rough city streets with dexterity and is comfortable for freeway commuting.
The basic black interior doesn’t look like budget plastics, and the seat fabric feels durable.
Fortunately, with the windows down, the body style allows driving at moderately fast speeds without painful buffeting in the cabin.
The smoothness of the steering, braking and ride quality are testament to a good foundation. And Accent has a tighter turning circle, 33.1 feet, than the Honda Fit (34.3) or Nissan Versa (34.2).
There was a bit of a pricing war last year between Nissan and Hyundai. Nissan came out first with a stripped-down version of its Versa sedan and laid claim to offering the car with the lowest MSRP in America. Then Hyundai beat its price by $20 for the Accent GS.
With a slightly higher freight charge, the base Versa starts at $10,770. It is packaged much as the Accent, including six air bags, but also with a $250 option for anti-lock brakes. Carpeted floor mats and a trunk mat are $155. Air conditioning adds $1,000. Its 107-horsepower, DOHC 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission are rated for 34 mpg on the highway.
The Accent would seem ideal as a young person’s first car, but my 15-year-old stepdaughter had to teach her friends about crank windows. And there was general lament about no tunes, but it was even worse that there was not one vanity mirror. Another teen girl in the car loved it because it smelled new.
Either you like this Accent as it is, or you have to move up to the next trim level to add features such as air conditioning, a radio or automatic transmission. The next level GS starts at $11,070, which can be equipped with a four-speed automatic for $1,000. It is also available with the Popular Equipment Package, for $1,600, which adds AC, six-speaker CD-audio system with XM satellite radio and digital audio inputs, tilt steering wheel and map lights with sunglass holder. That pushes the sticker price to $13,365.
The Accent GS is good basic transportation, but a better delivery vehicle than a commuter car.
The engine revs high and buzzy on the interstate and it needs a few more mpg.
Hyundai says it has fixed that and more on the 2010 Accent GS, which will go on sale in a couple of months.
“We announced high-fuel-economy versions of the Accent and Elantra at the Los Angeles auto show and those will involve significant changes to the gear ratios that will reduce the engine speed while cruising,” said Mark Dipko, Hyundai product development manager. “As a side benefit, it will significantly improve NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) at highway speeds.”
The new model is likely to include air conditioning, or at least be offered as a stand-alone option, as Nissan does for Versa.
“We want to keep the price crown as long as we can,” Dipko said.
2009 HYUNDAI ACCENT GS THREE-DOOR
Body style: subcompact, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger hatchback
Engine: 110-horsepower, DOHC, 1.6-liter four cylinder with continuously variable valve timing
Transmission: five-speed manual
EPA fuel economy estimates: 27 mpg city, 33 highway; 87 octane recommended
Length/wheelbase: 159.3/98.4 inches
Curb weight: 2,467 pounds
Base price: $10,665, including $695 destination charge; price as tested, $10,760
Where assembled: Ulsan, Korea
Options on test car: carpeted floor mats $95,
(set image) May061609-visual.jpg (end image) (set caption) The Hyundai Accent’s $10,665 starting price includes a manual transmission but no air conditioning. Photo by Mark Maynard. (end caption)
Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at mark.Maynard@uniontrib.com.
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