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Driven: Hyundai Accent Premium

If you follow the line of family history of the new Accent, it will take you directly back to the original Hyundai cars which came to our shores way back in 1986. Back then, these Excels were honest little cars, followed by the model which really popularised the brand, the huge-selling Excel of 1993-2000. These were pretty awful things but the price was low and sales were vast, with 200,000 sold here.
Fast forward, following the replacement models to today and you have a very different kettle of Korean fish. We tested the Accent Premium, which is the top of the line model, fitted with goodies that old Excel owners couldnít have even dreamed of.

Thereís a small screen for the reversing camera built into the rear-view mirror. Decently supportive seats smartly trimmed in perforated partial-leather - plus leather steering wheelÖ There are smart 16-inch diameter alloy wheels. Thereís keyless entry and go. None of this is what the old small Hyundais were about.

So you really have to think differently when evaluating this car. Priced against excellent cars like the Ford Fiesta and the slightly larger Mazda 3 the Accent compares favourably.

It shares some under-pinnings with its sister-car the Kia Rio, which is probably its most effective challenger in the marketplace.
The boasts a twin-camshaft 1.6-litre engine and 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission, is no bad thing as all are fine units though the transmissions have fewer ratios than some more up to date cars. The engine puts out a decent 91kW, utilising direct injection and variable valve timing. The performance produced is more than acceptable for a 1600. At 1560kg itís not a lightweight like small Hyundais of old. The Accent is not exactly sporty, but thatís not the purpose of this model.

The automatic transmission fitted to the car we tested performed well, with smooth changes and eager kick-down.

If thereís an area to criticise, itís the steering Ė much too light and devoid of feeling. While this might be fine for old ladies parking, on the road itís just too vague and uncomfortably disconnected feeling. It leaves the driver feeling like they don't fully have control.

Inside, the Accent is high class. The finishes and somewhat dramatic sculptured design are good in my books. Itís not as boring inside as some of its competition (Volkswagen could learn something here). Thereís good room for two six-footers to sit one behind the other, though leg support in the back is almost non-existent for taller people.

Outside, the styling doesnít excite me much Ė itís definitely modern looking, but doesnít have the stylistic harmony which some other models of Hyundai enjoy these days.

Is it a good car? Undoubtedly. Would you buy it for your Mum? Yes, unless sheís been used to a BMW. Itís safe, well-equipped, nicely made but not a car to get excited by. The more basically fitted out Accent range starts at $16,990, underscoring Hyundaiís long held value for money message.


VITAL STATISTICS
 Engine type: 4-cylinder 1.6-litre
 Power: 91kW
 Torque: 156Nm
 Transmission: 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic
 Performance: 0-100km/h 9.0 seconds
 Price: $20,490 at time of writing
 Text - Paul Blank (copyright)