Driving the Accent in and around Metro Manila's traffic turned quite a lot heads. And there's no reason not to. The Accent does have a striking stance, bearing a large resemblance to the Tucson's facet and the Sonata's silhouette. Nevertheless, it still has its own unique character as it presents a menacing demeanor with is a gaping grill and tusk-like fog lamps. And when clad in crystal white, the Accent now becomes a status symbol of elegance and sophistication, contrary to the previous generation's taxi-white stereotype.
On the inside, the Accent's interior does look like a shrunk-down Sonata, which is a good thing, especially if you consider the fact that the Sonata is positioned two classes higher than this. The designers also paid close attention to the details, focusing on the material's look and feel. And for a car in this price range, cost-cutting measures would normally limit interior trim variety, but not for Hyundai. The dashboard alone is sculpted with two contrasting tones in three different textures, providing that upscale finish. But don't rejoice just yet. From what we've found out, all these fancy surfaces do get scratched easily, especially the high-gloss black trims, so better keep those nails short and sharp objects at bay.
Out on a stroll
Injected with Hyundai's latest “blue” technology, the 1.6 liter Gamma CVVT engine under the hood is not as colorful as we had hoped. Driving around on traffic-free roads that averaged 60 km/h, we only managed to clock in 10 km/L - around 10 to 20% less than expected - and that's with the “Eco” function turned on. Although a lighter-foot could fair much better, it makes up for this misstep with its poise. Even under hard acceleration, the cabin remains sleek and silent. On the other hand, it's still a mystery why they even bothered putting in a gate-type manumatic transmission when there's only four gears to play with. Oh, please give us a 6-speed auto!
For a car of this size and girth, ride comfort is surprisingly plush - even at par with some larger sedans. The Accent doesn't rattle like a typical sub-compact would when it hits a rather large pothole. Instead, it just thumps and continues on its way. Front passengers should also appreciate the extra legroom, but taller folks should avoid the rear due to a somewhat limited headroom. So unless you're a family of giants, a party of five will fit in just fine along with their luggage. Do take note that the test unit we drove is fitted with non-spec 14-inch rims, whereas the local 1.6 liter variant should be rolling on larger 16-inchers, so the ride might vary a bit.
In today's high-tech world, even your typical family sedan wouldn't be complete without an array of gizmos. Not to be left behind by its competitors, the Accent too is packed with some fancy features such as Bluetooth connectivity and an iPod-ready headunit. Music aficionados could also bust some beats the 6-speaker sound system Hyundai threw in. And when it comes to driving aids, the Accent's multifunction display keeps the driver well-informed whether it would be on fuel-economy, range, or even temperature. Speaking of temperature, the top-of-the-line model does come equipped with climate control and - get this - an Ionizer. And as far as safety goes, the Accent is stuffed with all the goodies that one would expect: ABS, EBD, dual front airbags for the 1.6L, and keyless entry with alarm.
The 2011 Hyundai Accent is a sure winner in terms of fashion. There's nothing quite as good-looking as this in sub-compact car segment. We've even caught some passers-by taking photos with it in the parking lot. And judging by specs alone, Hyundai has really raised the bar in terms of sophistication - adorning the Accent with creature-comforts that are more associated with more upscale cars. Despite the unflattering engine performance, it still is an exceptional car. With an entry-level price tag of just P588,000, it's the cheapest sub-compact in the market. Even this top-of-the-line model we tested is still a few thousands less than its rivals at P808,000. We're just hoping that they bring in a diesel variant soon and that by all means stop this all-new Accent from being turned into a cab.