What's New for 1997
In the absence of truly ground-breaking improvement, Hyundai revises trim levels, adding GS hatchback and GL sedan midrange models.
What a pleasant surprise from Hyundai. If the latest Sonata hinted at the direction the company was to take in the future, then the Accent is an in-your-face declaration from this Korean manufacturer that the days of selling shoddy, inept vehicles in the United States are over. The Accent is one of the better subcompacts in today's market.
However, you've got to pay for excellence, and the Accent is among the most expensive of its peers. Only the Toyota Tercel and Dodge/Plymouth Neon twins have higher sticker prices for comparably equipped vehicles.
In contrast, a Geo Metro sedan is a tad less pricey than the Accent. There is a reason for this; the Metro doesn't come standard with such niceties as rear window defogger, cargo area lighting, remote releases for the fuel door and trunk, or digital clock. Additionally, the Accent benefits from single-piece side stampings, which contribute to stiffer body rigidity, and a 92-horsepower engine that far outranks the top-line 70-horse motor provided in the Geo. Is the Hyundai worth the additional money over the Metro? Absolutely! The Metro feels a bit roomier, but the Accent offers more equipment and feels more solidly constructed than the tinny Geo.
Unfortunately for Hyundai, another South Korean automaker has entered the U.S. market, expanding rapidly during the past couple of years. Kia builds the Sephia sedan, and it is larger and more powerful than the Hyundai. The Sephia can be loaded to the gills for little more than the Accent, and looks more expensive than it really is in top-level trim. Sephia is also powered by a proven Mazda powerplant.
Aside from the putrid seat fabrics, childish paint schemes and funky smell associated with all new Hyundais, we like the Accent quite a bit. It's a great set of budget wheels, without the budget engineering or the budget equipment levels. Still, we recommend the Kia to those who live in parts of the country where the Sephia is currently sold.