What's New for 2002
Air conditioning becomes standard equipment on GS and GL models. Otherwise, Hyundai's bargain-basement car soldiers on to 2002 with no changes in store.
Hyundai is on a mission to reinvent itself in the minds of the American car-buying public. After a rocky period in the '80s that had people saying, "Hyundais sure are inexpensive ... and you get what you pay for," the company has unleashed several winners in a row. The Elantra offers impressive power and sophistication for its price, the Sonata is a roomy and well-built midsize sedan that undercuts competitors by thousands, and the Santa Fe is larger than most mini-utes. Additionally, all Hyundais come with an impressive 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty, helping instill peace in the consumer's mind.
The entry-level Accent is no exception to Hyundai's rule. Three versions are available. The base L and midlevel GS come in hatchback format, while the highline GL model is available only as a sedan. The base engine on L models is a 1.5-liter SOHC four-cylinder making 89 horsepower. A larger 103-horsepower 1.6-liter is optional on L and standard on GS and GL models. This DOHC design offers more power and increased fuel economy over the standard engine. An available four-speed automatic performs admirably, but can only be added to the GS or the GL.
Under the Accent's attractively creased bodywork sits a MacPherson strut independent front and a dual-link rear suspension. Stabilizer bars at both ends do a poor job of controlling body lean, and skinny 13-inch wheels and tires do little to inspire confidence in Accent's handling. But the use of hydraulic engine mounting means reduced noise, vibration and harshness. Safety features include depowered airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners. Unfortunately, ABS for the front disc/rear drum braking system is not even available as an option.
Interiors feature a modern instrument pod and a center stack with straightforward climate and radio controls. Rear seat heating and ventilation ducts help keep backseat riders comfortable, and the use of noise-reduction material in the A- and B-pillars attempts to quiet the ride. The driver seat features adjustments for height and rake, as well as fore and aft settings. Oh, and a nifty fold-down armrest is standard.
Standard equipment includes a cassette player, rear defroster, trip odometer and power steering. Step up to the GS or GL, and you'll receive air conditioning (optional for the L), upgraded carpeting, a digital clock, a tachometer, adjustable lumbar support for the driver, a 60/40 folding rear seat, a passenger visor vanity mirror and tinted glass. Upgraded trims also open the door to the few factory options that are available, such as power front windows, power exterior mirrors and a CD player. Any Accents can be had with carpeted floor mats, a rear spoiler, a center armrest, mudguards and a cargo net for the trunk.
Hyundai has made great strides with regard to quality in the last few years and is gaining respect for its products. In the subcompact world, the Accent has plenty to offer buyers who must have that new-car smell and new-car warranty. But at a welterweight 2,280 pounds, this smallest Hyundai doesn't offer much crash protection from the hulking SUVs and pickups on the roads. Our advice? Spend the few dollars you have on a larger, slightly used vehicle from one of the major Japanese manufacturers. In the long run, you'll probably be happier.