Hyundai Accent, 2003: The Weekly Driver Car Review

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A four-wheel drive sports utility vehicle, with plenty of cargo space and easy access would have been the logical choice. Instead, the three of us, all at least 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, made the drive in a 2003 3-door Hyundai Accent GL. Long-time running friends, we arrived at Pollock Pines, Calif., elevation 4,000 feet, after an hour’s trek on a cool summer morning along Interstate 50 from Sacramento.

When we arrived from the flatlands, it was just after sunrise and the dirt parking lot for the recreational retreat was full of SUV’s.

Nevertheless, the entry level offering from the South Korean manufacturer renowned for its 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, had surprised us.

As the driver, my front-seat was secure for the round-trip journey to the peaceful retreat. My two friends, given advanced warning, reversed seats, each stretching across the backseat for half of the trip. I also explained that considering our collective weight, we might advance sluggishly, particularly on steady, long ascents.

On the contrary, the 1.6-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine accelerated without hesitation, and the 5-speed manual transmission shifted easily. In fact, we passed several vehicles whose drivers had moved into the right lane.

The Accent, restyled and its base model given an increase to 105 horsepower in 2003, is available in three models and five styles. In 1995, it replaced the Excel, which a decade earlier became the first Hyundai available in the Unites States.

The Accent used in this test drive had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $10,899, which included plenty of standard features: air conditioning, a 60-40 split, folding rear seat, two retractable cupholders, tachometer and digital clock and rear-window defroster, among other items.

Its optional features, including power windows, locks and mirrors, AM/FM Stereo, six-speaker CD, and floor and cargo mats, pushed the price to just under $12,000 — an economical price for more car than might be expected as an entry-level vehicle.

Despite its responsiveness, the Accent has drawbacks. The vehicle is not particularly quiet nor does it provide a bump-free ride.

But for three weary runners, the vehicle fared well on the return trip after a long-day’s journey on dusty trails.

The friend who rode in the front passenger seat on the return trip had ample room for his tired legs. And the third member of the running trio had no complaints while he stretched across the rear seat.

A small feature, for sure, but a foot pedal that pushes the bottom and the top of the passenger front seat forward helped ease his way.

No doubt, a larger, 4-door vehicle would have offered more luxury — and used more more gas — during our journey.

But for value-for-dollar consideration, and its the ability to zip around town, squeeze into small parking spots or even climb into the mountains, the Accent has little reason for insecurity as Hyundai’s entry-level offering.

Safety Features — Driver and front passenger airbags, front seat side airbags. Three-point front seatbelts.

Warranty — 10-year, 100,000 miles (powertrain), 5-year, 60,000-mile (new-car bumper-to-bumper).

Fuel Mileage — 29 mpg (city), 33 mpg (highway).

Base Price Range — $9,999-$11,897.000

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