How do you define “entry level”? The term used to be a sort of code word for cheap cars with poor driving dynamics and questionable build quality; in other words, machines that only the most frugal could enjoy. And Hyundai was the star player in the Canadian entry level market. The 2001 Accent, however, underscores both how far the Korean manufacturer has come and how much the bar has been raised in the entry car arena.
SSGM tested a GSi “3-door” (hatchback) and found the Accent a significant improvement over the previous generation, especially under the hood.
Hyundai offers two engines in the Accent, the 1.5L SOHC “Alpha” engine in the GS, and a more powerful 1.6L DOHC in the GSi and four-door GL. The 1.5 generates 92 horsepower at 5500 RPM and 97 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 RPM, both respectable numbers. The GSi test vehicle used the DOHC 1.6, which produces 106 horsepower at 5,800 RPM and 107 lb.-ft. of torque at a useful 3000 RPM. By comparison, the 1.7L SOHC of the Honda Civic DX is rated at 115 horsepower, and 110 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 RPM. The numbers aside, the Accent has good power, better than you’d expect from an entry car and more than enough for conventional city or highway driving. A 10-to-1 compression ratio from the slightly undersquare design accounts for the good torque figures, and the engine uses dual knock sensors with a Bosch engine management system. The power plant also features hydraulic lifters, roller rocker arms, port injection, and a distributorless ignition system. Engine mounts are hydraulic, and general engine access is on par with other four-cylinder subcompacts.
Brakes feature a new pad material to reduce shudder during hard braking, and rear drums have an increased lining area. Power brakes are standard throughout the line, and the 9-inch brake booster is larger than last year’s. Steering is by power rack and pinion except on the price leader three-door GS.
Transmissions are five-speed manual, and optional four-speed automatic. The auto box features a lock-up torque converter, and uses adaptive logic to delay upshifts under heavy load, and can skip a gear when downshifting during deceleration.
The suspension is very conventional, with MacPherson struts, coil springs and an anti-roll bar up front, followed by a dual-link rear design with coils and a rear anti-roll bar. Handling turned out to be similarly conventional, with strong understeer and a slight tendency to tuck in when the throttle is lifted. Cornering limits are perfectly adequate for a vehicle in this segment, although the P185/60R-14 Hankooks give up well before the chassis’ true limits are reached. It’s stable, and positively resists provocation at the apex unless braked hard with the left foot. On the alignment bench, you’ll notice increased caster and a more precise toe setting, along with a higher rear roll centre.
Fit and finish are good, and the quality of interior materials seems on par with other small cars. The driver’s seat has good adjustability, and the airbag system is supplemented with front seat belt pretensioners, and three rear shoulder harnesses.
The complaint list is short: The essential dash-mounted cup holder is retractable, but looks too flimsy for serious 7-Eleven duty, and the good sound quality of the Clarion audio unit is dampened a little by controls that are too small and complex to use easily while driving. In general, the Accent GSi is capable, even fun, and is a bargain at just over $14,000. It also appears very straightforward to repair and maintain, although with a three-year bumper-to-bumper warranty, independents won’t be see- ing too many ’01 Accents for a while. SSGM