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Riding the Sky Hammock

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The Hyundai Accent is like an uppity New England accent: clipped, cultured, with undertones of Asia— Asian frugality, that is. When you’re stuck in Asian traffic, just pretend you’re driving across New England in summer. The new Accent drives so smoothly, doing that won’t be a stretch

Asians make up as much as 20% of the population of some Ivy League schools. Imagine one in five students passing you in the square being Asian. Now, imagine one in five luxury cars passing you in the streets of Manila being Korean. Wait, you don’t have to. That’s our reality.

And that Korean car next to you is most likely a Hyundai. Heck, the car you’re driving is probably a Hyundai.

If you’re still enamored by Japanese luxury sedans, you haven’t driven the Korean counterpart. If you did, you’d be a believer. There is no reason not to be. Especially after a few minutes behind the wheel of the Accent Blue.

The Accent 1.6L GLS Blue Limited feels like a luxury sedan in every way, except in the two places where it counts the most: fuel consumption and price tag.

Oh, and it is extremely easy on the eyes.

Economy

The Accent Blue 1.6L A/T consumes only 5.1L/100km. Awesome fuel economy for a car that is a subcompact sedan by the centimeter but feels like a much larger car in every way that matters, from roomy interior to smoothness of ride.

The Accent drives so smoothly that you won’t even feel the acceleration— until you realize that all the other cars were left eating your dust at the last stoplight. For leadfoots like me, Hyundai added an eco indicator to the Accent’s A/T model back in 2010 and it’s also present in the new model for the Philippine market.

The ECO light is a pat on the back that you’re achieving fuel economy. It’s part of Hyundai’s Blue Drive technology (which includes things like drag, tire resistance, and low emissions) and alerts you when you’ve accelerated too fast. Guilty.

In M/T models, Blue technology means having an eco shift indicator that tells you when it’s the perfect time to change gears. (I love all these doodads that teach you how to drive. And I love fighting the obsessive urge to keep looking at the doodads!)

Although it doesn’t look it, the Accent is an economy car in the same class as the (slightly larger) City and the (smaller) Vios. It is the descendant of Hyundai’s subcompact line from the 1990s, the Excel. But today’s Accent looks so far removed from the line’s patriarch that the only evidence of the relationship is the italicized H on the nose of each car.

The new Accent doesn’t even look like earlier models. The 2011 Accent looks like the 2010 version on steroids, especially the bronze one I drove. Maybe that’s why it’s being marketed as a man’s car. I have a feeling though that the Accent may not be macho-looking enough for some Filipino drivers. But if you’re man enough to choose fuel efficiency and (ahem) low impact on the environment over whatever imagined ‘porma’ you think is manly, then you will have nothing to complain about with the 1.6L GLS Blue. Especially after you take it for a spin and watch it respond beneath your hands. (The bronze model gets more macho points than the white one. Just a girl’s opinion. The way the bronze catches the tropical sun and dazzles makes the Accent look rich, sophisticated, and three times its price tag!)

The only thing that can compromise fuel economy is the Accent’s most winning feature, handling. Believe me, you will have to fight the temptation to put the pedal to the metal—blinking ECO light and award-winning GDI engine be damned.

Handling
I’m the farthest thing from a gearhead and it takes something truly awesome to wake me up from the stupor of those who drive simply to get from Point A to B. But the minute the Accent and I rolled out of the Hyundai parking lot in Makati, I was as ecstatic as any motorhead.

It was late in the evening and I thought I was hallucinating. Does this car really cost under a million? Was I just high on the leftover adrenaline of a long day that the car felt light as air as I navigated my way around Salcedo Village traffic? And did I really just drive over those potholes and uneven sections on Edsa?

It was like falling asleep on a sky hammock. I didn’t even feel like I was driving. I thought I was getting a massage! Before I disgust you with this loopy auto review, let me describe the experience in more coherent terms.

The Accent felt stable at top (city) speeds and around fast corners. It was confident changing lanes and navigating roundabouts and stopped as efficiently as it accelerated. The techies at Hyundai can probably explain things like drag coefficient and transmission systems to me until I’m blue in the face, but I wouldn’t have understood any of it until I danced with the Accent Blue.

What is most amazing is that the smoothness of the ride here is comparable to bigger sedans with double the price tag. During long stretches of driving past midnight, I had to blast loud music from my iPod out the 6 speakers just to remember where I was and what I was doing!

One reason for the smoothness is the wheelbase of 2570mm (compare that to the Honda City’s 2550mm). It also helps that the engine is quiet as heck (another reason you will not feel the acceleration).

Heft
One of the first things I noticed about the Accent is its huge trunk. Although golf clubs are best riding shotgun (in any sedan, please!), the trunk is the heftiest I’ve seen for a subcompact sedan in this class.

The cabin space also feels wider and longer than a subcompact. I dare you to compare the roominess of the Accent Blue and the Honda City. The Accent measures 4370 x 1700 x 1457 (mm) to the City’s 4430 x 1695 x 1470 (mm).

Guess what? I can’t tell the difference! The Accent’s dimensions even translate bigger for some reason. It’s so much bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. Much bigger. These Koreans.

As for the rest of the interior, it’s comparable to cars that cost over a million—or two, even. The seats were comfy and felt posh enough even while sitting in traffic for close to three hours. (Why is northbound traffic so tight now even at 11 at night?

SRP for the Accent GLS 1.6 A/T is Php828,000, the 1.4 A/T is Php708,000, and the M/T is Php618,000.

Hyundai CEO in the Philippines, Fe Perez-Agudo, recently admitted that they could only supply 70% of the local market demand. And yet Hyundai’s Philippine market grew 44% in Q1 compared to the same period last year. They actually sold a couple hundred units shy of 7,000 during the first three months of this year. Now you know why.

Print ed: 05/12

 

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