Monthly Archives: September 2008

In The Autoblog Garage: 2008 Hyundai Accent SE

Dismal little car. That’s what you’d hear 20 years ago when the conversation turned to Hyundai. The Excel wasn’t as terrible as a Yugo, or even as horrifically unreliable as sneering Peugeots, but it wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. Back then, even Japanese brands were still targets of xenophobia; who was this Korean company trying to fool?

Hyundai persevered, and now the South Korean industrial giant is making vehicles that garner good recommendations and carry one of the best warranties in the business. Hyundai’s Accent could be considered a spiritual successor to the unloved Excel, and it carries on that car’s basic formula of delivering a comparable car for less money than the competition. What do you give up to get a car that’s not stripped, yet still cheaper?

Recent history has seen Hyundais roll off dealer lots as well-equipped, attractively anonymous cars that lack engaging driving dynamics. That’s not so much the case anymore, as our time with the Accent has proven. The first check mark in the Accent’s plus column is styling that’s normal. It’s even dull, and that’s fine when faced with the ugly visages of any Scion, the ungainly proportions of a Versa, or the outright confusion of a Focus.

Deliciously conventional, the Accent has clean flanks broken by a strong stroke carved across its middle and a mildly sporting hatch profile. The 3-door we sampled carried the top SE trim level, coming with body color mirrors and door handles, a rear spoiler, foglamps, and handsome 16-inch alloy wheels as highlights among the nearly all-inclusive package of goodies. It’s base price was $15,280 with the only option being sporty floormats.

The Accent SE runs with a pack of cars that includes the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Suzuki SX4 wagon. All are less conventionally styled than the Accent, and on virtually every measure, the Hyundai is competitive. Measuring tape doesn’t tell the whole story, though.

Like the exterior, Hyundai’s not stretching to break new ground with the interior. Spend some time in the hell-box interior of an xB and you’ll cry tears of joy the first time you plant your tukas in the Accent. Rather than be different for the sake of it, Hyundai delivers a clean, simply operated human-car interface rendered in decent materials. The radio sits up high, easily reached, and just below it are three knobs for the HVAC – no fiddly rocker controls here. Because we’re lazy auto journos, we missed audio controls on the leather wrapped steering wheel, but the stereo is right there.

The seats are econo-car fare, though bolstered halfway decently and supportive in the right spots. Cloth upholstery in two tasteful patterns should endure at least until the warranty runs out in a decade. There are touches of bargain bin inside, however. The seat brackets, especially for the rears, are right out in the open, not dressed in like on some other cars, which adds a touch of cheap. The door panels are made of a plastic that will quickly become marred with scratches, too. Our sampler was already showing signs of wear in this area. Overall, materials are midpack for the class, with low-luster coverings on the dash and upper door panels, non-flimsy controls, and faultless ergonomics. It’s a richer feeling cockpit than you’d expect, and the simple gauge package is thankfully where it belongs, right in front of the driver.

Hyundai’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder kicks it with a DOHC 16-valve layout and a slightly gravel voice that’ll happily bellow all day. 110 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque have 2,500 lbs to bear, and when channeled through the five-speed transaxle, the Accent can even be mildly entertaining. The shifter isn’t a model of precision, but the startlingly chunky setup OEM’d by B&M feels good in the hand and the ridiculously oversized machined aluminum lockout ring is a conversation piece. Our favorite powertrain feature by far was the honest-to-goodness throttle cable. No drive by wire actuation here; press the pedal and you get a response without latency.

A sporty suspension tune is also part of the SE up-rating. MacStruts up front and a torsion beam out back are time honored ingredients for the sporty hatch recipe. Hyundai stuffed plenty of rubber under the Accent SE, wrapping the 16-inch alloys with 205s for plenty of stiction. SE-specific springs and shocks keep body motions in check while you’re flinging the Accent SE around by the scruff of its neck, exercising the model’s specific steering rack and stabilizer bar. Even with a disc/drum combo platter, the brake pedal is firm and confident. And while the Accent ultimately understeers, it’s got the moves and the traction to keep you grinning. The ride winds up being firm without being harsh, though the Accent can’t manage the supple chassis dynamics of a Volkswagen Rabbit.

Sharp responses aren’t everything, and the Accent works just dandy as a daily driver, too. Adults will fit in the rear seats, though the Accent will likely not be the staff car of an NBA franchise. Hatchbacks have winning flexibility, and the Accent happily hauled plenty of bulky items, construction materials or whatever for us. One disappointment during the Accent’s stay was fuel economy. While the EPA rates the Accent SE at 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway when equipped with the 5-speed, we only acheived 27.5 mpg with a highway-heavy commute.

Maybe we were having more fun than we thought with the Accent, and that’s why we didn’t see the type of fuel economy we were expecting. Rare is the small car that can mix it up on a back road at the hands of a competent driver and give fits to the poseurs in sportier cars. We’re not sure we’d be as enthusiastic about the softer GS or GLS Accents, but the SE tickles our automotive enjoyment centers without creating an achy wallet.

©2008 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

2009 Hyundai Sonata surprisingly stylish

“That’s a nice looking car,” said my friend as she gazed out her window at the silver sedan. “Is it a BMW?”

“Huh, look again,” I replied. “It’s a Hyundai.”

A couple of days later in a parking lot, another friend absent-mindedly started walking toward a silver 7 Series parked across from the Sonata. “Wrong car,” I said. “We came in the silver Hyundai.”

Once upon a time, it seemed inconceivable that any conscious person would mistake a Hyundai for a BMW. That was especially true of the Sonata. The last-generation of Hyundai’s middle child — the Sonata slots above the Accent and Elantra and below the Azera and new Genesis in the Korean automaker’s model line-up — was decidedly homely. But the latest-generation Sonata has contemporary styling that looks not at all out of place beside one of the German wunderwagens.

For 2009, Hyundai’s designers refined the car’s look even further, with new bumpers, headlamps, wheels and grille. And on Limited models such as my test car, they’ve added chrome side and bumper strips to match the chrome grille and door handles.

The designers paid even more attention to the ’09 Sonata’s interior. There’s an entirely new center console and instrument cluster, though the gauges retain Hyundai’s handsome, signature-blue backlighting. The materials in my Limited test car belied the Sonata’s moderate price and included chrome accents, wood trim and leather upholstery. The new Sonata’s interior also has standard auxiliary input jacks (a 3.5 mm mini-jack and a USB input) to accommodate iPods. When an iPod or flash drive is connected through the USB port, located in the center storage compartment, not only does it play music through the vehicle’s six-speaker audio system, but it also charges the iPod and allows the driver to access tracks with the steering wheel audio controls.

Hyundai has given the Sonata the unenviable duty of competing mano-a-mano with the two most popular cars in land, Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord. But the Sonata has a roomier interior than the Camry (though it’s a bit less roomy than the Accord) and a larger trunk than either the Camry or Accord. Indeed, the cabin is spacious — even in the rear seat.

The Sonata’s 2.4-liter, 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine is reworked for 2009, delivering more power and quicker acceleration, with better fuel economy to boot. That’s quite a trick. The all-aluminum, 16-valve engine now features Continuously Variable Valve Timing on both camshafts and a Variable Induction System for better engine breathing. My test car with an automatic transmission carried EPA ratings of 22 mpg in the city and an impressive 32 mpg on the highway, with a 25-mpg combined rating — not bad for a such a roomy car.

Though I wouldn’t call it neck-snapping, acceleration seemed entirely adequate, whether accelerating up a freeway onramp or passing traffic at highway speeds. The five-speed automatic shifted smoothly and had controls that allowed me to upshift or downshift manually.

Hyundai also offers the Sonata with a 3.3-liter V-6 engine that pumps out 249 horsepower, 15 more than last year. Fuel economy figures for the V-6 are 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway — not a great deal less than those for the four-banger engine.

Hyundai engineers tweaked the Sonata’s handling and steering for ’09. The big change is a new multi-link system for the rear suspension. Sonatas also now have quicker ratio steering. Still, the Sonata is more cruzin’ sedan than sport sedan, though its handling is on par with other cars in its class, including the Camry and Accord as well the Chevy Malibu and Ford Fusion. It’s not an exciting car to drive as there is a fair amount of body lean in the corners and the steering feels rather numb, despite the quicker ratio.

But the latest Sonata is comfy. Not only does the suspension smooth out most of the bumps in the road, the car’s low interior noise levels make for a relaxing drive.

In recent years, Hyundai has made a determined effort to earn high safety ratings with all its cars. It’s certainly paid off with the Sonata; 2008 Sonatas have straight five-star ratings in front and side crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And there’s no reason to think that the ’09 model won’t earn them too when NHTSA completes its tests. All Sonatas come standard with six airbags, anti-lock brakes and an electronic stability control system.

Good as all this stuff is, value is what drives car buyers to Hyundai dealers. And the least expensive Sonata — the GLS with the four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission — is just under $19,000. Hyundai also is offering some hefty rebates. The least expensive Camry is about $1,000 more, while Hyundai undercuts the least expensive Accord by more than $2,000. Air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry and power windows are standard even on the base GLS. My four-cylinder Limited model test car, with all the trimmings, came in close to 25 grand.

No, the Sonata isn’t a BMW. But then, it costs about half the price.


BASE PRICE: $18,795

BASE ENGINE: 2.4-liter, 175-horsepower inline-4

LAYOUT: Front engine/front-wheel drive

BODY/SEATS: Four-door sedan/five

CURB WEIGHT: 3,292 pounds

OVERALL LENGTH: 188.9 inches

FUEL ECONOMY: 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway

The Press-Enterprise

Genesis of a luxury car from Hyundai

Hyundai first made a name for itself in the U.S. in 1986 with a subcompact $4,995 Excel. After some fits and starts, Hyundai is ready to go upscale with a full-size $40,000 Genesis flagship for 2009.

Genesis was to be a separate division, like Toyota has Lexus, but economics dictated keeping all Hyundais in one showroom.

Besides, says Michael Deitz, manager of product development for Hyundai this is a “rational progression.”

“The midsize Azera has done well at $30,000,” he said. “We felt a Genesis starting at $33,000 to $35,000 wouldn’t be asking buyers to make a huge leap.”

Especially, considering Hyundai is positioning Genesis against the BMW 750i, which costs some $40,000 more, and a Mercedes-Benz S550, at $54,000 more. That $40,000 to $54,000, Deitz points out, “Is at least another car—or two.”

Genesis is Hyundai’s first rear-wheel-drive, V-8 powered sedan. A two-door comes out in the first quarter of next year.

The sedan offers a choice of a 3.8-liter, 290-horsepower V-6 or a 4.6-liter V-8 that delivers 375 h.p. with premium lead-free fuel or 368 h.p. with regular unleaded. Premium provides optimum performance, but regular gives those who gripe about spending a dime more a gallon one less reason to whine.

We tested Genesis with both engines, but spent the most time with the V-8. Both are smooth and quiet, but the V-8 takes off like Road Runner in the cartoon, with zero-to-60 m.p.h. acceleration in 5.7 seconds versus 6.2 with the V-6.

Yet Genesis doesn’t wiggle as speed builds and follows whatever line you draw for it without wobble over uneven roads. With the V-8, pedal response is immediate; the V-6 needs a nudge. The V-8 is rated at 17 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g. highway, the V-6 at 18/27, nothing to encourage conservationists.

Ride is luxury smooth. Handling benefits from the sports-tuned suspension. Wide-profile, 18-inch radials cushion the cabin from road blemishes while gripping tight in corners. Steering response is speed-sensitive to sharpen handling.

Deitz says standard electronic stability control along with traction control should provide secure motoring for the RWD sedan in the Snow Belt. AWD is under consideration, but not until Gen II since the current version wasn’t designed for it.

“Remember the Chrysler 300 was initially launched without AWD,” Deitz said.

The cabin is roomy and spacious. Non-slip perforated leather seats are like easy chairs for the long haul. But why does the driver get an optional heated and cooled seat, the passenger heated only?

The windshield and side windows have an acoustic laminated cover while the roof is treated with anti-vibration material to reduce noise filtering back into the cabin.

A textured finish for the dash, instrument panel and door trim, along with the seat stitching, give the cabin a rich look. Other nice touches include release buttons for the spacious trunk and gas cap in the driver’s door, visors with mirrors and parking pass or gas credit card holders, power plug in the dash as well as a power plug/USB outlet and coin holder under the center armrest, power sun shade for the rear window and a ski pass-through from trunk to cabin.

A few gripes, however, one being that the rear seat holds three but the one in the middle has to straddle the drivetrain hump in the floor. Plus, headroom back there can be tight for 6 footers. And the battery is under the trunk floor, a sign the engine compartment is crammed and a challenge for the mechanic.

The Genesis V-8 starts at $37,250 and includes anti-lock brakes, side-curtain air bags, power sunroof, power window/door/seat/mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. Only option on the V-8 is a $4,000 technology package with navigation system, backup camera, Bluetooth phone system, automatic leveling headlamps, front and rear park-assist beepers, cooled driver seat and adaptive lighting in which the headlamps move in the direction of the turn. With that package and $750 for freight, Genesis tops out at $42,000. The V-6 starts at $32,250 and with three option packages totaling $7,000, plus freight, tops out at $40,000.

Deitz said Genesis will be joined by an ’09 Elantra Touring (wagon) in the first quarter of next year, the ’10 Genesis coupe in the spring, an new crossover in the fourth quarter of next year, a new more crossover like Tucson for ’10, the next-generation Sonata in the second quarter of ’10 as an ’11 and the next-generation Accent in early ’11 as a ’12.

Jim Mateja

First Look: 2009 Hyundai Entourage

The Hyundai Entourage has been a safe, reliable family mover for several years now, so to up the ante for 2009, Hyundai decided to simplify. For 2009, only two Entourage models are available, the base GLS and the top-level Limited. This is good news for buyers, because instead of cutting options along with the trim levels, Hyundai just made a lot of package options standard, giving the Entourage even more value for the money.

In addition to standardizing many options, the Entourage gets some new goodies for 2009 as well. Standard on all Entourages is a new stereo with what Hyundai says is an improved display and better controls. The new stereo gets XM Satellite Radio standard with three months of service included, as well as USB and iPod connectivity. iPods plugged into the stereo will be controlled by the stereo and have their batteries charged at the same time.

All 2009 Entourages come with a bundle of safety features standard. In addition to driver and passenger front airbags, the Hyundai minivan has side impact airbags for front seat passengers as well as side curtain airbags for all passengers. The Entourage also gets electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, a tire-pressure-monitoring system and electronic brake-force distribution, which works with the ABS to maximize braking force in emergency stops. All seats get three-point seatbelts and the front seats get active head restraints to minimize whiplash during an accident. Second and third row seats get LATCH anchor points for securing child seats. All of these features work together to net the 2009 Entourage five-star front, side, rear, and rollover ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and “Top Pick” distinction from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Moving the Entourage down the road is the now familiar 3.8L V-6 engine found in many Hyundais that puts out 250 hp and 253 lb-ft. Even with all the oomph, the engine burns clean, qualifying as an Ultra Low Emissions vehicle and gets 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. A five-speed automatic gearbox with Shiftronic does the shifting, allowing the driver to manually select gears if they so desire. Smoothing out the ride is a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and a multilink setup riding on coil springs in the back. The Entourage can tow 1000 lb standard and up to 3000 lb when equipped with trailer brakes.

The base-model Entourage comes nicely equipped, featuring power windows, mirrors and doors as well as keyless remote entry. Entertainment comes from an Infinity six-speaker, 172-watt stereo with XM Satellite Radio and USB and iPod connectivity. Other features include 16-in. wheels, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, front armrests, a fold-away tray table with four cupholders between the front seats, dual vanity mirrors, roof racks, windshield wiper deicers and the Hyundai Hideaway third-row seat. Passengers stay comfortable with front and rear AC, with roof-mounted vents for the second and third rows. Opt for the Popular Equipment Package and the GLS picks up power sliding doors, power rear pop-out windows, a backup warning system, power driver’s seat, and steering wheel audio controls. Add the Rear Seat Entertainment Package and you can get a DVD entertainment system with 8-in. LCD screen for the rear-seat passengers.

Buyers who pick up the Entourage Limited will get everything found on a Popular Equipment Package-equipped GLS as well as a compass, trip computer, 17-in. wheels, an Infinity Logic 7 660-watt surround-sound audio system with six-CD changer, leather seats all around, heated front seats, dual-zone front automatic climate control, a tilting and sliding sun roof, adjustable pedals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, power front passengers seat, a memory system for the drivers seat, adjustable pedals and outside mirrors, automatic headlights, foglights, heated mirrors, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear selector, a power liftgate, lights for both vanity mirrors and chrome door handles inside and out. The Rear Seta Entertainment Package is also standard on the Limited model.

All Entourages are backed up by multiple warranties. Hyundai offers a five-year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain limited warranty, seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage and five-year/unlimited mileage 24-hour roadside assistance.

Hyundai hasn’t released pricing for the 2009 Entourage yet, but expect it to be similar to 2008 pricing. In all, Hyundai continues to be a value leader with the Entourage, providing a well-equipped people mover with lots of space, plenty of comfort and spectacular safety.

Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, 5-7-pass, 4-door Mini-van
Engine 3.8L/250-hp/253-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 4400-4659 lbs (mfr)
Wheelbase 118.9 in
Length x width x height 202.0 x 78.1 x 75.1 in
Headroom, f/m/r 41.0/39.8/38.3 in
Legroom, f/m/r 41.7/40.9/38.3 in
Shoulder room, f/m/r 63.2/65.4/60.5 in
Cargo vol behind f/m/r 141.5/80.2/32.2 cu.ft
EPA City/Hwy Econ 16/23 mpg
CO2 Emissions 1.05 lb/mile

By Scott Evans

Hyundai Genesis emerges as rival to Lexus

There was a time when South Korean carmaker Hyundai was considered absurdly precocious in challenging Toyota in the U.S. That was more than 3 million sales ago.

Now, they’re taking on Lexus.

The world’s fifth largest automaker, Hyundai — yes, Hyundai — sees its first rear-drive luxury car, the Genesis, as a worthy rival to the Lexus ES 350. And no one’s laughing.

There’s no laughter at BMW or Mercedes-Benz, either, when Hyundai compares the Genesis to the 5-Series and E-Class respectively. And at much lower cost.

Hyundai began selling the Genesis in July with a 3.8-liter, 290 horsepower V6 bearing a price tag of $33,000, which is $340 less than BMW commands for the compact 328i and only $200 higher than the average price of a new car in the U.S. this year.

Now comes the 4.6-liter V8 with 368 horses that propel the rear-drive sedan from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.

With a base price of $38,000, the V8 is expected to secure a place for Hyundai on the wishlists of people shopping the Lexus ES 350, Chrysler 300C, Pontiac G8 and the Cadillac CTS, among others.

“We’re aware there’s a segment out there that won’t consider a luxury vehicle unless it has a V8,” said Michael Deitz, manager of product development for Hyundai Motor America. “It’s not just about horsepower today, it’s about efficiency.”

Hyundai has always done a magnificent job in the styling department, borrowing cues from the best in the business. So it was not surprising that Genesis fit the fashion scene of Miami Beach and Coral Gables, where the V8 cruised quietly in a recent demo tour, loaded to the gills with luxury features.

The nicely proportioned body rides on a 115.6 inch wheelbase that is more than 3 inches longer than that of the Lexus GS and more than an inch longer than the Infiniti M’s.

The Genesis face is predatory, with a tapered aluminum hood framed by backswept high-intensity headlamps resembling the eyes of a raptor. A trapezoidal grille with winglike vanes accentuates the curvature of the snout above a low-to-the-ground air scoop that represents the predator’s mouth.

The aerodynamic roofline flows back onto a short deck and a blunt rear end tightly tucked and decorated with wraparound tail lamps.

To achieve instant credibility in the premium market, Hyundai had to provide more of everything at an unbeatable price: More horsepower than a Lexus GS and Infiniti M, better longitudinal balance than a Lexus ES 350, bigger disc brakes than a Mercedes-Benz E550, better aerodynamics than a BMW 5-Series and Cadillac CTS, and faster acceleration from 0 to 60 mph (5.7 seconds) than the BMW 750i (6 seconds) or the Lexus LX 460 (5.9).

The new Tau V8 has more horsepower per liter than any of its V8 competitors and outperforms all V8 performance sedans with an EPA fuel economy estimate of 17 city miles per gallon and 25 highway, according to Hyundai research.

But where Genesis really exceeds expectations is in its load of standard equipment. A $36,000 Genesis 3.8 with the Premium Package Plus is $8,000 less than a comparably equipped Infiniti M35 and $22,000 less than a comparable BMW 535i.

Standard on the 3.8 models are 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, automatic headlights, dual power heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators, leather upholstery with heated power seats, proximity entry with electric push button start, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls, dual automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jacks and Bluetooth.

When you move up to the 4.6, you get 18-inch hyper-silver alloy wheels, chrome lower bodyside moldings, power glass sunroof with tilt and slide, power tilt and telescopic steering column, integrated memory system, Lexicon 15-speaker surround sound audio system, six-disc CD changer, illuminated scuff plates, wood-trimmed leather steering wheel, electrochromic auto-dimming interior rearview mirror with Homelink and compass, power rear sunshade and rain-sensing wipers with auto defogger windshield.

In another extreme measure to challenge the luxury market, Genesis has even matched the Rolls Royce Phantom as the only other car to offer a Lexicon-branded audio system featuring Logic 7 technology. The surround sound audio system includes an 11-channel digital amplifier and 17 speakers producing more than 500 watts of sound in 7.1 discrete audio. Hyundai also claims to be the first popular brand to offer digital HD Radio from the factory.

Navigation-equipped Genesis models also include a 40-gigabyte hard drive and XM NavTraffic. Genesis also comes standard with XM Satellite Radio with a three-month free subscription.

Continuing the coverage that helped overcome early doubts about Hyundai quality, the Genesis warranty includes five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage. Buyers also get free 24-hour roadside assistance for five years.

While Hyundai cannot match the prestige of names like Infiniti, Lexus and Acura, it can grab a piece of the market that wants luxury at a more affordable price. Hyundai at one time considered creating a luxury brand for models such as the Genesis but decided the cost was too high for the rewards.

Hyundai was wise in moving gradually up-market from its current position, avoiding the marketing boondoggle of Volkswagen’s exotically priced Phaeton.

In the first full month of sales, Hyundai delivered 1,177 units of Genesis in August.

“Consumers are showing their vote of confidence and that they will step up for a Hyundai,” Deitz said.

WHAT’S NEW: First rear-drive, V8-powered, luxury Hyundai.

PLUSES: Value, standard features, comfort, performance, safety.

MINUSES: Less prestigious nameplate than luxury brands.

BOTTOM LINE: Stunning luxury debut at unbeatable price.

By RICHARD WILLIAMSON, Scripps Howard News Service

Hyundai Accent is light on the budget

Frugal buyers intent on saving money at the gasoline pump and the car dealership shouldn’t overlook the Hyundai Accent hatchback.

The three-door 2008 Accent has been the top-ranked, gasoline-powered, compact hatchback in government fuel economy ratings, with a city rating of 27 miles per gallon and a highway rating of 32 mpg when fitted with manual transmission.

Better yet, the soon-to-be-arriving 2009 Accent hatchback, with a mildly tweaked four-cylinder engine, has an even higher rating: 27/33 mpg for a combined city/highway rating of 33 mpg.

Hyundai’s entry model, the Accent 3-Door hatchback has a starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, of just $11,645 with manual transmission and $12,645 with automatic transmission for 2008 models. For 2009 Accent hatchbacks, base prices are $100 higher.

It’s worth noting that the low starting prices include items not normally found on base models of small, entry-level cars: a generous amount of standard safety equipment, including six air bags as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on powertrain components and five years of company-provided roadside assistance.

In comparison, the 2008 Toyota Yaris 3-door model starts at $12,210 with manual transmission. But curtain and side air bags are optional on the base Yaris. The Yaris also only comes with three-year/36,000-mile standard warranty coverage for its powertrain components.

By comparison, the popular Honda Fit hatchback with five doors includes the standard air bags that the Accent has but pricing starts at $15,220 for a 2009 model with manual transmission, and the standard powertrain warranty coverage is good for just three years/36,000 miles.

Unfortunately, there are no federal government crash test ratings for the Accent hatchback to show how much passenger protection is provided by the safety equipment. And while Consumer Reports magazine lists the Accent’s predicted reliability as average, another annual survey released in August put the Accent hatchback at the top of the small-car hatchback segment in durability.

Specifically, the Accent topped the Scion xA and Chevrolet Aveo in J.D. Power and Associates’ Vehicle Dependability Study that measures problems experienced by original car owners of 3-year-old vehicles. So, Power’s study relates to the 2005 Accent hatchback.

Accent buyers must get accustomed to riding in a lightweight car.

The test Accent, a 2008 SE 3-Door with manual transmission, weighed just under 2,500 pounds.

Doors closed with a less-than-solid sound, there was buffeting and some noise that came into the interior from nearby semitrailers, and the Accent SE felt light traveling on its uplevel, 16-inch tires.

But in normal driving, the Accent didn’t overtax its 110-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing.

Using the five gears in the manual transmission carefully, I worked to get decent get up and go in city traffic as I tapped the engine’s 106 foot-pounds of torque that came on at 4,500 rpm. On the highway, the Accent’s four cylinder became buzzy as I sought to pass other cars on uphill sections of road.

But, looking at the gasoline gauge after days of driving, I didn’t mind the performance-vs.-gas-usage trade off.

This car can travel nearly 400 mixed city/highway miles on a single tank of regular fuel. Even at $3.70 a gallon, a fill-up of the 11.9-gallon tank costs less than $45.

The Yaris hatchback has a 106-horsepower, four-cylinder engine producing 103 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200 rpm.

The front-wheel drive Accent comes with a MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam axle in back. In the SE, the front stabilizer bar is thicker than in other models, and the suspension is “sport-tuned.”

But the handling still seemed more mainstream than sporty. The same is true of the power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering.

Headroom in the Accent’s back seat is a commendable 37.8 inches compared with 33.8 inches in the back of a Yaris hatchback. But as in many small hatchbacks, three adults sit closely in the back seat of the Accent.

I wish the car looked a bit richer or sporty. Instead, it is plain and rather uninspired, inside and out. And the tester was the Accent SE with the larger wheels and tires. Base Accents ride on small, 14-inch tires.

Still, there were features inside the test car that surprised me.

For example, the Accent SE 3-Door had a fold-down, driver-seat armrest on the right side, and there were many bottle holders and cupholders in both front and back seats.

But the round dials for the climate control system felt flimsy, and the seats — especially the back-seat cushion — had a cheap foam feel.

I enjoyed the flexibility that the hatchback offered. With rear seats folded down, I had room to stow several suitcases and boxes. Maximum cargo room measures 15.8 cubic feet vs. 14.2 cubic feet in a Honda Fit.

U.S. sales of the Accent were up 56 percent through the first seven months of this year and are on track to be the highest since calendar 2008 when more than 71,000 were sold.

Motor Mouth: Plush new Hyundai Genesis breaks many rules

This summer’s introduction of the new Hyundai Genesis is the most significant automotive event this year. That’s saying a lot because 2008 could yet see a bankruptcy filing from automotive giants Ford or General Motors. Both companies are limping painfully from costly mistakes, and while bankruptcy remains very remote, some business analysts are floating the possibility.

As traumatic as those failures would be, the Genesis introduction would still top them in significance because Genesis shoves the auto business forward. Genesis is entrepreneurial, representing the sort of bold risk and gutsy ambition that shakes up the status quo.

Genesis is a luxury sedan. But Hyundai is a mass-market automaker. In fact, Korea-based Hyundai, which operates Hyundai Motor America to retail and even manufacture some models, sits on the economy-car edge of the spectrum.

Now it wants to sell you a luxury sedan?

The vehicle is just now arriving at dealers like Salem Ford Hyundai in Salem, N.H. Two weeks ago I attended a daylong press briefing and test drive. I’ll give you a thorough review of the car after I drive a test model for a longer, day-in-the-life evaluation. For now let’s take a look at how Genesis turns conventional ideas and practices upside down.

Genesis is a luxury car from a brand more commonly associated with bargains. Hyundai lists the new model at $33,000 when equipped with a 290-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6. The V8 version, with a 375-horsepower, 4.6-liter engine, wears a sticker price of $38,000. Options are sparse because starting versions come so copiously equipped.

They’re legitimately luxurious, too. Genesis is a large, smooth-riding car with a sturdy body and a well-isolated interior that silences unwelcome noise. Its V6 engine provides such ample power, and operates so smoothly and serenely, that it’s hard to image why anyone would upgrade to the heftier eight-cylinder. The car’s comfort level is seductive. Its construction and its features exhibit quality that does not compromise.

Michael Deitz, manager of product development for Hyundai, summed up the design philosophy displayed in Genesis when he described the car’s seat upholstery.

“The V6 leather is a good leather. The V8 leather is a great leather,” he said. From the models I saw, he wasn’t exaggerating.

You can add only one option package to the V8-powered, Genesis 4.6, bringing its list price to $42,000. Thus the Genesis ranges from a flat $33,000 to $42,000. Those are hardly economy-car prices. They’re fully over the luxury-car threshold. But with Genesis, you get more car than you get from another luxury model in the same price band. In fact, to match the Genesis in features, you can pay tens of thousands more for comparably specced European luxury models.

So Genesis knocks down the price barrier that blocks a lot of people from luxury-class accommodations. At the same time, the car remains within the Hyundai family. That’s another significant departure from the established way of business. Other car companies have set up new brands to peddle their luxury lines.

Honda figured that no one would pay luxury-car prices even for an upscale Honda. So the company created the Acura brand to sell its more distinguished models. Nissan followed the same logic when it created the Infiniti brand. Toyota’s very successful Lexus line of luxury cars rises from the same line of reasoning.

Genesis doesn’t wear the Hyundai logo on its dramatically patterned grille. But the Hyundai tag on the back is plainly visible. And the car is sold at ordinary Hyundai dealers, next to little $13,000 Accent hatchbacks, $18,000 Tuscon SUVs and $20,000 Sonata sedans. “Will people come to the same store to shop for legitimate luxury?” the automaker is asking.

That’s a good question, and it’s entirely possible that they won’t come. A large part of what motivates luxury buyers is image and mystique. Hyundai doesn’t possess either trait. But Deitz, the product development manager, made clear that Hyundai doesn’t expect the Mercedes set to buy its car.

“We’re looking for the person who wants all the luxury attributes” without the untouchable price, he said.

Surely such buyers exist. But they don’t assure this new venture’s success. Just a few years back, Volkswagen made a similar play with its big Phaeton sedan. It crashed, presumably because people wouldn’t buy a pricey cruiser that wore the VW badge.

But Phaeton was more expensive than Genesis. What’s more, Hyundai is approaching the project with the flexibility that helps an organization find success. Christopher Hosford, vice president of corporate communications for Hyundai Motor America, sums up the attitude this way: “We do everything very quickly.”

Don’t plan, dither and deliberate forever. Put the thing out there and see how it does. If it doesn’t do well, change it. Then change it again, and again if you need to. The idea is that you can’t prefabricate success. But you can find it. And you find it by moving. You’ll find it by thinking creatively and by taking risks.

Move fast and move a lot. Move quickly, as Hosford says. That’s exactly how entrepreneurs operate. It’s encouraging to see Hyundai bringing that attitude to the vehicle trade.

2009 Hyundai Genesis

Vehicle type: Rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door full-size luxury sedan

Price range: $33,000 to $42,000

Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles basic warranty; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 7 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles roadside assistance

Base engine: 3.8-liter V6

Power: 290 horsepower at 6,200 rpm; 264 lb.-ft. torque at 4,500 rpm

Base transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 18 mpg city; 27 mpg highway

Wheelbase: 116 inches

Length: 196 inches

Width: 74 inches

Height: 58 inches

Weight: 3,748 pounds

Fuel capacity: 19.3 gallons

Turning Circle: 36.0 feet

By Jeffrey Zygmont
Motor Mouth

Azera tries to escape the shadows

With the faster, more luxurious Genesis grabbing headlines at Hyundai these days, some have openly wondered about the future of the brand’s erstwhile flagship. That’s a shame: The Azera delivers the sort of comfort and quality a large sedan ought to offer – and, in typical Hyundai fashion, its price is hard to beat.

Introduced two years ago to replace the XG 350, the Azera comes in GLS and Limited trims for 2008. Hyundai has discontinued the midlevel Azera SE.

Stately but forgettable, the Azera’s styling may be its biggest limiter. It follows Hyundai lineage – I parked next to a newish Sonata, and the Azera seemed, appropriately enough, like a gussied-up version of its midsize sibling. I just question if that’s a good thing: Hyundai’s styling legacy smacks of bulbous takes on whatever Toyota and Honda are churning out. The Genesis shows signs of breaking that mold. The Azera, with its conservative 10-spoke wheels and old-school taillight bar, does not.

Conservative styling translates well in the cabin, whose mild contours and high beltline should find few detractors. The dash tries nothing new – it’s the same dome-and-shelf routine that’s been around since the early 1990s – but it’s agreeable in a way the Toyota Avalon’s airport-hangar dash isn’t.

Overall quality rivals an Avalon or Buick Lucerne, which is to say it’s premium but not quite at luxury-car levels. Dashboard panels fit tightly and feel soft to the touch, and most controls – save the navigation system’s, which I’ll get to later – click and turn with solid precision. I’m still a sucker for electroluminescent gauges, and the blue and white ones in the Limited look Lexus-sharp. (Conventional gauges go in the Azera GLS. Bah.)

The faux wood and imitation metal trim are sparing enough to provide an appropriate touch, though I’d like to see chrome door handles instead of the Azera’s silver plastic ones. I’d also like to see Hyundai swap the Elantra-grade window switches for some of the well-tailored ones in the Genesis. On par with such luxury ilk is the 605-watt, 12-speaker Infinity stereo. It’s optional on the Limited, and in my test car it cranked out rich, high-fidelity audio. Alas, it doesn’t have an auxiliary input jack for portable MP3 players, something most cars these days have. Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson told me the ’09 Azera will offer a full USB hookup for iPods and the like.

New for 2008 is an optional navigation system supplied by electronics maker LG. It’s the same one offered in the Santa Fe and Veracruz SUVs; the one in the ’09 Sonata is a separate system. The LG unit doesn’t feel as slick: Its buttons flex and wriggle in a way the climate controls don’t, and usability is so-so. The zoom-in/zoom-out controls are physical buttons rather than onscreen ones, and there are clever functions like a route preview screen with turn-by-turn directions. I’d trade both for some other features that are lacking, such as an intersection finder that lets you input the city, more street names on the map, and a screen that’s angled steeper so sunlight doesn’t wash it out so easily. I can’t argue with the price, however. The LG unit comes packaged with the 605-watt stereo for a very reasonable $1,750; navigation alone costs around $2,000 on the Lucerne, Avalon, and Taurus.

Leather upholstery is optional on the GLS and standard on the Limited. Its concentric stitching looks like it was designed sometime during the Dole campaign, but the cushioning does provide excellent long-haul comfort. Power front seats are standard; I found limited rearward travel, and anyone taller than 6 feet will probably sit all the way back.

The backseat’s backrest sits at a snooze-inducing angle. I prefer something more upright, but if you frequently chauffeur kids or in-laws, it might be a godsend. Legroom is a few inches short of the Avalon and most Detroit competitors, but it should be more than enough for most adults. Headroom is competitive and downright roomy. Worth note: The footwells are crowded by a sizeable center hump – odd, given this is a front-wheel-drive car with no hump-requiring driveshaft.

Cabin and trunk volume are competitive with the segment, and a 60/40-split folding backseat augments cargo space. With the seat folded, the opening has some significant obstructions.

Depending on trim, the Azera gets a 3.3-liter or 3.8-liter V-6. My test car had the latter, whose whisper-silent startup belied its punch around town and on the highway. Passing power is fluid, and acceleration from low speeds can be sprightly.

I say “can be” because it isn’t always. Like many automatics in this class, the Azera’s standard five-speed auto is lazy as all getout. The gated shifter comes with a manual-shift function, but a Sport mode with more aggressive shift patterns would be more helpful. Many automatics offer this. Left to its own devices, the Azera’s transmission stubbornly resists downshifting for more power until long after you need it. It’s a frustrating tendency in a number of situations, from accelerating around a bend to passing on the highway. Third gear offers potent 40-to-60 miles per hour power, but inducing such a shift takes a concerted prod on the gas. The saving grace is midrange torque – the 3.8-liter engine offers plenty – and it means there’s at least adequate power even as the transmission camps out in fourth or fifth gear.

The 3.8-liter drivetrain returns 17/26 miles per gallon city/highway, which is midway between the Avalon and V-6 Impala and V-8 competitors like the 300C, V-8 Impala and V-8 Lucerne. The 3.3-liter engine earns just 1 mpg more in city driving, so apart from being paired with the cheaper Azera GLS, it doesn’t give much reason not to upgrade.

Ride quality is expectedly smooth, if a bit floaty, and there is plenty of body roll in the corners. I found the cabin suitably quiet at highway speeds.

Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, but like many in this class – the Nissan Maxima is one exception – the pedal feels spongy, and hard braking induces lots of nosedive. Likewise, overall handling puts comfort ahead of sportiness. The steering wheel turns with a light touch yet avoids the over-assisted feel of the Lucerne or 300. On the highway it has a secure on-center feel, and in close quarters it returns a 37.4-foot turning circle, which bests all competitors but the Avalon.

Eight standard airbags include side-curtain and seat-mounted side-impact airbags for both rows. Despite this panoply, the Azera earned merely “acceptable” side-impact scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. IIHS awarded “good” scores, the highest rating possible, for head and chest protection but lower ratings for pelvis and leg protection, as well as for the car’s structural integrity. Frontal-impact IIHS scores are “good.”

Other standard features include antilock brakes, traction control, and an electronic stability system. All five seats employ head restraints, and the front ones are active. The outboard rear seats have latch child-seat anchors, but they’re buried deep in the cushion fold and difficult to access. All three rear positions have top-tether anchors.

Without the destination charge, the Azera GLS starts at $24,600, undercutting all but the Taurus and Impala. It comes better equipped than either one’s base trim, with power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker CD stereo, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Heated leather seats and a sunroof are optional. Both are standard on the Limited ($28,550), which also has the larger V-6, a power sunshade for rear-seat passengers and a 315-watt Infinity stereo. Beyond that, a slew of options emulates the stuff of genuine luxury cars – among them a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a navigation system, power-folding side mirrors, a 605-watt audio system, and rain-sensing wipers. Fully loaded, the Azera tops out around $31,500.

Full-size cars are in a tough spot these days. The segment has dropped some 30 percent in sales so far this year, according to J.D. Power data, as buyers flock toward cheaper midsize cars with better mileage. Caught between the Sonata and Genesis, the Azera seems in a particular bind: The prospect of low-30s mileage may send some buyers toward the Sonata, while leather-trimmed dashboards and rear-wheel-drive performance could send others toward the Genesis.

It’s a shame, because in between is a fine sedan that’s more refined than the Sonata and more comfortable – if less engaging – than the Genesis. The Azera has a distinct flavor that makes it worth keeping in Hyundai’s lineup. I just hope buyers are willing to give it a try.

2009 Hyundai Azera
EPA fuel economy 17-18 mpg city; 26 mpg highway
Engines 234-hp, 3.3-liter V-6; 263-hp, 3.8-liter V-6
Transmission 5-speed automatic with overdrive and auto-manual

New or notable
3.3-liter or 3.8-liter V-6
Available navigation system
Standard stability control
Full-size dimensions
SE trim level eliminated

What we like
Cabin quality
Acceleration with 3.8-liter V-6
Seat comfort
Highway ride
Value for the money
Turning circle

What we don’t
Lazy automatic transmission
Limited opening w/folding backseat
So-so navigation interface
No MP3 jack
No parking sensors
Mediocre gas mileage

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
By Kelsey Mays
Cars.Com / August 31, 2008

Hyundai’s New Elantra Touring

Station wagons aren’t dead. But, Hyundai isn’t calling its upcoming wagon version of the 2009 Elantra a wagon. It’s a “Touring.” Very European. Which is appropriate considering the Europeans appreciate wagons, um… tourings, as much as anybody… and the Elantra Touring is as handsome as any from The Continent.

Said John Krafcik, vice president, product development and strategic planning, Hyundai Motor America, “The all-new Elantra Touring is a fun-to-drive, functional five-door. Elantra Touring provides buyers a unique offering in the compact segment, raising the bar as Hyundai likes to do in value, safety and quality.”

Well-penned forms provide a flowing shape from front to rear with tension lines down the sides, giving the car a handsome and athletic feel. The front looks like a cross between a Honda Civic and Mazda RX-8, which aren’t bad company for a cargo machine. If Audi or Volkswagen had launched this car, nobody would have been surprised. Interior design is very similar to the mid-size Sonata, which is to say modern, handsome, and functional. It all looks very good.

All Elantra Touring models come with a 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine producing 141 horsepower and routed to the front wheels through a five-speed manual or four-speed SHIFTRONIC® automatic transmission. The latter has a manual shift mode for fun driving. Fuel economy should be close to 25/35 mpg city/highway.

Options read as upscale as the exterior looks. For safety, buyers can get electronic stability control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, side curtain airbags, and front side airbags. Remote keyless entry, eight-way adjustable drivers seat, MP3 input, XM Satellite Radio, power sunroof, heated front seats, and 17” alloy wheels are all available.

Wagons are certainly not dead, and with high gas prices, could soon be at a premium. Hyundai is on top of it, offering the value for which it is known, and with style that could send some European automakers to the drawing board. Expect prices to start around $16,000. Competition will include the Toyota Matrix, Pontiac Vibe, Chrysler PT Cruiser, and Saturn Astra 5-door.

2008 Hyundai Accent SE 3-Door

Expected quality freshened with added standard features

For more than 10 years, Hyundai’s Accent has been building popularity on the U.S. automotive scene by offering good quality with often unexpected features and performance at affordable entry-level prices.

The 2008 model year is no different. The Accent lineup provides an impressive list of new standard features and equipment along with significant interior and exterior improvements, which tend to raise the bar in the compact market segment.

Enhancements include XM Satellite Radio with three months of free service, auxiliary input jack that allows iPods and other portable MP3 players to be connected directly into the audio system, tire pressure monitoring system, B&M Racing sport shifter (Standard SE only), new Mellow Yellow exterior color option available on GS and SE and rear center armrest with cup holders added to SE (standard on GLS).

The Hyundai Accent comes three ways – as a four-door sedan in GLS trim or a three-door configuration in either GS trim or the sportier SE trim level. All Accent models are powered by a 1.6-liter DOHC in-line four-cylinder engine featuring four valves per cylinder. The engine to provide a very broad powerband, coupled with high fuel efficiency and low emissions.

Performance peaks at 110 horsepower at 6000 rpm and torque is 106 pound-feet at 4500 rpm. There are two transmissions to choose from – the five-speed manual gearbox is standard and a four-speed transmission with overdrive is also available. With the manual transmission, the Accent’s EPA mileage is 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway while the optional four-speed automatic transmission delivers an EPA rating of 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

The Accent GLS 4-door sedan has a distinctive look with upscale styling cues like the chrome-accented grille. The door handles, mirrors, side moldings and rear garnish trim combine with bold tail lights and character lines to deliver a strong presence. The roof-mounted micro-antenna provides improved radio reception, and the new 15-inch wheel design further enhances the design.

The three-door Accent GS and SE reflect Hyundai’s sleek, confident design direction. Up front, the GS and SE feature an aggressive body-color grille with fog lights standard on the SE. Accent SE’s high-performance P205/45R16 tires and lightweight five-spoke aluminum wheels provide a more planted feel. The long wheelbase and elevated seating positions increase the feeling of interior spacious. A rear spoiler and wiper are standard on the Accent SE, adding to its sporty flavor.

Accent delivers more total interior volume than either the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic – both cars that are a segment above Accent. The Accent four-door sedan has a total interior volume of 104.6 cubic-feet, besting the larger Civic sedan by 1.7 cubic-feet. The Accent also provides more passenger volume than Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Chevrolet Aveo. The three-door Accent has a total interior volume of 108.1 cubic-feet, making it roomer than the Civic Coupe by 12.9 cubic feet. The Accent three-door also delivers class-leading interior volume in the three-door segment with 15.9 cubic-feet of cargo space – 6.6 cubic-feet larger than the three-door Yaris.

Accent’s interior consists of a two-tone interior color scheme with either a gray or beige theme or a sporty, black monotone available on three-door vehicles. Analog instrumentation is improved on the GLS and SE, while power steering, a tilt steering wheel and an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with fold-down armrest makes for comfortable extended travel. Convenient storage areas exist throughout, including bins in the front and rear center console. All Accents have a 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback for maximum flexibility. The Accent three-door’s rear seats recline for additional comfort.

Standard features include two-speed variable intermittent wipers, adjustable head restraints, cabin air filtration, rear window defroster, tachometer, new rear coat hook, digital clock, two 12-volt outlets and remote hood and fuel filler door releases. Audiophiles will appreciate the available 172-watt AM/FM/XM Satellite Radio/CD/MP3 audio system with easy-to-use controls and a total of six speakers.

My test Hyundai Accent was a three-door in the sportier SE trim, with the standard five-speed tranny. The exterior sported an Apple Green metallic finish while the interior was executed in beige cloth and charcoal tones. The base price was established at $14,575. The optional aluminum door sills, sporty floor mats and freight and handling charge boosted the final sticker to reasonable $15,370.


The 2008 Hyundai Accent SE three-door is an affordable, spacious and sporty-looking compact vehicle. It comes with a surprising level of standard amenities and offers a substantial inventory of options, allowing the consumer to make it their own according their individual needs and tastes.

The ride quality is comfortable and the driving dynamics deliver nimble, responsive behavior. Sporty it is, a sports car it is not. The GS and SE three-door is best suited to singles or couples, while families with small children may want to opt for the four-door GLS sedan for the added convenience of installing a child car seat or booster. The moveable passenger seat in the three-door models presents a bit of a challenge for installation.

Don’t expect to smoke the tires off-the-line or to experience excessive G-force – however acceleration is substantial enough to accomplish most intended tasks however. The engine is on the buzzy side when pushed hard, but it isn’t intrusive. The focus of the Accent is to provide comfortable, efficient transportation that can be enjoyable to drive. Factor in the advantage of what Hyundai claims to be America’s best warranty, including five years and 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and a 10-year/100,000-mile power train warranty, and choosing Accent can becomes an even more sound decision.

2008 Hyundai Accent SE 3-Door

Base price: $14,575

Price as tested: $15,370

Engine/transmission: 1.6- liter, 110-horsepower, four-cylinder; five-speed manual

Wheelbase: 98.4 inches

Length: 168.5 inches

Width: 66.7 inches

Height: 57.9 inches

Curb weight: 2,496 pounds

Fuel capacity: 11.9 gallons

Fuel consumption: 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway

Arv Voss