SAN DIEGO - A redesigned Accent that is longer, wider and taller leads Hyundai's list of 2000 model product changes.
The entry-level subcompact, in three-door and four-door versions, has been refined and upgraded. Yet it is not as crucial to Hyundai's image as the Elantra and Sonata sedans.
Last year, Hyundai sold nearly as many Accents as Elantras - about 40,000 of each. But this year, Hyundai has sold 34,814 Accents through October; the Elantra is selling at nearly twice that rate.
In short, as Hyundai tries to improve its image among Americans, the Accent commands less marketing priority than Hyundai North America's other cars. Its importance to Hyundai will be lessened further when the XG upper mid-range sedan and Santa Fe sport-utility reach the market.
Still, the entry-level market has a new entry in the Toyota Echo. Hyundai has kept pace.
Hyundai developed the Accent in 27 months at a cost of $210 million, said Jim Park, manager of product planning. The exterior lines have changed from a jellybean to a more angular look. The company hopes to sell 35,000 Accents annually.
NEW FOR THE ACCENT
Among other changes unveiled at the press preview here:
The 1.5-liter, 12-valve Alpha engine now has eight counterweights (up from four) and hydraulic engine mounts, both of which reduce engine vibration. The Bosch engine management system has been updated for more efficient fuel economy and power delivery.
To give the Accent more structural rigidity, the A and B pillars were reinforced. The side panels are one-piece stampings. Five-mph bumpers are standard. The doors have double seals to reduce noise.
The interior features a redesigned instrument panel, steering wheel and center console. Cassette player, intermittent wipers and rear defroster are standard. There is more head, leg and hip room.
The automatic transmission has been refined, with adaptive shift logic that learns driving patterns.
The MacPherson strut suspension has stiffer damping on acceleration and braking. The rear roll center has been heightened to improve road holding. The brake booster has been enlarged.
Hyundai also has changed the Tiburon sports coupe. Because of the low volume of Tiburon sales (and of sporty coupes in general), only one trim level will be offered. But it has been upgraded with more standard features, such as air conditioning, cassette player, cruise control, 15-inch wheels, power windows, locks and mirrors.