The Accent's on New Hyundai Coupe

The highly successful compact Accent range from Korea's biggest car producer has been injected with an extra dose of fun with the recent launch of the new and somewhat distinctive MVi Coupe model. This car, which has overtly sporty pretensions, follows hard on the heels of the already sought-after and highly evocative Hyundai Coupe, a sportster which has firmly established Hyundai's credentials as a maker of quality performance cars.

Hyundai makes no secret of the fact that it wants to be one of the world's top 10 car producers before the end of the century, and it remains firmly on track, thanks to a succession of new model introductions. Believe it or not, although the Accent was only introduced at the start of 1995, it is already the oldest model in Hyundai's range.

That means Hyundai has the honor of having the youngest model range of any major motor manufacturer in Europe.

Now available in three, four, or five-door form with a choice of 1.3 and 1.5-liter engines, the Accent is the top-selling Korean model in Europe: amazingly, sales of this one model exceed the total registrations of marques such as Land Rover, Subaru and Saab. Available in Britain at on-the-road prices that start at a lowly ?7,599, it has proved deservedly popular with motorists, who purchased 11,000 examples in 1996 alone.

So it's an undeniable success,and one which is destined to be heightened by the introduction of the MVi Coupe, which will extend the appeal of the range to motorists looking for more fun at the wheel. To be fair to the existing Accent models -- excepting those without power steering -- we long ago recognized that they are already fun cars to drive.

The MVi's double overhead cam 1495cc engine is unique in the range in offering four valves per cylinder, rather than the three valves of the other 1.5 and 1.3-liter units. The extra exhaust valve and double overhead camshaft configuration takes power for the capacity up from 65kW (89bhp) to 72kW (98bhp) and strengthens torque to 134Nm. This makes for a surprising level of bite underfoot, and great in-gear flexibility, and while noise levels have increased very slightly over the previous single-cam 1.5, they're not obtrusive and well in keeping with the sporty image.

Changes to the suspension spring and damper settings equip the Coupe well for its additional 18 percent of power, while the added performance potential is made clear to other road users through the addition of flared sills, a more aggressive front bumper/valance assembly and the adoption of larger 14-inch alloy wheels.

The MVi Coupe is expected to appeal to private motorists who are even younger than other Accent buyers, and these will include a higher proportion of style-conscious younger women -- according to Hyundai's market research.

The three-door Accent differs from other versions in having longer front doors, more aggressively styled headlights, unique wings and a recontoured bonnet. It is also the only version to be fitted with body-colored side moldings.

Contemporary design and the use of weight-saving modern materials ensure that the Accent has a lower weight than most class rivals. This not only improves fuel economy, but also ensures superior power-to-weight ratios. Performance from both 1.3 and 1.5-liter versions of the Accent is consequently highly competitive, the 1.5 being capable of a top speed of 180 kilometers per hour, and the 0-100 kilometer per hour sprint in just 11.5 seconds.

Hyundai has now entered its fourth decade of car manufacturing. As well as building one of the biggest car factories in the world, the Korean market leader has also amassed a wealth of engineering resources and experience. While other Korean manufacturers use borrowed or hand-me-down technologies, Hyundai cars are all-Korean designed and built, with state-of-the-art technology including home-grown engines and transmissions. And the difference certainly shows.

Thanks in part to the aid of a Cray supercomputer in tuning the body structure, the Accent combines lightness with great rigidity, and that has stood it in good stead for upgrading the suspension and performance.

The new Mvi Coupe uses the usual Accent all-independent suspension with anti-roll bars fitted at both front and rear. Stability and safety is ensured through careful attention to anti-dive and anti-lift geometry, while the offset front coil springs improve the performance of the MacPherson struts to provide first class handling. The multi-link rear suspension is particularly competent, and other than giving a little traditional Hyundai joggling at low speeds, it provides a smooth, though admittedly taut ride.

It's a firmer ride than is normal for an Accent, but the handling characteristics are commensurately sharper - particularly the steering. Motorists enjoy greater levels of feedback and smaller steering inputs thanks to the application of engine-speed-sensitive power steering with gearing ratio decreased from 3.87 to just 2.93 turns lock to lock.

Global sales of Hyundai cars are growing rapidly as increasing numbers of motorists discover that the vehicles match the standards of their top rivals from Japan and Europe. At the same time as providing comparable standards of safety, driving pleasure, practicality and style, Hyundai cars do tend to offer an advantage in the shape of a generous 36-month unlimited mileage standard warranty on most markets, together with some pretty competitive pricing. In the UK, for example, the 1.5 MVi costs 10 percent less than the equivalent 1.4-liter Peugeot 306, 13 percent less than the 1.4-liter Rover 200 Si, and a whopping 23 percent less than the equivalent 1.5-liter Honda Civic.

With such equipment as power steering, four-speaker stereo, electric front windows, tilt sunroof, 60/40 split rear seats and remote tailgate release coming as standard on the 1.5MVi for its on-the-road price of UK?10,567, it's no surprise at all that Hyundai are making tremendous inroads on the European market.