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Hyundai revives Accent after 11 years
On Tuesday, Hyundai Motor Co. unveiled the subcompact Accent on the local market. Developed under the project name RB, the vehicle brings back the name Accent after an 11-year hiatus.

The previous Accent was launched in 1994, and more than 410,000 units of the vehicle were sold on the local market until it was discontinued in 1999.

The Accent is available with a choice of a 1.4-liter MPI engine that puts out 108 brake horsepower and a 1.6-liter GDI engine that generates 140 brake horsepower.

The 1.4 version will be available with a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic transmission.

With the manual transmission, the vehicle manages 18 kilometers per liter, while the automatic version manages 16.1 kilometers per liter.

Hyundai Accent 

In the 1.6, Hyundai has introduced 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmissions. The vehicle fitted with manual transmission manages 18.2 kilometers per liter, while that equipped with automatic transmission covers 16.7 kilometers on a liter of fuel.

The diesel version of the Accent will hit the local market during the first half of next year. 

Compared to the Verna, the Accent’s fuel economy has been improved by between 1.2 and 1.6 kilometers per liter depending on transmission and engine type.

The Accent is also bigger than the Verna with the wheelbase having been extended by 7 centimeters.

With the new Accent Hyundai has also significantly upgraded safety features. The vehicle is the first in its segment in Korea to come with six airbags driver and passenger seats, side and curtain and active headrest as standard features.

Other features new to the segment include Vehicle Stability Management system and rear parking sensor.

The company has been receiving pre-launch orders for the Accent since last month.

However, Hyundai still has not revealed the price or the starting date for deliveries saying that it will “set a reasonable price reflecting the market and the needs of the consumers at the earliest possible date.”

Judging recent precedents of new vehicles’ prices being raised significantly compared to the replaced model and the range of new standard features, the Accent is unlikely to be available for less than 11 million won.

The Verna fitted with the 1.4 DOHC engine starts at 10.93 million won ($9,900) and goes up to 13.46 million won. The trim level equipped with the 1.6 VVT engine ranges from 11.87 million won to 13.95 million won. 

In comparison, the Kia Pride starts at 9.89 million won and goes up to 13.94 million won, while the GM Daewoo Gentra ranges from 9.85 million won to 11.21 million won. 

Regardless of price, Hyundai will have to look to overseas if it is to reap profits from the 200 billion won investment it made in developing the vehicle.

With local motorists favoring larger vehicles, or opting for the city car segment that comes with various tax benefits, the Accent is unlikely to be a big seller on the local market.

The subcompact segment is one of Korea’s least popular with less than 38,000 units of such vehicles being sold here last year.

The segment’s share of last year’s domestic market came in at about 3.2 percent, about 40 percent of which was taken by Hyundai with the Click and the Verna.

Although the Verna has never been a good seller here, about 9,800 units of the vehicle were sold in 2009, Hyundai is hoping to boost its subcompact sales with the new Accent.

The company hopes to sell 20,000 units of the Accent here next year.

For the vast majority of Accent sales, the company is looking to overseas markets.

Subcompact vehicles are among the best export items for local carmakers.

According to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association, three local subcompacts Hyundai Verna, Kia Pride and GM Daewoo Gentra accounted for more than 22 percent of Korea’s 2 million passenger car exports last year, and the Hyundai Verna was last year’s second most exported vehicle.

With the Chinese version of the new Accent, known as the Verna, already doing relatively well in China, and Hyundai’s Russian plant scheduled to begin rolling out the Solaris the Russian version of the vehicle early next year, Hyundai is hoping to sell a total of 500,000 Accents on the domestic and overseas markets in 2011.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldm.com)