2008 Hyundai Accent SE

2008 Hyundai Accent SE

MEET THE OLD GUY

The Hyundai Accent led the modern subcompact rush. Sure, the late '70s and '80s were stocked with tiny fuel-sippers, but as those guys grew up, Hyundai started a whole new subcompact fad when it put the Accent on the road in 1995.

Except that it's not actually a subcompact. Under Environmental Protection Agency standards, the Accent's 108.1 cubic feet of interior space classify it as a compact car, in the same category as a Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. But Accent prices start as low as $11,425, and as this story was written, a $1,500 rebate could get you into an Accent for less than $10,000. So it's certainly a subcompact in price.

It has the same traits as a subcompact: a buzzy four-cylinder engine, highway fuel economy over 30 mpg, a goofy name, and low curb weight.

And then there is perception. The three-door hatchback's diminutive dimensions beg you to compare the car with the Toyota Yaris and, in turn, the Honda Fit, Chevrolet Aveo and other subcompacts.

So the EPA is wrong and we're saying the Accent is a subcompact. Are years of experience and a bigger body enough for this pseudo-subcompact senior to beat some of the athletic new freshmen?

THE (LACK OF) STYLE

If the Hyundai Accent were to give you a call, it would probably show up on your caller ID as "Anonymous." It's not that the Korean car is moonlighting as a salesman hawking WiFi-enabled toilets, but that its styling is entirely forgettable. The Accent has none of the gaping grilles and chunky C-pillars that seem to be the youthful calling cards of modern subcompacts.

The windows strictly follow the roofline and a simple beltline. The car may look simple, but from the driver's seat the window profile translates into exceptional visibility in every direction, aided by the rear-seat headrests that tuck in low to the seatbacks.

With our test car's base price of $15,195 we were surprised to find fog lights and 16-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment. Those touches, along with the impressive list of interior equipment, keep the high-end SE model away from econobox status.

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