Hyundai Accent 1

Suffering from broken gearboxes, crazy electrics, duff interior trim and lacklustre looks, it's no wonder that Hyundai's 2002 Accent was not an Auto Express favourite

It took Japanese car manufacturers more than a decade to be taken seriously in the UK, but the Koreans are well on the way to bettering that. Firstly with the new Santa Fe and now with this latest Accent, Hyundai is making huge progress. In sporty three-door guise, the model could be a big hit with British buyers.

But the Korean firm has come a long way in the past three years, and its current range offers better refinement, improved build quality and greater reliability. So the fact that a revised Accent will appear in UK showrooms next year sounds like good news.

The Accent shares its chassis with Kia's Rio, and it's intended to offer a sporty alternative to a compact family hatch at a supermini price. While we try a five-door version here, the only model destined for the UK has three doors.

Hyundai has made some major improvements to the Accent's design. Following in the wheeltracks of the handsome Santa Fe SUV, it looks more modern. But it's hard not to be a little disappointed with the car's cabin, as it's largely identical to the Rio's. There is plenty of space, though.

The car we tested is powered by Hyundai's latest 1.5-litre turbodiesel. With the promise of more than 45mpg in everyday driving and a healthy spread of torque, the oil-burner is likely to be a popular choice with buyers in the UK. Petrol units of 1.4 and 1.6 litres will also be available.

We will have to wait and see how the Accent's suspension copes with UK roads, but in Korean spec it's well up to the task of smoothing rough surfaces. Through corners, the Hyundai is even more impressive. Turn-in is sharp and the newcomer has good resistance to both body roll and understeer.

Officials in Europe remain tight-lipped about how much the Accent will cost when it arrives in the UK next summer, but if it's as keenly priced as predicted, all we'll have to do is banish the memories of its predecessor forever...

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