Launched in 1994 by Hyundai Motor Company, the Accent is still a model loved by car enthusiasts to this day. Thanks to the strengths of a compact car, such as a small and light body and light handling, it was also widely used in motorsports. In particular, the three‒door ‘Pro Accent’ has a huge fan base thanks to its sporty design and driving character.
The Accent is the first model in which all parts, including design, chassis, and powertrain, were developed solely by Hyundai Motor company. Not only the design and powertrain, but also the body design technology was localized. Accent was loved for its cute and friendly design. Hong Joon‒Young Hong, who is proud of being an ‘Accent maniac’ for having four Accents in his life, also fell in love with this design.
Joon‒Young Hong’s favorite car is the ‘Pro Accent TGR’. In the first‒generation Accent, in addition to the four‒door model, there were five and three‒door models under different names: ‘Accent’ for the four‒door model, ‘Euro Accent’ for the five‒door model, and ‘Pro Accent’ for the three‒door model.
In the mid‒1990s, the Accent became popular with the younger generation for being small yet cute, cheerful yet economic. It measures 4,115mm in length, 1,620mm in width and 1,395mm in height, and has a wheelbase of 2,400mm. Although it may look small by today’s standards, the interior space was ample thanks to clever design. It was suitable not only for a youth date, but also for a family outing of four with young children. It was suitable not only for a young couple going on a date, but also for a family of four with young children.
Accent housed the ‘new alpha’ engine that improved the alpha (α) engine that Scoupe used earlier. The two engines, the inline four‒cylinder 1.3L SOHC and 1.5L SOHC, produced 86 horsepower and 96 horsepower, respectively, and housed a five‒speed manual transmission or a four‒speed automatic transmission. The unladen weight of the Accent is 965kg based on the 1.5L model, and the top speed reached 180km/h thanks to the combination of a compact and light body and an efficient engine. Acceleration performance was also excellent for a compact car; It was thanks to the new Alpha engine, which was optimized by reinforcing low and medium speed driving performance in the 2,000 to 3,000 rpm range suited to Accent.
In 1997, Hyundai Motor launched the Accent facelift model, the New Accent, and added a 1.5L Alpha DOHC engine with a 4‒cylinder in‒line. In addition, the 3‒door model Pro Accent has a short final reduction gear applied and a trim called ‘Pro Accent 1.5 DOHC TGR’ was created. The Pro Accent TGR was a car that shook the hearts of car enthusiasts. It was because the fun was evident, such as the light high‒revving sensibility of the Alpha DOHC engine and the agile handling. So this model was a ‘Hot Hatch’ in the mid to late 1990s.
Accent also contributed to the expansion of the domestic motorsports base. In August 1997, Hyundai Motor Company developed the first automobile racing car in Korea and started production to order to promote domestic motor sports. Based on the Pro Accent TGR model, this car is a race‒car version of 10 adjusted specifications including tires, eliminating 28 non‒competitive ones.
As such, the Accent has been recognized as fun to drive by car enthusiasts and has been widely used in motorsports. This is the reason why there are still not a few maniacs who cherish Accent, just like Joon‒Young. So far, he had four Pro Accent TGR and now he owns two. At the time of the release, Joon‒Young was just a student: not the generation that fully enjoyed its heyday. About how he became a Pro Accent enthusiast, he explained:
“I fell in love with cars when I was in middle school, buying an RC car with an engine (radio‒controlled car). The driving principle of an RC car is similar to that of a real car. By repairing and remodeling RC cars myself, my pursuit to becoming a car enthusiast got stronger; if you love something, you want to know more, right? I saw Pro Accent while looking for car information on the internet, and I fell in love at first sight. I liked the look of its round design with a sporty look. It was like a cute bad boy. In addition, the small and light weight and fun driving character also captured my heart. The Pro Accent became my dream car. I also wanted to learn about the structure and principles of automobiles, so I was eager to major in mechanical engineering.”
As a freshman dreaming of a college life with automobiles, he first searched for a car club. However, no one was in the club, and in the end he decided to buy a car himself and try tuning. “I bought the Pro Accent TGR as my first car with the money I saved doing a part‒time job in my third year. As it was my first car, I was really happy and had many experiences. My friends and I drove our own cars and went on a motor trip to Jeju Island for 5 days.”
Cars and people inevitably influence each other ‒ sometimes cars change our lives. After graduating from college with his Pro Accent, Joon‒Young became a researcher at an auto parts manufacturer in accordance with his major and hobbies; His first car, the Pro Accent TGR, helped him decide his career path. Ofcourse he couldn’t be with his first car forever. There were times when he was forced to leave his car. However, he had already fallen in love with the Accent, so he chose the Pro Accent again for his next car. Here’s what he thinks of the charm of Accent:
“I am one of the car enthusiasts who enjoy sports driving. For me, the charm of Accent is its performance and texture. Its lightweight body, narrow gear ratio, and front MacPherson strut‒rear multi‒link suspension give it a structural advantage over its competitors. For me, who likes small and light cars, there has never been a car like this. Of course, this does not mean that I am not interested in latest cars. I currently ride the Avante N(Elantra N) for everyday use, and I am also very interested in small high‒performance models such as the i20 N used by Hyundai Motors in WRC. Still, I feel the best when I ride the Pro Accent. Even if you have many clothes, there is one that fits you best, right? I feel like I’m in a car that’s just right for me.”
He currently owns one Pro Accent TGR with a little flair and one Pro Accent TGR for time attack racing; They are called Units 2 and 4, respectively, according to the order in which they were purchased. Unit 2 is in like‒new condition despite being over 20 years old. He wanted to use this car for a long time, so after disassembling the car, he replaced all necessary parts with new ones during the repair process. For him, Unit 2 is a car for special moments in everyday life.
“I completely overhauled Unit 2 because I wanted to be with this car for a long time. I like to travel, so I sometimes go on one‒day trips, and I always go with my Unit 2. I like the analog feel different from cars these days. It feels like the cogs meshing together seamlessly. This car has been restored to near factory condition, but some changes have been made to my taste; Thanks to my job as an auto parts researcher, I was able to tailor the Accent’s ride comfort to my taste. I repeated the tuning more than 80 times until I found the current setting.”
There was something interesting about his Unit 2 cabin; There were lines drawn in four colors on the seat and door trim, and it is a fact that these were the colors of the body of the Accent. In the early to mid 1990s, it was fashionable to add color to basic achromatic products. It was to paint home appliances and furniture with unique colors and use them as design props. Accent, which released during this era, broke stereotypes about car shades. Four new colors were used, such as light purple (bell flower), scarlet red, light green (opal green), and deep purple (Lobelia), which were not found in ordinary passenger cars.
On the other hand, his Unit 4 boasts a rustic look. It has a more radical impression than the Accent race car that has ridden on domestic circuits in the past. This is because many parts have been made new for the race. Pro Accent is his driving instructor and partner at the same time. Having built up his skills by participating in several amateur races, he said, “I built Unit 4 to push the limits.” Then how powerful will it be? He talked about its performance.
“Unit 4 is equipped with an in‒line 4‒cylinder 2.0L beta engine and a 5‒speed manual transmission. The output is not high. Instead, I set it for quick cornering to overcome this weakness. It has been completely overhauled and replaced with new parts. The lower body parts are also different from those of the original Accent. I made several parts myself to adjust the center point (roll center) at which the body was tilted,” he explains.
Joon‒Young Hong set up this car for a time attack race. As the name suggests, a time attack race is a race recording the time on a circuit. You need to build a car that can drive fast within regulations, and you have to be able to handle it perfectly. So, the key to victory is to devise a strategy in harmony with the car and the driver.
“I modified every part as wanted. I wanted to press the car body firmly using aerodynamics, so I found a 3D scanning company and designed and made the body kit. I was involved in the whole process. I tested it on the Yeongam circuit and was amazed. It was so much fun. I was able to handle the car freely in corners, and I liked its stability. I thought it was good to take on the challenge with Pro Accent. I want to mark faster lap times than the one in the highest amateur class.”
Every car in the world has its own story. This is because the car runs with the dream of its owner. Like all car enthusiasts, he drives with his Accent dream. “I want to spend as long as possible with my Accents. I want to keep Unit 2 sound, and go beyond the limits with Unit 4.” Accent, which showcased in 1994 with the dream of manufacturing a 100% domestic car from its designing process, is still on its way with the dreams of its owners.
Written by Min‒Hee Ahn
Photography by Dae‒il Choi, Beom‒Seok Kim
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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