Just a few weeks after the launch of the slightly larger Elantra, three weeks before the Johannesburg International Motor Show and a week after the international launch of the i30 hatchback in Frankfurt comes Hyundai’s Accent Mk.VII.The first models reached South Africa back in 1994.It’s been 44 years since the basic, protozoan Accent, then called the Pony and only for the Korean market, started to roll off the lines in a country then just 20 years out of a nation-splitting war. Today the latest version is talking not only with a new accent, but in a whole new language.WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?Two decades ago the auto trade was saying “...one day the Koreans will catch up with the Japanese”. With a smug smile. Now the Hyundai/Kia conglomerate and its plants worldwide are among the world’s top five automakers and, better, are leading the reliability tables. Nobody in the auto trade is laughing now...Except, of course, the Koreans...The Accent has become one of Hyundai’s top-selling global models despite reining-in production to maintain quality; and that quality is now rated as better than that of former global leader Toyota.Hyundai SA’s marketing manager Stanley Anderson says the Accent now completes the brand’s model spread in South Africa and that includes everything from SUV to minicar, from one-ton bakkie through heavy trucks to buses.The car also follows the recent change in design, started by the ix35 SUV, which focuses on twin rising fold lines along the body and an hexagonal grille that, Anderson says, looks like a traditional diamond but with its bottom cut off – I’d never seen it like that, but he’s right. And another thing I’d never noticed is that the generic Hyundai steering wheel looks like a bull’s head. (See picture gallery.) SEDAN OR COUPE: Hyundai's new Accent looks like a coupe but comes with four doors and a normal boot. The external mirrors have power adjustment and are heatable on the GLS model. I wonder if that was deliberate...?Whatever, the Accent is a strikingly good-looking car, a four-door sedan but with a distinctly coupe shape – Anderson again: “In fact, if you stretched the front doors backwards and took out the rear doors, you’d have a coupe.”Hyundai calls it “fluidic” styling and it’s now on all their cars, including the still-to-reach-SA i30 that was launched at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show. Pity, then, that all three models run on 14” steel rims with “spoked” plastic covers and shod with 175/70 rubber. There’s a full-sized spare under the boot floor.The car is marginally longer and wider (90mm and 5mm respectively) but two centimetres lower at the roofline and the belly has 15mm less ground clearance – which all benefits vehicle stability. Anderson says the Accent is the longest car in its class and the 1.6-litre engine has more power than its class competition.The engine, however, is not new to Hyundai though it replaces the Alpha units of the previous model. It’s the proven aluminium, DOHC, multiport fuel-injection Gamma unit with constantly variable timing that puts out 91kW at 6300rpm and 156Nm at 4200rpm and offers 190km/h top speed. It’s quiet (even at the 180km/h we took it up to briefly on an empty, straight road) and proved torquey enough to climb the south side of Du Toit’s Kloof Pass easily in fifth gear during the Western Cape launch.QUIETER SUSPENSIONThe cabin space is excellent. Even with tall people up front (me and an equally lengthy co-driver, each more than 1.8m tall) there’s was still plenty of legroom for two more adults in back.The ride is supple, the suspension - according to Hyundai - quieter than the previous model and (Franschhoek Pass, going down, this time) it and the electric power steering work in perfect harmony for excellent road-holding. Sure it’s a family sedan, but it ain’t boring at all. BIT MORE MACHO NEEDED:The Hyundai Accent's body looks a trifle chunky for its wheels; perhaps an aftermarket investment from TWT might be in order? Should you overdo it, however (please don’t!) there are two front air bags and a (Hyundai) video of a head-on into a concrete wall at 56km/h (30mph) showed no deformation of the passenger cell - though the rear wheels left the ground.By now the usual gainsayers will be reaching for their keyboards (go for it, guys!) to whinge that all the foregoing is a paid feature for Hyundai. It isn’t (and never is, for that matter); the Accent really is a very good car, especially at its price against segment competitors; well-built and specced in GL and GLS versions with the only option a four-speed autobox instead of the five-speed manual on the GLS.Here are the prices:Accent 1.6 GL – R146 900Accent 1.6 GLS – R156 900Accent 1.6 GLS a/t – R167 900Hyundai sees the GL’s competition as VW’s Vivo, Chev’s Aveo, Toyota’s Yaris and Ford’s Ikon, that of the GLS the Yaris, Chev Optra, Mazda2 and Ford Fiesta, even though most of the competition has smaller engines.Also hard to beat is Hyundai’s five-year or 150 000km warranty and five-year or 90 000km service plan.Anderson sees the Accent’s customers as coming from the 25 to 35-year-old population; young couples with or without children who want good cabin and boot space.The Accent comes with anti-lock brakes, two front air bags and four three-point belts but the car takes a step back in time by having only a lap belt for a central passenger on the rear seat.MORE FEATURESBluetooth audio and phone connection comes with the GLS, along with an iPod connection cable. Both models have power external mirrors, though those on the GLS are heatable and a trip data computer displays information on average speed, remaining tank range, immediate and average fuel consumption and journey time.The car also flashes optimum revs for gear changes.Other features on both GL and GLS include a third brake light, remote-controlled central locking, power external mirrors, power sockets front and rear, rev counter, cabin releases for fuel filler cap and boot, radio/MP3 player, two trip distance meters, power front windows and anti-bacterial manual aircon.The GLS adds CD player, rear power windows, heating for the external power mirrors, cargo net, rear parking radar, steering-wheel controls for the audio and Bluetooth systems, magazine pockets behind the front seats and high-spec cloth upholstery.