For the past few years, no automotive manufacturer has tried harder to dispel its past more than Hyundai. The Korean-based company spent most of the '80s distinguishing itself from its phonetic twin, Honda, and giving the public reasons to buy Excel over Yugos and Fiestas. But things have changed during the Kenneth Starr half of the '90s as the company struggles to reinvent themselves.
The recent success of the 140hp DOHC Tiburon largely brought about by its rally accomplishments has helped. Then there was last year's introduction of two '98 Accent GSis purpose-built for that year's show circuit. Both cars were given similar makeovers, dressed in aftermarket equipment from some of the industry's heavy hitters, and the only difference between the two was that one had a supercharger and the other didn't. Any guesses as to which one we chose? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
The supercharged Accent is powered by a Rimmer-engineered Eaton M-45 Roots-type blower. As stock, Hyundai lists the Accent's maximum power output at 92 hp, but true dyno figures (handed to us by Hyundai) place it below 80 hp. With the supercharger (set at 5 psi) and an HKS Super Drager exhaust, that figure rises more than 20 hp to 95 hp;an increase of more than 20 percent. The car still may not be close to the Tiburon, but it now runs neck and neck with a '99 Honda Civic EX, a major competitor.
Not only has Hyundai always taken the road less travelled, at times it seems like it takes the road that's never travelled. In the '80s, it chose to come to America despite the surplus of cheap econoboxes. And now, the company has decided to reinforce its presence in the marketplace, not by building up a Tiburon, the flashiest and highest-performing model in its lineup, but an Accent, the lowest. They do so via supercharging, and not with a turbo, the sexiest power-adder on the market today.
But supercharging does offer several inherent benefits, such as immediate and seamless response throughout the entire rpm range, lower noise levels, and longer engine lifespans (Hyundai projects 100,000;125,000 miles before the supercharger will need servicing). Rimmer Engineering, of Colorado Springs, is responsible for adapting an Eaton Roots-type blower to the Accent's 1.5L SOHC engine. A relative unknown in the import industry, Rimmer is far better recognized in the SUV arena, where it first introduced kits for Range Rovers and Land Rovers in 1995. It's only within the past couple of years that the company has been looking toward the import market, but with kits already out for the Suburu Impreza (2.2L and 2.5L models) and the Dodge Neon, and more planned for Volkswagen and Audi, don't be surprised to see Rimmer Engineering in future pages of Super Street (or if the Emp suddenly decides to trade in his GS-R for an Impreza 2.5RS.).
Apart from the power increase, the Accent definitely looks better than stock. In fact, it's probably as wired as an Accent can possibly get. The car hasn't been overworked nor has Hyundai scrimped on the application. HKS springs lower the car to match the 17-inch Rays Engineering Versus Sesto Turismo wheels. A Wings West spoiler raises the back half profile to give the car a more aggressive stance. The interior finds improvements in the OMP seats, flashy Lonza red- anodized/carbon fiber shift knob and pedals.
Driving is Believing, is the new Hyundai battle cry. It speaks for itself. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed behind the wheel of this supercharged Hyundai Accent, so all we have are numbers and information supplied to us by the company. That's really too bad since it's one of the cars that's supposed to be leading the charge.