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It looks like there's no stopping the Hyundai Express these days. This year, the Korean brand has overtaken Honda for third place in the Philippine car market in terms of overall sales. Its total year-to-date sales from January to August (13,757 units) represent an awesome jump of 102.8 percent from the same eight-month period in 2009 (6,782). As a result, its market share has jumped from 8.3 percent during said period last year, to 12.2 percent this year. That's four percentage points, if anyone cares to notice.

Largely responsible for this is the brand's much-improved passenger-car (PC) sales performance. From a mere 2,328 units from January to August last year, Hyundai passenger cars now account for 6,029 sold units. The bad news for the competition is that a couple of strong PC offerings from Hyundai are on the way to our market.

According to our source from Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI), the official distributor of Hyundai vehicles in the Philippines, they are scheduled to launch the new Accent within the last quarter of the year and the new Elantra within the first quarter of 2011. The Accent--named Verna in other markets--was unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show in April, while the Elantra--called Avante in South Korea--went on sale in Hyundai's domestic market just last month. The subcompact Accent will compete directly with the Toyota Vios and the Honda City, while the compact Elantra will clash with the Altis and the Civic, among others. It is obvious that Hyundai is looking to eat further into the market shares of the top Japanese brands in the country.

When we asked the marketing services department of HARI to either confirm or shoot down the inside information, all we got was a cryptic smiley. Which is very encouraging, actually. Because in our long experience with fact-checking, smileys are almost always subtle affirmations. And so we’re willing to take on bets that both the new Accent and Elantra are on their way to our soaring market fast.

The fourth-generation Accent is said to boast the longest wheelbase in its class, with its overall interior dimensions purportedly also more generous than those of its rivals. In China, where it is now already available, the Accent comes with either a 1.6-liter/121hp or a 1.4-liter/106hp Gamma gasoline engine.

The fifth-generation Elantra, meanwhile, wears Hyundai's new design language dubbed "Wind Craft," which should explain the car's smoothly flowing lines. We've already seen this design direction in the Tucson and the Sonata. The Elantra, first launched in 1990, is Hyundai's best-selling car in the world, already achieving cumulative sales of six million units. Development of the new model began in 2008 and reportedly took Hyundai 33 months and some $256 million to complete from concept to production.

At 4,530mm from bumper to bumper, the new Elantra is longer than the outgoing model by 25mm. It is also lower by 45mm at 1,435mm and exactly as wide at 1,775mm. Interior room is claimed to have been increased by 18 liters.

The new Elantra will be powered by a 1.6-liter Gamma direct-injection gasoline engine that churns out 138hp of output and 167Nm of torque. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, this engine is said to have a fuel efficiency of 16.5km per liter.

Too early to say whether the new versions of the Accent and the Elantra can loosen Toyota's and Honda's grip on the subcompact- and compact-car segments. What do you think?

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Vernon B. Sarne
Editor-In-Chief
The editor-in-chief has been a motoring journalist for almost two decades. He only looks young (or so he thinks) because his job is literally a fountain of youth.
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