The '06 conventional Accent lists for just over $10k. It gets an EPA estimated 32mpg, and gets a "6" on the smog-forming emissions for its national version, a "7" for its CA-emissions version. Quick back-of-the-envelope calculations would estimate the hybrid would get around 46mpg, and here's to hoping they learned from the Civic (indeed, the specs here seem to indicate a that this is a mild hybrid with a similar fuel economy boost to the Civic’s) and made sure that the smog score is at least a 7.
If that's the case, could we be seeing a hybrid that gets mid-to-high 40s in MPG that's well under $20k, and perhaps even under $15k (and that’s not even mentioning the tax credit which is likely to be around $1,500)? Current reports have the Accent and its sister the Kia Rio hybrid debuting in the United States late next year. Just as Hyundai has put a real scare in the big automakers with its conventional models, the Accent Hybrid could be a real boon to the hybrid market if it meets (or even exceeds) these expectations.
Of course the Hyundai Accent hybrid will be quite different from a car like the Toyota Prius. Size, technology (full hybrid vs. assist hybrid) level of comfort, utility, power, etc. But a Prius is overkill for many people, both for the wallet and for what their real needs are, so a smaller, cheaper yet well made (if recent Hyundai redesigns are an indication of the future) hybrid will certainly find a place.
Hyundai is a hungry company these days. Hungry for market share and brand recognition. Lets hope they are smart enough to realize that the future lies with efficient and clean cars; if they really pull no punches with the Accent hybrid and make it really good (AT-PZEV, good gas mileage, low price), it could help really make hybrid mainstream (along with the upcoming 2007 Toyota Camry hybrid).
According to previous announcements by Hyundai, the hybrids should get to North-America in late 2006 but it is not quite clear if they will be 2006 or 2007 models. Hmm.. Late 2006? That's hurricane season.