A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Hyundai Accent
Did you know that the Hyundai Accent has the longest lineage of any vehicle in the brand's lineup?
Yes, it's true. The Accent comes from a progression of small Hyundais dating back to the first one to be sold in the USA – the 1986 Excel. For Canadians, you can go back further to the Pony that introduced Hyundai in North America a few years earlier. The Accent has traced back seven generations – the last four wearing the current badge for this market.
Fascinating isn't it. With a line that dates back to the original "cars that made sense," you would think that it would be the most revered model in a diversified lineup. Sadly, no. Hyundai has produced more popular larger cars – such as the Elantra and Sonata – and are banking on SUVs to compete in that highly coveted segment with the Tucson and the Santa Fe family.
The Accent has another challenge ahead. Some manufacturers are trying to de-emphasize the car from their lineups and bank on SUVs to carry them through into the next decade. Subcompacts are usually targeted because of their lower sales volumes and the American want for larger cabin spaces and raised ground clearances.
Furthermore, there is the overall impression of subcompacts that we have in the good ol' USA. If you travel a lot, you have a budget to play with. Your company may dictate an Economy or Subcompact class for you to rent a vehicle on your business trip. There is nothing like turning off your clients when running around in something cheap and not-so-cheerful.
To meet these challenges, Hyundai went to work on their fifth generation Accent. The idea is simple: elevate the car that sits at the bottom of their lineup.
The result is the 2018 Accent – a car that makes more sense than ever. Or, so I hope. Let's see if it does.
The first thing you notice is the elevation in design. The 2018 Accent is only available in a four-door sedan, dropping the five-door hatchback for our market. Americans always preferred a trunk over a hatchback, despite the latter's benefits in terms of space utilization and flexibility.
However, a once-over with your eyes reveals a stylish sedan that carries Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture 2.X design language with its latest updates over a 172.6-inch body. It is lower, sleeker, stylish – especially with Hyundai's new front grille design, roofline and rear end. It is easy to mistake an Accent with the latest Elantra and Sonata, but you would be welcomed to do so.
Another place where you can see the Elantra and Sonata's influence across the Hyundai lineup is inside the cabin. One could easily mistake the Accent with its larger brethren, but one must take in consideration one thing: scalability. Clearly, the Accent is a smaller space than the Elantra and Sonata, but a lot of the larger sedans' design marks are there – from the center touch screen in our Limited tester to the instrumentation and switchgear throughout. It is s clean design, but I do wish for a higher grade and quality of materials around it.
The front seats are pretty comfortable in cloth upholstery. They are also supportive on the seatback and big enough in the cushion. You also get plenty of room for many drivers with power switches for rake, recline, and height. Rear seat room is a bit tight for big people like me. Four average-sized adults should have not problem sharing the interior of the Accent – children will have no trouble in the rear. Trunk space is ample – 13.7 cubic feet – and the Limited model has the proximity hands-free opener as part of the package. As long as you have your key on you, the trunk will open by itself – just like a lot of other Hyundai (and Genesis) sedans.
Driving the cabin technology is BlueLink, Hyundai's telematics system. You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, along with Bluetooth connectivity, SiriusXM satellite radio and six speakers. It is a pretty nice setup for a subcompact car.
Under the hood is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It has Hyundai's GDI – gas direct injection – system, which makes it stand out in the class. The engine only has 130 horsepower with 119 pound-feet of torque, which is fine around town and when cruising. Passing maneuvers and on-ramp runs may need some care when executing them. Otherwise, you will be working the Accent very thing hard to keep up with a freeway full of more powerful SUVs and eighteen-wheelers.
This Limited tester has a six-speed automatic driving power down to the front wheels. Fuel consumption with the automatic averaged 35.9 MPG. Selecting the less-expensive SE model will have a six-speed manual transmission standard.
Driving the Accent is a decent experience. On smooth surfaces, it is simply nice. Bumpy roads will transmit a bouncier ride back to the cabin. It's not bad but would probably need better dampening to balance out these conditions. Handling is decent, revealing minimal roll and lean through the corners. Steering is pretty good, with a small turning radius and solid wheel control. On-center feel is solid.
On the Accent, upgrading to the SEL and Limited will reward you with four-wheel disc brakes. The result is great braking in a subcompact car – superb stops in normal and panic situations. Vehicle control on snow and ice are decent, though snow tires would make things better. Still, extra care with braking will result in straighter stops in winter conditions. The Accent Limited has blind spot monitoring and Forward Collision Avoidance assist as standard.
If there is one more thing to be said about the 2018 Accent is how far the automobile has come to be able to be driven in temperatures well below the freezing line (+32°F/0°C). Towards the end of its time with me, temperatures dropped to -9°F (-23°C). After sitting for 36 hours outside, the Accent started up, ran, and went about its business. The heated seats did their job, but the heater itself needed to be coaxed and adjusted accordingly into the matching the warmth of the seats. To answer the unspoken question, yes, you can survive a very cold winter in a 2018 Hyundai Accent.
The aforementioned SE model with the manual transmission is the baseline for the Accent with pricing starting at $14,995 – which is exactly $10,000 more than the original base price of the 1986 Excel. Our Limited tester came with a sticker price of $19,336. This is at the price range of a subcompact sedan these days.
The new Accent is a very high-style car for its class. The looks alone help its cause tremendously while ensuring a value proposition that subcompact customers will look at. The Limited is the pick of the range, but you will get pushback regarding its price compared with going to a larger vehicle – an Elantra – or another competitor.
The point to having a Hyundai Accent is to live simply. To "make sense" in a world that is complicated with competition from SUVs, car sharing services, Lyft, Uber, and hipsters. Still, the Accent reminds us how far Hyundai has moved forward since the days of the original Excel, even as its direct descendant is larger and cost $10,000 more. Progress is a good thing indeed.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Hyundai Motor America
All photos by Randy Stern