For more than two decades, the Accent has been Hyundai’s entry-level economy car, providing dependable, low-cost transportation to customers world-wide. About 1.2 million have been sold in the U.S. since its introduction in 1994.
The Accent has been marketed as a subcompact against such competitors as the Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Spark, Kia Rio and the defunct Mazda2, which now is sold by Toyota as the iA.
The 2018 Hyundai Accent could be described as a charlatan because it pretends to be something it is not. For 2018, though it still masquerades in that class, the Accent has grown. It is 14 feet 5 inches long with 90 cubic feet of space inside for passengers and a trunk that can hold 14 cubic feet of stuff. With a curb weight of 2,502 to 2,679 pounds, the Accent qualifies as a step-up compact sedan, though it remains as Hyundai’s entry-level model.
And yes, it is a four-door sedan only. In a move that will disappoint lovers of economical small hatchbacks, the Accent no longer is available with a hatch. As a captive of U.S. buyer preferences, Accent sedans have been outselling the hatchbacks three to one, so the company decided to focus on the more popular model.
That places it in an interesting tussle with its sibling company, Kia, which also has an all-new car in the entry-level category. But the 2018 Kia Rio continues to be sold as both a four-door hatchback and a sedan.
The Accent’s larger size not only delivers a more substantial and stylish image, it can compete with the best-seller in the entry-level class, the compact Nissan Versa, which also is marketed as a subcompact. However, Nissan also sells the Versa Note, which is a hatchback.
An important selling point for a small car like the Accent is that it is modern, with up-to-date safety and convenience features. Hyundai planners are aware that about 50 million people buy used cars in the U.S. every year, and have noted that one-third of Accent buyers trade in cars that they bought used.
Seeking to entice more used-car owners, the Accent features full-blown safety equipment and even items that you don’t expect to find on a car in its category. However, leather seating is not available, though the cloth upholstery is handsome and comfortable. The Accent comes in three trim levels with two transmissions and one engine: a 130-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder with gasoline direct-injection that delivers 119 lb.-ft. of torque.
On the base SE model, customers can order a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is standard on the SEL and Limited versions.
As is customary with South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia brands, the $15,880 SE is uncommonly well equipped with fundamental safety equipment plus a rear-view camera and tire-pressure monitoring. Also standard is hill-start assist, which keeps the Accent from rolling backward starting off on a hill.
Other SE equipment includes air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a temporary spare tire, steering-wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, and a tilt (though not telescoping) steering wheel. Accent SEL and Limited models get the telescoping function.
The Limited also gets such desirable features as blind-spot warning, forward collision avoidance, motorized glass sunroof, fog lights, SXM satellite radio, automatic climate controls and headlights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, pushbutton starting and-a whopper in this class of car-a “smart trunk” that opens with a wave of the foot.
Driven for this review were the base SE with the manual gearbox and the top-line Limited. Either satisfies, though it’s too bad the stick shift is not available across the lineup. On the road, regardless of the trim, the new Accent is a model of silent running, so quiet that muffled wind, road and mechanical sounds rival that of some six-figure luxury cars.
Though the acceleration is anything but neck-snapping, the Accent feels lively off the line and never challenged in urban or freeway driving. All in all, exemplary affordable wheels for the masses.