Hyundai built its reputation by creating vehicles that offer attractive styling, great value and continually-improving quality — all attributes of the new 2018 Hyundai Accent. The fifth generation of Hyundai’s entry-level model, the Accent features updated styling, improved fuel efficiency, more high-tech features and the latest safety technology.
The 2018 Accent rides on a new chassis designed for increased rigidity, resulting in better driving dynamics as well as a surprisingly quieter ride. Hyundai employs a lot of high-strength steel in the Accent’s construction, which improves collision safety and crash-test performance without adding more weight to the vehicle.
With its new cascading grille, the Accent’s styling fits into the rest of the Hyundai lineup. Large headlights flank the new grille and are available with projector headlights as well as LED daytime running lights that provide a unique light signature at night. Taillights are also all new — now wider and available as LEDs for a premium look.
The Accent is available in SE, SEL or Limited trims. For 2018 the Accent is only available as a 4-door sedan — currently no hatchback is offered.
At a base price of $14,995, the SE is the entry-level Accent as well as the lowest-priced vehicle in the Hyundai lineup. Standard features include air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a 5-inch display screen, a rearview camera, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with four speakers, and 15-inch steel wheels. The SE also comes with stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and a 6-speed manual gearbox. The 6-speed automatic transmission adds $1,000 to the price.
Priced at $17,295, the SEL upgrades the base SE with heated rearview mirrors, dual USB charging outlets, a 7-inch touchscreen display, an upgraded audio system with six speakers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, voice recognition, 15-inch alloy wheels and 4-wheel disc brakes. The SEL also comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment.
With a starting price of $18,895, the top-line Accent comes well equipped. The Limited adds to the SEL with automatic emergency braking, chrome grille and accents, projector headlights with LED running lights, LED taillights, fog lights, a hands-free smart trunk release, a power moonroof, heated front seats, automatic climate control, pushbutton start, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
During a recent press junket, journalists spent several hours behind the wheel of the new Accent; the seats are quite comfortable. All trims get cloth seats — unfortunately leather is not an option — although even the base-level SE’s seating surfaces are perfectly acceptable. Many of the surfaces are covered in hard plastic, which is somewhat expected in a vehicle at this price, although we were anticipating slightly upmarket materials in the Limited.
Since we spend plenty of time in plenty of pricey cars with the latest high-tech interfaces, the simplicity of the Accent is a refreshing change. With basic volume and tuning controls as well as straightforward climate controls, everything is quite intuitive without being overly complicated.
Granted, the Accent is a small car so we weren’t expecting S-Class-type legroom. But we were pleasantly surprised that the rear seat is quite usable — at least for two adults. A third person back there would be cramped — thus the space would not be a pleasant experience for any of the rear-seat passengers unless they were extremely comfortable with each other’s personal space. That said, the 2018 Accent is roomier than its predecessor and is now large enough to be considered a compact (as opposed to a subcompact) by the U.S. EPA.
Although our personal bias leans toward the versatility of a hatchback, the new Accent does have a spacious trunk. The opening is wide so loading luggage or other cargo will be relatively easy for most folks. The available hands-free trunk release is a nice additional feature; if the car is locked, simply stand behind the vehicle near the trunk with the key fob on your person and the lid will open automatically.
Under the Hood
All trims of the Accent are powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque. Even though engine size remains the same as the previous-gen Accent, horsepower and torque are actually lower than the outgoing model. Hyundai reps relayed that this was done to improve fuel efficiency — we were surprised the automaker chose to sacrifice power to do so.
Manual or Automatic
Two transmissions are available: a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. The manual is only available on the base-level SE, and Hyundai expects only 5 percent of buyers will opt to shift for themselves. We must wonder why the manual isn’t available on the higher-level trims — the tooling for the car is likely the same. A possible reason for the low take rate for the manual may be because it is only available on the base-level trim.
Improved Fuel Economy
Fuel economy has improved over the previous year’s model. According to the EPA, the Accent with a manual transmission is rated at 28 mpg city / 37 mpg highway / 31 mpg combined. The automatic transmission delivers slightly better numbers with 38 mpg highway and 32 combined.
On the Road
The Accent may be an entry-level vehicle, but it feels solid on the road. Ride is quiet and smooth — this new iteration certainly does not feel like an economy car. The Accent isn’t trying to be a sports car, but steering is decent and the car handles twisting roads as well as long freeways without any issues.
Not Very Quick
With only 130 horsepower on tap, the Accent does not have much get-up-and-go, especially when equipped with an automatic transmission. Passing on a 2-lane road is possible, but a lot of space is needed to complete the task safely. Pulling into traffic also takes some planning since Accent is relatively slow off the line, although for most driving situations power won’t be an issue.
And although most Accent buyers won’t opt for the manual, rowing through the gears works well and does make this small car more fun to drive. Acceleration isn’t much stronger than with the automatic, but power can be managed a bit better for slightly better performance.
Right for You?
Most large car companies offer a small entry-level vehicle to provide reliable transportation at an affordable price. But Hyundai has built the Accent to be much more than simply basic transportation. With attractive styling, a roomy interior, a comfortable ride and surprising driving dynamics, the Accent is clearly much more than a typical economy car. Add to this Hyundai’s 10-year / 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and the Accent makes a great choice for a first-time buyer or anyone who needs an affordable ride yet desires something nicer than the typical entry-level econobox.
Pros: Catchy styling; comfortable ride; available advanced safety features.
Cons: Underpowered; hard plastics inside; no manual on higher-end trim.
Bottom Line: The Accent is a superior option in the crowded entry-level sedan segment.