2020 Hyundai Accent: small-car value, style, refinement. Excitement? Well…

2020 Hyundai Accent

What changes will make the 2020 Hyundai Accent different?

New driver-assistance features – we hope. Don’t hold your breath, though. Hyundai’s entry-level car is likely to be virtually unchanged for model-year 2020.

It should return unaltered as a subcompact sedan of modest power but impressive roominess, attractive styling, and fine value-for-the dollar. Base SE, mid-level SEL, and top-line Limited trim levels will be back. For model-year ’19, only the flagship Limited included autonomous emergency braking designed to stop it automatically to mitigate a frontal collision. Safety features such as blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, adaptive radar cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, and lane-keep assist were not available. Rivals increasingly offer all these driver assists as standard or at least optional.

First introduced in 1994, Accent is one of the South Korean automaker’s longest-tenured vehicles. Its most recent redesign came for model-year 2018, when the company raised a few eyebrows by discontinuing the popular hatchback body style, leaving only the sedan. The move was a symptom of the changing automotive market, as buyers abandon cars and flock to crossovers. Within Hyundai’s own showroom, the Kona and Venue subcompact crossovers are trendier alternatives to an Accent hatchback.

Still, escalating prices for crossovers and for gasoline have helped revive sales of small cars, the most affordable new vehicles. Demand in the subcompact segment rose 11 percent through the first quarter of 2019. Accent didn’t share in the growth, with sales down 6 percent for the period. Meanwhile, sales of the Kia Rio, which borrows much of the Accent’s underskin engineering – and still offers a hatchback – rose 13 percent. Kia and Hyundai are corporate cousins that share engineering, powertrains, and technology across several model segments.

Note that driving impressions and other subjective conclusions in this review are based on test drives of the 2019 Hyundai Accent. In areas where the ’20 might be different, we will reserve judgment.

Should I wait for the 2020 model or buy the 2019?

Wait for the 2020 to see whether Hyundai democratizes the safety features mentioned above. The company has been slowly rolling out these important driver assists across most of its product line, so it stands to reason Accent will benefit at some point. Our best guess, though, is that won’t happen until this car’s model-year 2021 mid-lifecycle refresh.

Buy a 2019 Accent if you want a nicely styled, reliable, and affordable small sedan. Road manners are confident and predicable, if less than sporty. Refinement is a pleasant surprise. But fuel economy can’t match the best in class. Also consider a 2019 if you’re a manual transmission fan. There’s a chance Hyundai could drop that feature from the 2019 SE model, leaving all Accents with automatic transmission only.

Will the styling be different?

Not before the expected model-year-’21 facelift, and even then, don’t look for big changes. The ’20 Accent will continue with the same look adopted with its model-year 2018 redesign. Inside and out, Accent is essentially a slimmed-down version of Hyundai’s 2017-18 Elantra compact car. The design is clean and contemporary.

For model-year 2019, some Limited-exclusive exterior elements trickled down to other models, mainly chrome grille became standard across the board. The SEL added fog lights and a chrome cutline molding, while the Limited gained full LED headlights, a rarity among entry-level cars.

The 2020 Accent’s interior should retain its simple, functional layout. Perhaps Hyundai will see fit to equip the SE with the 7-inch touchscreen currently standard on the SEL and Limited. This update would bring Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto support to the base grade and enable functionality not available with the SE’s 5-inch display. These smartphone interfaces are the only way to tap into GPS mapping because Accent doesn’t offer an imbedded navigation system.

Passenger room and comfort will remain surprisingly good for front-seat occupants. The cabin is bright and airy, making Accent feel larger than it is. We appreciate the generous fore/aft travel of the front seats, along with their firm, yet supportive, padding. As is common among cars this small, rear-seat space is somewhat cramped, though two adults fit OK if front seaters are willing to slide no more than halfway back.

Trunk volume will remain a generous-for-the-class 13.7 cubic feet. Interior storage space is adequate, though we’d urge Hyundai to add a center-console storage box to the SE. Topped by a center armrest, this handy feature is currently exclusive to the SEL and Limited and would go a long way toward enhancing the SE’s versatility and front-passenger comfort.

Any mechanical changes?

No. All 2020 Accents will continue with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. The SE has come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. Don’t be surprised if Hyundai drops it for ’20, leaving a six-speed automatic as the sole gearbox for all models.

Accent’s drivetrain is impressively refined for a vehicle in this price range. The car isn’t fast by any measure, running out of steam rather quickly as engine speeds rise. But it never sounds strained. It also quiets down nicely at cruising speeds. Limited grades have 17-inch wheels and tires, which generate slightly more noise over coarse pavement than the 15s standard on the SE and SEL.

When the road turns curvy or you want to hustle through a corner, no Accent is as sporty as a Ford Fiesta or Honda Fit. But the Limited’s 17-inch tires provide a noticeable handling benefit over the SE and SEL. The SE’s skinnier tires squeal during tight turns and quick changes of direction; the Limited performs these maneuvers with no fuss. Steering feel is very linear on all models. Brake feel is OK on the SE, mostly due to its use of money-saving rear drum brakes. The 2020 SEL and Limited will again have four-wheel disc brakes with much better control and pedal modulation.

Will fuel economy improve?

Unlikely. The 2020 Accent’s EPA ratings should remain unchanged from 2019. Unfortunately, this means ratings slightly below the segment average.

If the SE continues with manual transmission standard, expect it to rate 28/37/31 mpg city/highway/combined. Accents with automatic transmission should again rate 28/38/32 mpg. In our testing, which included a slight bias toward urban driving. an SE with automatic averaged 33.3 mpg. With more highway use, a Limited review sample returned 34.0 mpg.

Accent will continue to use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline.

Will there be new features?

Only if Hyundai adds the aforementioned driver-assistance features. Otherwise, don’t count on any major additions to the 2020 Accent versus the 2019. We already mentioned the appearance items that are newly standard on the SE and SEL, along with the Limited’s addition of LED headlights.

SE models will again come reasonably well equipped, including as standard a rearview camera with guidelines, remote entry, power windows, locks, and mirrors, height-adjustable driver’s seat, variable-speed intermittent windshield wipers (a feature lacking on some of Accent’s rivals), and split-folding rear seatbacks.

The 2020 SEL will again have the rear disc brakes, alloy wheels, 7-inch infotainment screen with CarPlay and Android Auto, extra USB charging port, center console bin with armrest, automatic headlight control, heated exterior mirrors with blind-spot magnification, and a tilt/telescopic steering column.

The 2020 Accent Limited will include all that, plus the 17-inch wheels, keyless access with pushbutton ignition, heated front seats, power sunroof, automatic climate control, and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics. Likely to remain exclusive to the Limited are sensors that automatically pop the trunk lid if you stand directly behind the rear of the car for three seconds with the keyfob in your purse or pocket. It’s not a power-opening lid, though, so you must to finish opening it yourself.

Will 2020 prices be different?

We’ll roll the dice and predict that Hyundai holds the line on 2020 Accent pricing — assuming extra driver assists are not part of the product plan.

For reference, we’ll list model-year ’19 base prices, which included the manufacturer’s $920 destination fee. Note that Accent offers no factory or standalone options. Any extra-cost items are dealer-installed functional or dress-up accessories.

The 2019 Hyundai Accent SE started at $15,915 with manual transmission and at $16,915 with automatic. The ’19 SEL listed for $18,265, the Limited an even $20,000.

If you want to change gears yourself and aren’t bothered by lack of smartphone integration, the manual-transmission SE represents a value proposition for those on a shoestring budget.

Our recent test of a Limited, however, makes that our top Accent recommendation, mostly for its extra safety and convenience features. Regardless of which you select, you’ll receive the benefits of Hyundai’s outstanding bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty coverage.

When does it come out?

The 2020 Hyundai Accent will likely have a release date sometime in the fall of 2019.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Kio Rio, Nissan Versa, Toyota Corolla iM and Yaris

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]