2018 Hyundai Accent Buying Advice
This is the best subcompact sedan for you if you believe big refinement and small size aren’t mutually exclusive. Hyundai’s entry-level car is redesigned for model-year 2018, gaining new styling and features but losing its appealing hatchback body style.
One of the South Korean automaker’s longest-tenured nameplates, Accent debuted as a 1995-model-year replacement for the woeful Excel, the first vehicle the company sold in the United States. Accent was last redesigned for model-year 2012. Denied the curvaceous styling of Hyundai’s compact-class Elantra and midsize Sonata sedans, its high level of standard content and solid build quality belied bargain-basement pricing. The redesigned ‘18 model adopts a bit more visual excitement, while adding even more polish and expanding its convenience and safety features.
Subtracting the four-door-hatchback body style leaves this all-new fifth-generation Accent as solely a four-door sedan. Hatchbacks remain a popular body style in the subcompact-car class; every rival offers one. But this is an increasingly sales-challenged segment, with demand in double-digit freefall as buyers gravitate to the expanding range of small crossover SUVs. Indeed, Hyundai’s just-introduced Kona subcompact crossover fits the bill. It has more passenger and cargo room than the Accent sedan yet takes up less room on the road. And unlike the front-wheel-drive-only Accent, it’s available with all-wheel drive starting at $21,750.
Should you buy a 2018 model or wait for the 2019?
No reason to wait. Don’t expect any noteworthy changes to the 2019 Accent, especially as Hyundai focuses on launching its freshened 2019 Tucson and redesigned Santa Fe crossovers. The 2018 Accent lineup should carryover, again offering base SE, volume-selling SEL, and flagship Limited trim levels.
Styling: The all-new 2018 Accent is only fractionally larger than the 2012-2017 generation but it looks far more adventurous, adopting a more conservative version of the brand cues Hyundai introduced with its redesigned 2017 compact Elantra and freshened 2018 midsize Sonata cars. The result is a prominent hexagonal grille and headlights that stretch into the front fenders. The cutouts in the lower corners of the front fascia are a bit trite, but the overall look is classy and upscale.
SE and SEL models get a black grille and black lower trim, and body color door handles and exterior mirror caps. Limited grades have a chrome grille trim and chrome door handles, plus fog lights and LED daytime running lights. The SE has 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, the SEL has 15-inch alloy wheels, and the Limited 17-inch aluminum wheels.
Inside, Hyundai’s straightforward controls are present and accounted for. Everything is clearly labeled and within easy reach. The SE has a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity. It’s functional enough, but the display is too small and can wash out in direct sunlight. SEL and Limited models have a clearer 7-inch screen with support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. Dual 12-volt power outlets are standard across the board and very much appreciated. The SEL and Limited go an extra step by adding a second USB charging point. There’s plenty of hard, hollow plastic inside the cabin, but Hyundai dresses it up with visually pleasing textures so at least they don’t come off as cheap.
The standard cloth upholstery looks and feels high quality. The padding is comfortable and supportive, and the front seats have just the right amount of bolstering to hold you in place while not being too confining for those who are wider of frame. The seats have generous fore/aft travel so even those long of leg can easily find an ideal position. Note that only the SEL and Limited have a steering column that adjusts for rake and reach; the SE’s is tilt only. The rear bench is also nicely padded but legroom is in relatively short supply, even with the front seats set less than halfway back.
Trunk volume remains a generous 13.7 cubic feet. Small items storage is best in the SEL and Limited, which have a center console box with armrest. The SE lacks this feature, which limits what you can carry and puts a damper on comfort.
Mechanical: All models share a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with a class-competitive 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard on the SE. Optional there and standard on SEL and Limited is a 6-speed automatic. Both drivetrains are well-sorted, with the manual exhibiting smooth shifts and a light clutch and the automatic responding promptly to throttle inputs.
Accent isn’t as sporty as a Ford Fiesta or Honda Fit, but it feels livelier than you might expect, aided by good steering feel and a well-tuned suspension. Grip and balance are best on the Limited with its 17-inch tires, though you sacrifice a bit of ride quality versus the 15s on the SE and SEL. Try before you buy to determine which you prefer. The SE is one of the few modern vehicles with rear drum brakes instead of disc brakes. But only in repeated hard stops would you notice any difference in brake performance versus the rear disc-brake-equipped SEL and Limited.
Adding to the new Accent’s overall sense of refinement is the engine’s pleasant sound when accelerating and near silence at cruise. The cabin is well-isolated from other sources of noise, too, though you hear the Limited’s larger tires a bit more on coarse pavement.
Features: SE models 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 SEL nets 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 Limited adds 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and taillights, chrome exterior trim, fog lights, keyless access with pushbutton ignition, heated front seats, power sunroof, automatic climate control, and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics. This grade can also automatically pop the trunk if you stand immediately behind the rear of the car for three seconds with the keyfob in your purse or pocket. It’s not a power-opening lid, so you’d have to finish the job yourself. On the safety front, the only major driver-assistance feature available is forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and it’s standard exclusively on the Limited.
Accent follows the Honda roadmap, with each trim level equipped with a finite set of features and no available factory options. (Note that prices include Hyundai’s $885 destination fee.)
The SE is priced at $15,880 with manual transmission and $16,880 with automatic. SEL and Limited are automatic only and list for $18,180 and $19,780, respectively.
Any Accent is a good value for your money. Hyundai projects the SEL will be the most popular, and that would be our pick for the best combination of features and performance.
This is one area where Accent trails the competition. EPA fuel-economy ratings are 28/37/31 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission and 28/38/32 with the automatic. Our test SE automatic averaged 33.3 mpg in mostly city/suburban commuting. Accent uses regular-grade 87-octane gasoline.
Probably not much considering that this is a redesigned model in a segment where sales are decreasing. We would like to see Hyundai add more driver-assistance features and make them available on more than just the most expensive trim level. If you like what Accent has to offer but are disappointed there’s no hatchback body style, check out the Rio produced by Hyundai’s corporate partner, Kia. It’s available as a hatch and shares much of its underskin engineering with the Accent.