The small economy car market isn't doing very well, as most vehicle buyers opt for SUVs and crossovers. But the revamped 2018 Hyundai Accent
is worth a look for those searching for an attractive, fairly roomy economy car.
The 2018 fifth generation fuel-stingy Accent has an improved interior, variety of features and improved ride and handling.
The new styling is highlighted by Hyundai's new "cascade"grille, and it has a sweeping roof profile and sharp character lines that run the length the car, along with slim LED wraparound taillights. The new Accent is 1.2 inches wider and is a bit longer overall, with a slightly longer wheelbase.
The $14,995-$18,895 front-drive Accent is the entry level Hyundai. It comes in base SE, mid-level SEL and top Limited form. It's sold only as a front-drive sedan with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission.
Last year's hatchback version has been dropped. Most ordered the 2017 sedan despite the hatchback's versatility, although the sedan's trunk is roomy, and the split 60/40 rear seatbacks fold flat to enlarge the cargo area.
My test SE with the automatic transmission had "frost white pearl" paint, which looked great. I just don't know how much of a chore it would be keeping it decently clean.
Standard for the SE are air conditioning, cruise control, rearview camera, AM/FM system with four speakers, 5-inch color touchscreen, tilt steering wheel, split-folding rear seat backs and 15-inch wheels. The SEL adds 17-inch wheels, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a center armrest. The Limited has heated front seats, power moonroof, a 7-inch color touchscreen, push-button start and automatic climate control. It also offers optional automatic emergency braking-unusual for an economy car.
The dashboard screens have small but handy buttons and controls beneath them for such things as the climate controls.
All Accents have a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 130 horsepower and 119 pound/feet of torque. That's down from 137 horsepower and slightly less torque from the 2017 engine. Hyundai says the changes result in better drivability with more low-end torque and superior fuel efficiency.
Estimated economy is 28 miles per gallon in the city and 38 on highways with the responsive automatic, which has a quick-acting manual shift feature. That's a regular automatic, not a CVT as some might expect. The manual transmission delivers the same estimated economy in the city, but 39 miles per gallon on highways.
I found 65-75 m.p.h. passing in Chicago's fast-moving freeway traffic to be fairly swift, and the engine was still pulling strongly above 75.
The new Accent's added interior room has led it to be classified as a compact car, not a subcompact. Its quieter, interior is more attractive, although there's lots of hard plastic and I missed the center armrest in the SE. Gauges can be quickly read, and front seats provide good support.
The Accent is called a five-seater, but only four adults fit comfortably because the center of the backseat is too stiff for comfort. However, a tall person behind a tall driver will want a bit more more knee room. And a long-legged driver will wish his seat moved back more. Also, some motorists will wish the steering wheel telescoped instead of just moving up and down.
My test Accent SE trunk lid had no interior indent or grab handle to help close it without getting hands dirty on outside sheet metal. The Limited has an available hands-free trunk release, activated by placing a foot under the rear bumper. I've found that similar "smart trunk" releases in other vehicles have worked only part of the time, and I wear large shoes.
The quick steering has a firm feel, and the Accent feels as solid as a rock, thanks partly to a new rigid chassis and an improved suspension. Stability and traction controls also help. Handling is remarkably good, with the car firmly gripping the road on curves at higher-than-normal speeds. The anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution are strong, and their pedal has a nice linear action.
However, the ride may be too firm for some, and raised highway expansion strips are felt.
There's a six-air-bag system, and advanced high strength steel improves collision energy management.
Hyundai is being smart is offering improved economy cars such as the Accent because nobody knows when gasoline prices will rise again, and a car such as the Accent will make the Hyundai name more visible to more people. And not everyone wants a mid-size sedan, SUV or crossover.