Good value proposition
Excellent fuel economy
Hatchback is gone
Automatic emergency braking only on Limited
Narrow rear doors
2018 Hyundai Accent
The Hyundai Accent rolls into 2018 with an all-new exterior design – minus the choice of a hatchback – and a totally new interior. Changes to the sedan lineup from last year include dropping the Value Edition trim and replacing it with the SEL model, and adding a new top-spec Limited trim. Like last year, a six-speed manual is standard on the SE, with a six-speed automatic optional, with the automatic standard on the SEL and Limited.
Under the skin, changes include a greater use of Advanced High Strength Steel, increasing torsional rigidity by thirty-two percent.
With a shape that's wider by 1.2 inches, longer by 0.6 inches, and a wheelbase that's been stretched by 0.4 inches, the new exterior design exhibits styling cues from the compact Elantra sedan as well as the midsize Sonata.
It begins up front with a smaller version of the brand's signature cascading grille. Flanking it are a pair of recessed fog light surrounds and a new, prominent, lower lip spoiler. Narrower headlamp enclosures sweep up over more aggressively flared front wheel well openings, with a prominent body crease beginning at the leading edge of the front door and sweeping back, ending just forward of the rear tail lamp lenses. A lower body scoop extends between the wheelhouse openings, while the taillights are higher, narrower, and lit by LEDs.
The greenhouse features a steeply-raked windshield and the roofline peaks at the B-pillar, where it begins to sweep back until terminating at the trailing edge of the deck lid.
The new body is wrapped around an interior that's trimmed largely in hard plastic, typical of vehicles in this class. But here, the choice of colors is tasteful, and the surfaces are nicely grained and finished - fitting together with the same precision found in many luxury sedans. The gauges are simple and easy to understand. The radio has dedicated on/off and tuning knobs along with eight redundant buttons for the major functions. The climate control system consists of two knobs and five buttons. Everything is within easy reach of the driver. They’re also intuitive and simple to use - it doesn’t get any easier than this setup.
The driver and front passenger will find plenty of head, leg, shoulder and hip room. We found the front seats to be supportive. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes and also features redundant controls for the radio and cruise control as well as Bluetooth phone functions (voice recognition is standard on SEL and Limited trims. The turn signal lever comes with a flash-to-pass feature and there’s a nicely-placed dead pedal for the driver.
Accommodations in back are typical for a subcompact. The new roofline offers increased headroom, so two adults will find the space to be adequate, although some negotiation with those upfront may be required for adequate legroom for taller passengers. Cargo volume is unchanged at 13.7 cubic feet – more than the Cadillac ATS - and the rear seats fold in a 60/40 split revealing a pass-through to the trunk for added versatility - we were able to load a 52cm road bike without having to remove the front wheel. An outside trunk release is now standard and, in the Limited, the trunk can be opened even when the car is locked as long as you have the key fob.
Thanks to a low dashboard and cowl as well as a moderate beltline, the view out the front and sides is very good. The view out the back, however, is compromised by a wide C-pillar, high trunk and small rear window. Fortunately, a rear view camera is now standard.
At the same time, the more versatile hatchback has been axed from the lineup, the seats lack lumbar support, the front seat side bolsters are soft, and although the driver's seat features a height adjustment, the bottom cushion flattens out as it's raised, reducing thigh support. In addition, despite the presence of a middle seat belt, three adults will not feel comfortable in back, while the narrow rear doors make ingress and egress difficult.
Under the hood
The only engine available for the Accent is Hyundai’s 1.6-liter Gamma 4-cylinder. Equipped with direct injection and variable valve timing on both camshafts, and, for 2018, has been recalibrated for better fuel economy and now produces 130 horsepower (8 less than 2017) and 119 lb ft of torque (down 4).
Speaking of fuel economy, it remains one of the Accent’s strong points with an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon in the city, 37 on the highway, and 31 combined with the six-speed manual, and 28 in the city, 38 on the highway, and 32 combined on models equipped with the six-speed automatic, like our tester. Our own observed fuel economy in suburban driving was a vehicle measured 31.8 miles per gallon.
On the road
With a curb weight of just 2,500 pounds in base trim, the modest 130 horsepower isn't the disappointment it might appear to be on paper. The Accent feels well planted on the road, while the suspension handles small bumps and road imperfections well. The steering is quick with a nice weight to it and, on the expressway, constant corrections aren't necessary. Acceleration is brisk when you put your foot into it, making it easy to merge and pass at freeway speeds and, despite its size, it’s not bothered by crosswinds or grooved pavement. In addition, it's easy to modulate the brakes, with plenty of feedback to the driver through the pedal.
But like other subcompacts, the Accent is built to a price point with, in this instance, translates into less-efficient rear drum brakes on the SE, narrow, fuel-efficient tires that limit cornering ability, with larger bumps revealing the limitations of its strut/torsion beam suspension. In addition, quite a bit of engine, road and wind noise enters the cabin at higher freeway speeds, and, while the steering is quick with a nice weight to it, overall feel and feedback are not as good as the best vehicles in this class.
2018 Hyundai Accent prices
2018 Accent pricing, including destination, starts at $15,880 for an SE equipped with a six-speed manual. That only gets you 15-inch steel wheels, but also includes air conditioning, power windows and outside mirrors, power locks with keyless entry, five-inch touchscreen, rear view camera, tilt steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, Bluetooth, and USB and auxiliary ports.
The $18,180 SEL kicks things up a notch with a standard six-speed automatic transmission, seven-inch touchscreen with Sirius satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, fifteen-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors, and a steering wheel that also telescopes.
At a $1,600 premium, Limited models like our tester add forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, heated front seats, a sunroof, projector headlights, and automatic climate control.
No option packages are available, and all models come with Hyundai's 5 year/60,000 mile limited warranty and 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain limited warranty.
The Bottom Line
Despite the loss of the hatchback, a simple suspension that isn't all that smooth over big bumps, and the lack of active safety features with automatic emergency braking only available on the Limited model, we remain impressed by the Accent's new upscale look, improved rear seat headroom, and excellent fuel economy.
The bottom line here is the Hyundai Accent features a strong value proposition by offering a lot of features at an attractive price along with one of the best new car warranties in the business. Young buyers faced with the new-or-used buying choice should put it at or near the top of their lists.