Today’s automotive marketplace has become a place of rising expectations. Apparently, the idea that “less is more” now only applies to fuel consumption. Consumer demand warrants cost-adding technology and creature comforts while today’s safety standards require entry-level vehicles to include equipment that was once reserved for premium models.
While the entire automotive landscape has evolved with the times, some of the most dramatic advancements can be seen in the historically budget-friendly subcompact segment. Base prices have sharply increased, and well-equipped models can cost what you would have paid for the average midsize sedan less than a decade ago. Many of today’s subcompacts including the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic and Honda Fit, are bigger, better and more expensive than ever. But perhaps none have undergone the extensive metamorphosis of the all-new 2018 Hyundai Accent.
Once regarded as a no-frills bargain basement option for folks needing inexpensive entry-level transportation, the Accent, like the entire Hyundai line up, has quickly become a top contender in its segment. While it remains faithful to its relatively affordable roots, the Hyundai Accent has moved upmarket, with a larger footprint and a more comfortable interior. The previous year’s hatchback model has been discontinued, and for 2018 the Accent is available only as a four-door, five-passenger sedan.
The 2018 Accent is slightly longer and wider than the outgoing model, and its wheelbase has increased by 0.4 inches. These changes equate to a roomier cabin and a better handling car on the road. The changes are also pleasing to the eye, as the new Accent has a bolder presence. Unless they are parked right next to each other, it may be hard to distinguish the new subcompact Accent from the compact Hyundai Elantra.
One thing that hasn’t grown is the engine. In fact, power numbers are down when compared with the outgoing model. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque, which is 7 horsepower and 4 pound-feet less than you’ll find with the 2017 model. Fortunately, the Accent’s power plant provides similar or slightly better performance when compared to the outgoing car.
Our time driving the 2018 Accent along the hilly, winding roads of Nevada exceeded expectations. The subcompact’s handling is sharp and cooperative. The precise steering is particularly impressive. We expected the new Accent to be compliant, but we were pleasantly surprised by the level of connection that the Accent provided between the road and driver.
Braking is handled by front disc and rear drum brakes on the base model, while higher trim levels include four-wheel disc brakes. The setup is sufficient for the lightweight sedan and brake pedal feel is in line with the rest of the segment. Base SE models are fitted with 15-inch steel wheels, SEL’s get 15-inch alloys and the top-trim Limited models receive 17-inch alloy wheels.
A far cry from the entry-level subcompact segment standards of yesterday, the Accent includes power windows and cruise control. A five-inch color touch screen projects the standard rearview camera and operates the 4-speaker infotainment system that includes USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The SEL trim replaces the base unit with a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system and six-speaker audio. The upgraded system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Audio as well as dual charging USB ports and voice recognition. SEL models also include automatic headlights and heated outside mirrors. The Limited adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, projection headlights, a power sunroof, keyless entry, heated front seats, an auto-open trunk, forward collision avoidance and three years of Hyundai’s Blue Link connected services.
The cabin provides enough space to classify the Accent as a compact, and there’s decent legroom front and back. The six-way manually adjustable front seats make it easy to find a comfortable seating position, although we would recommend shorter drivers opt for the SEL or Limited trim’s tilt and telescopic steering wheel over the base model’s tilt-only column. Fit and finish are good, but ample hard touch plastics and the lack of leather upholstery, even in the top-trim model, are clear indicators of the Accent’s lower price point.
Cargo space is excellent for a subcompact sedan at 13.7 cubic feet. However, the absence of the hatchback model means that buyers who want maximum cargo space will want to investigate segment competitors like the Honda Fit or the Kia Rio.
Hyundai has yet to release pricing for the 2018 model, but our guess is that the base SE model will start with an MSRP around $15,000 (2017 models start at $14,745). The pricing will put the Accent in line with other comparably-equipped vehicles in the segment.
The 2018 Hyundai Accent is proof that an entry-level vehicle does not need to feel basic. Its standard features were unheard of in this segment not too long ago, and the Accent’s easy-to-drive character rewards anyone who sits behind the wheel. A percentage of buyers will likely mourn the absence of the hatchback model, but those looking for an inexpensive sedan with new-car reliability and an excellent warranty will find Hyundai’s newest subcompact hard to beat.