2018 Hyundai Accent First Review
Combining style, value and an exceptional warranty
The Accent is the smallest and least-expensive vehicle from Hyundai, and with nearly 25 years of history and over 1.2 million models sold, among its longest-serving and most-recognized. The Accent is all new for 2018, which marks this car's fifth generation.
For its makeover, the 2018 Hyundai Accent gains many things and loses one big factor. In the former camp, the new Accent subcompact car gains fresh and sophisticated styling inside and out, a more efficient engine, improved safety features, and a revamped infotainment system that is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In the missing column is a hatchback. The latest-gen Accent is available as a sedan only, breaking a tradition it's had since this model's earliest days. The reason, Hyundai executives say, is a take rate that’s just isn't there for the last model. Another factor playing into the decision to nix the Accent hatch is the forthcoming Hyundai Kona, a new entry into the subcompact crossover SUV market. For buyers who insist on a hatchback, Hyundai reps will kindly point you to the all-new 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT or, if you must have a subcompact hatch, the Rio by corporate cousin Kia.
To introduce this all-new Accent to the media, Hyundai invited us to Las Vegas, which would be the starting point for a drive that would wind through the breathtaking Valley of Fire State Park and over the Hoover Dam. Here are impressions from our first taste of this subcompact Hyundai, which is set to go on sale at the end of November.
By their nature, economy cars like the 2018 Accent do best in city environments. Their small size makes them both easy to maneuver and capable of squeezing into parking spots where larger cars may have trouble. In such urban settings, you also won't care as much about a subcompact’s show weaknesses: namely in longer, higher-speed cruising and in the sportier, dynamic driving that can take place on byways outside of city limits. Such cars, often the least-expensive in a manufacturer's lineup, usually have the least-powerful engines. These powertrains are perfectly fine for shorter commutes, but lack the kind of punch you need for passing on an interstate.
So it goes with the Accent. It is as its best on shorter commutes and as a city runabout. Bucking the usual trend of all new models, its engine is actually down on power vs. the outgoing version. This new one has 130 horsepower/119 lb-ft of torque, vs. the 137 hp/123 lb-ft torque of the 2017 model. A gain of 1 mpg combined, however, is attained for both manual and automatic transmission models.
This isn't a lot of power, but the Accent isn't a lot of car. A base model weighs just 2,502 pounds, while an automatic still comes in well below 2,700 pounds. The output is perfectly adequate to move that amount of metal. As a vehicle for students, young adults, empty nesters or those whose general driving requirements are mainly around town, the new Accent makes perfect sense.
This isn't to say the Accent fears highways. In reality, most of our driving took place on freeways and fast 2-lane highways. Only when pushed past 80 mph did the Accent begin to feel a bit nervous. And who would do such a dastardly thing as to speed on a highway to begin with? The rest of the time, the Accent felt buttoned down.
Kudos go to the suspension, which has been improved for better refinement. The rear is still uses a simple torsion beam setup, work has been done on the other bits to decrease some of the jarring we've experienced in past Hyundais.
We can't say much in terms of the Accent's dynamics. There is a "drive mode" button that turns on a sport mode that makes the throttle more responsive and stiffens the steering feel. But even when sport mode is engaged, the Accent isn't all that satisfying to drive aggressively.
Rather it's a perfectly polite commuter with adequate power, a decent suspension and a 6-speed automatic transmission that is both smooth and eager to kick down when pressed. (We didn't have a chance to try the 6-speed manual transmission, only offered on base models.)
Class-above infotainment system
Two systems are available in the 2018 Hyundai Accent. Base SE models get by with a 5-inch touchscreen with four speakers, one USB port and basic Bluetooth connectivity. Your better option is to go with the SEL or Limited model, as they bring a 7-inch system that is CarPlay/Android Auto ready, has 6 speakers, an extra USB power port and a Bluetooth system with voice recognition.
We laud the inclusion of CarPlay and Android Auto. Where other automakers are still scrambling to incorporate these hands-free connectivity systems even in cars a class or two above an Accent, it's gratifying to see them included in this least-expensive new Hyundai.
Sophisticated style inside and out
We'd be remiss to not mention the update the Hyundai Accent has gained in the style department. And stylish it is. The 2018 Hyundai Accent could be the best-looking subcompact car you can buy. Externally, it looks like a smaller version of an Elantra compact, which looks like a smaller version of a Sonata midsize sedan. That's a compliment. The Elantra's prominent grille, taut creases, available LED daytime running lights and rear fastback styling give the Accent a sophisticated look not expected in a subcompact economy car. The all-new Accent's stylish design betrays its budget price.
Inside, the story is the same. A central touchscreen infotainment display is easy to see and use (again, we recommend the 7-inch version that's in SEL and Limited models), and buttons and knobs for climate and audio functions are easy to see and use.
If there's one giveaway that the Accent is still a value-oriented car, it's in the seating area. Unlike the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta, leather isn't available, so it's cloth or nothing. After a day of riding in both the driver and passenger's seat, our back didn't ache but we did wish for more bolstering. We also had a chance to ride in the back seat. Legroom there is expectedly on the low side given this is a subcompact, and like most others in this segment (Nissan Versa Note being an exception), there is no center armrest for rear passengers.
Still, a 6-way driver seat is standard, as is a 60/40 folding rear seat, and heated seats can be had up front if you opt for the Limited model. And mercifully, in this day and age power windows, door locks and air conditioning all come standard even in a subcompact Hyundai.
Trims and notable features
The 2018 Hyundai Accent comes in three trims: SE, SEL and Limited. Unless your budget has you tied to the very least-expensive SE or you just must have a manual transmission, we suggest stepping up to at least the mid-trim Accent SEL. That model brings a roster of features that will make life easier and more enjoyable. Among them are the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with CarPlay and Android Auto integration, automatic headlights, sliding center armrest and storage compartment, and a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes (those in base models only tilt). Additionally, SEL and Limited models come with an automatic transmission (optional on base models) and rear disc brakes.
A notable feature found only on the Limited trim is automatic emergency braking. In a situation where a collision appears imminent and the driver doesn't brake (think distracted driving), the car can stop itself to prevent or lessen the severity of a crash. Among subcompacts, this feature is also in the Toyota Yaris and Yaris IA, and it's standard. But no Toyota at this time offers CarPlay or Android Auto. So, weigh your needs and priorities if debating the two. Or consider the Honda Fit, which offers automatic emergency braking in its Honda Sensing system, plus CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Perhaps even more than whether it will play nice with your phone, the bigger decision you'll face when deciding your next new subcompact is if you want a sedan or hatchback. By their nature, hatchbacks are more practical and have more cargo space, and that form of vehicle is offered by every one of the Accent's competitors, from the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta to the hatch-only Honda Fit.
If you want a hatchback, the Accent will be immediately excluded from your list. But if you have your eye on a sedan, and crave one that has style, a strong roster of features, a fantastic warranty, high efficiency and a low starting price, the 2018 Hyundai Accent checks all the boxes.
Exterior and Interior Photo Gallery
Trims, Specs and Sticker Prices
The all-new Hyundai Accent comes with a new trim structure. The base model remains the SE, but the midtrim SEL and top-line Limited are new. Pricing starts at $14,995 for the 6-speed manual SE; the automatic in that trim level is $1,000 more. Coming only with automatics, the SEL carries an MSRP of $17,295 and the Limited is $18,895. All prices exclude $885 delivery. Here are highlights of each trim, and how they build on each other as you upgrade.
6-speed manual transmission (6-speed automatic optional)
Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines
Power windows and door locks
60/40-split folding rear seats
AM/FM radio with 5-inch touchscreen and USB/aux-in and Bluetooth connectivity, 4 speakers
Rear disc brakes
7-inch touch-screen AM/FM/SiriusXM infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 6 speakers
Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition
Dual USB ports
Driver's blind-spot mirror
Center console storage with sliding armrest
Heated side mirrors
Tilt & telescoping windows
Driver's auto-up window
Forward-collision avoidance system
17-inch alloy wheels
Heated front seats
3-year complimentary subscription to Hyundai Blue Link Connected Services