At one time, the subcompact was seen as the penalty box in the automotive marketplace. The reasons for buying one were the low cost and high fuel economy. But in return, subcompacts were devoid of many comforts found in larger vehicles such as air conditioning, power windows, and automatic transmissions. Now subcompacts are seen as a real choice in the marketplace and automakers have had to step up to make their models feel like an actual vehicle. One of the automakers who has made this change was Hyundai. Their entrant in the subcompact marketplace, the Accent, was the poster child of the no frills, cheap commuting vehicle. But with the most recent model, Hyundai has moved it up the food chain to better compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, and Honda Fit. But does the Accent belong in this playground, or is it just a pretender?
There are two ways you can describe the Accent Hatchback’s design. One is that the model is quite boring and plain looking when compared to other subcompacts. The other way is to say the Accent Hatchback is sophisticated and matured. The Accent doesn’t have quite the flair of the fludic sculpture as other models, but does feature some sculpted curves along the doors, a distinctive character line running from the front fender to the rear, and a set of sixteen-inch alloy wheels that come standard on the SE model.
Much like the exterior, the Accent Hatchback’s interior can be described as being plain or classy. Like most subcompacts, the Accent does feature its fair share of hard plastics. But the plastic is very solid and Hyundai used textured plastics on certain parts of the interior to make it feel somewhat premium. The center stack is well laid out and easy to glance at. My Accent SE tester came very well-equipped with Bluetooth, iPod and USB connections, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and satellite radio all as standard.
One complaint I have with Hyundai and Kia vehicles is the lack of thigh support in the front seat when sitting in them for long periods. The Accent falls into this category as well. I don’t know if it's the way I have the seats adjusted or if there isn’t enough padding on the seat that causes this for me. Moving to the back, the Accent Hatchback does pretty well in this regard with a decent amount of head and legroom. Being 5’7”, I was very comfortable sitting in the back. Cargo space stands at 21.2 cubic feet with the seats up and 47.5 cubic feet which puts its in the mid-pack of the subcompact class.
All Accents come equipped with a 1.6L DOHC four-cylinder producing 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic. The Accent does take a little bit of wringing to get to the sweet spot in the powertrain. But when you’re leaving a stop, it doesn’t feel like the vehicle is gasping for power. Hyundai made sure it was very easy to get up speed on city streets. On the fuel economy front, the Accent SE is rated by the EPA at 27 City/37 Highway/31 Combined. My week’s average landed around 30 MPG.
The Accent’s ride quality feels like a bigger vehicle with the suspension doing an excellent job of minimizing impacts from bumps and potholes. Noise isolation is also pretty decent with wind and road noise kept to a minimum. Those who are thinking of taking the Accent on their favorite road will be slightly disappointed. The Accent doesn’t quite have the same handling characteristics as the Chevrolet Sonic as it leans a little bit more and doesn’t quite feel as solid. Steering is light, but has a decent amount of feel for those who feel on going a sporting drive.
The 2014 Hyundai Accent SE shows that it belongs in this playground. While it might not have the looks or driving dynamics as many of the subcompact competitors, the Accent has some positives to it. It begins with a fair number of standard equipment, followed by a engine that delivers very good grunt and a ride that feels like a bigger vehicle. It’s a very compelling choice in the class.
Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Accent SE, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Model: Accent Hatchback
Engine: 1.6L DOHC GDI Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 138 @ 6,300
Torque @ RPM: 123 @ 4,850
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/37/31
Curb Weight: 2,635 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, Korea
Base Price: $17,395
As Tested Price: $18,315 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge)
Carpeted Floor Mats - $110.00