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First time driving a Hyundai Accent - a serendipitous rental experience

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I had always known Hyundai Accents were in the compact category for rentals and I've seen so many on the road, but I had never driven one.  I had one of those ridiculously low rental rates for a couple of weekend days, and it was actually for an intermediate.  Upon arrival, I was told that this off-airport location had very few cars and that I'd be upgraded ... to a Buick Encore.  Well, I really didn't want one.  I asked if they had regular cars.  I was told they had a smaller car in the way of a Hyundai Accent.  I told the agent I'd take it.  He seemed sort of surprised.

First, the car was not an Accent sedan, but a hatchback.  As I got in, I looked around and adjusted things.  The dash in this car is one of the easiest to get accustomed to, as are the switches in the door panels.  The materials are not high grade but they manage to look respectable and feel durable. 

The Accent's main panel has two round gauges with an analog tachometer (left) and a speedometer (right).  In between are bar type gauges for temperature and fuel.  I have to have a temperature gauge and a few economy cars have done away with them.  Boohoo.  The fuel gauge has twelve bars and, per the specs, the fuel tank has a capacity of 11.9 gallons, which will take you quite a ways in an Accent.  Below that is an area where the odometer, temperature, and transmission gear are always displayed while whichever tidbit of info selected from the trip monitor varies (trip A, trip B, instant economy, etc.).  Not only that, you can't miss the trip setting button.  It's at the right of the main gauges and sits by itself.  The center stack is also tidy.  This car did not have Bluetooth and did not have steering wheel audio controls.   But, hey, it had a CD player.  One doesn't see those too often lately.  Boz Scaggs, anyone?  And, in the center stack, the audio features might take a minor amount to get used to them while the climate control features are easy to work with.  None of this setup lacks the cohesion that I found amiss in the driver's area of the Mazda 3, both the last car and last economy car I've had at a rental place.  Then, gaining more points with me, was a small release tab on the floor for the fuel door.  I also like, and want, this feature, and some more expensive cars I've rented have had a fuel door that you just manually flip open.  That doesn't work for me.  What the Accent has does.

The first thing that one notices about this car is how nimble it is.  Sure, one expects this in a small car.  However, there is both a lightness in the steering and a connectedness to the road that just works well.  Just as with the dash and controls, one quickly adjust to and feels comfortable driving this entry-level Hyundai.  The engine is a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder that is not blown.  In old school numbers, that's about 100 cubic inches.  If a person lifts up the hood, the plastic shroud covers most of the area, so there isn't much to see.  However, that's the case with most small cars today.  The transmission sure made a good impression on me.  You can hear the rpms spool upward and the transmission then marches into the next gear with almost no physical sensation whatsoever.  For the price point of the vehicle, I found this to be remarkable.  I then figured out the jaunt on which I'd calculate the fuel economy.  I set the cruise at 64 mph and still managed to piss some people off ... those wanting to go 70 or more, and I was in the right lane of the interstate.  I could do 65 to 70, too.  I just like to see a car's fuel economy at its best.  While probably accurate enough, I reeled in 43 mpg.  I love high mpg numbers, so I was a happy camper.  I also once did that same thing with a 6 cylinder base RWD Dodge Charger and pulled in a little over 31 mpg.  Both of these numbers were higher than the respective EPA highway estimates.  The difference is that the Accent was spinning at about 2,100 rpm at a cruise speed of 64 mph while the Charger's 3.6 liter was practically loafing ... to the tune of about 1,500 rpm at 62/63 mph.

The Accent is an econobox, so not everything about it is perfect.  Road noise does intrude as would be expected in this category.  Lately, the only small(er) car that filters out road noise in an impressive manner is the new Chevy Cruze.  However, that's more of a baby Malibu than it is an econobox.  The car stays composed on the highway, and does nicely on fresh asphalt, and zips around city streets with confidence.  However, bigger road imperfections send some jolts into the cabin.  That said, the Accent is nicer to putt around in just about every way than comparable cars like the Chevy Sonic, the Mazda 3, and the Nissan Versa.  I have never experienced being behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta or a Toyota Yaris.  I will add that the right rear blind spot in the hatchback model was no fun.  I exercised additional care when changing lanes because of it.  I believe the sedan configuration makes for better visibility.

I think this little car is the most likable in its category.  The powertrain really impressed me.  The warranty Hyundai offers is also impressive.  Of course, one has to hold up their end of the bargain and prove that the car was maintained.  The Ford Focus is a little more car but it's also up a notch in terms of category.  Now, if only Ford could put an automatic transmission that shifts so nicely in their Focuses.  Then, getting to the Chevy Cruze, the compact/economy entry level segment cars just can't compete.  Entry level compacts are also priced about $5,000 lower.

With over 30,000 miles on it, this rental unit was last year's.  The 2018 Accent is now on the showroom floors.  The site shows it as being a more sophisticated and better equipped small car.  And, with that, I'm sure they've even improved the driving experience.  It will continue as a sedan, while the hatchback has been shelved.  The pricing of the new model is also very competitive and, if I, as a consumer on the street, am in agreement with the professionals who test them and write about them, then the 2018 Accent is likely to be very promising and I'd sure like to take one for a spin.  The Hyundai Accent would probably be my current car of choice in this segment and price range.

Edited by trinacriabob
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43 minutes ago, frogger said:

Thanks, nicely written review.


Thank you.  I was surprised by my experience.  I also forgot to mention that the seats were a little on the hard side, but not too bad.  It was funny that, afterwards, my 10 year old LaCrosse felt almost like a luxury car.

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I avoid compacts when renting cars, but I did rent a couple larger Hyundais in California a few  years ago...both a '14 Genesis sedan and a '16 Sonata.. IIRC they were not particularly memorable, but pretty decent and pleasant. 

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2 hours ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

I did rent a couple larger Hyundais in California a few  years ago...both a '14 Genesis sedan and a '16 Sonata.. IIRC they were not particularly memorable, but pretty decent and pleasant. 

I once drove the last Sonata ... via a vehicle exchange.  Very competent.  Nothing quirky or fussy.  Also, not exciting.  Highway fuel economy was definitely respectable.  It was more likable than either an Altima or a Camry.

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2 hours ago, regfootball said:

nice write

Thanks, bud.  Have you ever been behind the wheel of a Hyundai vehicle?  I was somewhat impressed.  And that good of an automatic trans. in a $15,000 car?

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I tend to take photos when I rent ...

Basic econobox Hyundai Accent (in hatchback version)


White works but the wheel covers don't do much for me - this was the base model


Seats were firm and supportive, but a little tough on the rump - the way they were put together seemed durable and the bolstering and ergonomics were decent for the price point (note that the base model lacked an actual console)


Here's the thick rear view in this hatchback ... it's far less of an issue in the sedan.  For 2018, only the sedan continues.


This is one of the most intuitive dashboard setups I've seen for this price point and it's nicely shaped and easy on the eyes.


Without steering wheel audio controls, this is all that is on the steering wheel - the cruise control, and it has fewer toggles than most.  At this price point and in this model, you can't adjust cruise mode to a speed that you see as a digital number.


Everything you really need at one glance ...


I thought it was very cool that the trip odometer button was unmistakable and seen at the bottom right.  You push on it and it rotates through the tidbits of automotive information.


This was a likable little car and I would have preferred to have experienced it as a sedan.

Edited by trinacriabob
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