by Roger Biermann
The new fifth-generation Hyundai Accent, now in its second production year, remains a fresh entrant in the subcompact sedan segment while rivals like the Ford Fiesta have aged substantially. Despite being a relatively entry-level proposition, the Accent offers numerous upscale items as optional extras, like increased safety from the available autonomous emergency braking, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. A lonely 130 horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine does duty beneath the hood, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox, but with prices ranging from $14,995 to $19,080, you'd hardly expect anything more. Don't be fooled by the budget price, the Accent is a highly competent subcompact in any of the three trims available.
For the 2019 model year, Hyundai hasn't made any major changes to the all-new Accent that launched for 2018. The only changes are minor modifications to the trim lines with the base SE model now featuring a chromed grille to match the rest of the line-up, while fog lights and exterior chrome trimming from the Limited have now been introduced on the mid-spec SEL model. You can now get LED headlights for 2019, but they're only available on the top-of-the-line Limited trim model.
While largely unchanged for the 2019 model year, the Hyundai Accent has received some minor upgrades on the base trims styling to see it move in line with higher trimmed models. Now all models feature Hyundai's chromed hexagonal grille. Flanking the grille, large, drawn back headlights (LED units on the Limited model) take influence from those found on larger Hyundai sedans, while chrome-surrounded fog lamps on higher trims are housed in the front bumper. 15-inch steel wheels are standard on SE and SEL trims, while the Limited model upgrades to 17-inch alloys that fill the arches substantially.
All three Hyundai Accent trims share identical dimensions with the exception of wheel size - the top-of-the-range Limited riding on 17-inch alloys compared to the 15-inch wheels (steel on the SE, alloy on the SEL) on lesser trims. All ride on a 101.6-inch wheelbase, while measuring 172.6-inches long and 68.1-inches wide, with a height of 57.1-inches slotting rather neatly into the realm of subcompact sedans. The Accent is a relative featherweight, with weight ranging from 2,502 lbs for the manual-equipped SE to 2,679 lbs for the automatic-equipped trims.
For 2019, Hyundai's seven-strong color palette from 2018 continues unchanged, with Absolute Black, Frost White Pearl, Olympus Silver, Urban Gray, and Linen Beige comprising the neutral palette and Pomegranate Red and Admiral Blue adding pops of color to the line-up. All colors are available on any trim, and no hue bears any extra cost. We recommend Admiral Blue or Pomegranate Red, as they liven up the Accent's styling.
A performance car the Hyundai Accent is not, making do with just a single engine carried over from the previous generation. Not just that, but at 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, it's down by eight hp from the previous generation. With the same engine across all trims, and front-wheel drive the standard drivetrain - no one in this segment offers anything but FWD - the only difference in performance is gleaned from the fitment of either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. The former is the sportier option, but can only be had on the base SE trim. With that equipped, the Accent SE manages a mild 0-60 mph sprint of just under ten seconds, which is entirely unremarkable and one of the laziest in a segment that features swifter rivals like the Honda Jazz and Ford Fiesta.
There is just one engine offered for the 2019 Hyundai Accent, a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder Gamma engine - a carryover unit from the previous Accent - mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox depending on the selected trim level.
The 1.6-liter motor outputs 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, and while the power output is lower than the previous generation's 138 hp, the difference is quite negligible. The biggest issue with the motor is that it needs to be revved quite hard to get going and extract the most from it, but it doesn't enjoy being worked hard and drones in disagreement at high engine speeds. Aside from that, it's a fairly responsive engine with ample power that provides its best performance when equipped to the six-speed manual gearbox. That gearbox offering is only available on the base SE model, on which it comes standard, and has a sharp, positive shift action and a well-weighted clutch. This makes it an absolute joy to row through the gears and as such it's a great tragedy that it isn't available on other trims. Both other trims get a 6-speed automatic gearbox, also available on the base SE as a $1,000 option, which isn't terrible but robs the Accent of performance and involvement and requires a little more time and effort to get up to speed effectively.
Being a budget subcompact doesn't mean the Hyundai Accent is cheap and nasty to drive. On the contrary, it's rather enjoyable to chuck around. It's simple and the suspension is comfort-biased, softening the blow of larger bumps and potholes, but it doesn't manage to filter out smaller ripples too well, as they still manage to find their way through to the cabin. There's also a certain amount of body movement on undulating surfaces, but the Accent never feels floaty or unhinged. Instead, it feels boisterous and sprightly in a back to basics manner of a bygone era.
There's a small amount of body roll to contend to, but the Accent springs back into place with an elasticity that makes it feel rather well tied down. It's a good chassis, and despite its basic nature, has been thoroughly engineered and responds well to both keener drivers and those who just see it as an appliance.
It's not quite as driver-focused as the Ford Fiesta and the steering is unnecessarily heavy, but it responds well enough to inputs, albeit with limited feedback. Still, the handling is nimble and turn-in is quick, making the Accent largely enjoyable to drive. The brakes are decent, but nothing spectacular, and under heavy emergency braking the rear end does feel a little loose - the soft suspension failing to keep things 100% pinned.
While the engine's outputs aren't high and it doesn't enjoy hard work, it is incredibly frugal. When equipped with the manual gearbox of the base SE model, the Accent boasts EPA estimates of 28/37 mpg city/highway with a combined cycle claim of an impressive 31 mpg. The automatic-equipped variants achieve 28/38/32 mpg city/highway/combined estimates from the EPA. All models are equipped with an 11.9-gallon fuel tank, affording 370 miles of range on the manual variant and 381 miles with the automatic gearbox. These consumption figures are marginally less than the Nissan Versa but are higher than the figures achieved by the Ford Fiesta, sitting the Accent in the middle of the class for efficiency.
On the budget-oriented end of the spectrum, don't climb into a Hyundai Accent expecting lavish appointments and leather upholstery. Instead, expect hard grey plastics - built for durability - and cloth upholstered seats. The front items are flat and offer little support, but the seating position is overall quite good with excellent visibility and ample head and leg room.
The rear bench folds in a 60/40 split but offers limited space with leg room on the tighter side of things and headroom impeded by the coupe-like roof that also hampers ingress and egress for taller passengers. Heated front seats are available only on the top-spec Limited trim, along with automatic temperature control - but still no leather option. 2 sets of LATCH anchors are equipped to the rear seats, but the cramped cabin may only accommodate front-facing car seats.
The Hyundai Accent technically seats five occupants, though the rear seats are tight and will only fit two average or below sized adults in fairly cramped quarters. The seating position is decent, with driver's height adjustment affording excellent visibility, though the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel on the base model is uncomfortable for taller folk. The seat base is flat and offers little support which gets tiresome on longer journeys. While head and legroom are ample up front, the sloping roofline gives the rear quarters less than ideal headroom. Meanwhile, the legroom is cramped due to the subcompact dimensions.
Because the Hyundai Accent is a budget-focused subcompact, there isn't a vast array of luxury to be found in the cabin. Interior materials are limited to synthetic cloth on the seats and door panels, harsh plastics on the doors and dash, and hard rubber. The cloth upholstery can be had in two color choices, black or beige, dependent on your choice of exterior paint, while the lower dash panels are color-coded to match the upholstery choice. Regardless of upholstery, a faux chrome finish surrounds the infotainment screen and air vents, with gloss black surrounds to the air conditioning controls. The cloth appointments are limited to the seats and door panels, though Hyundai has curiously not equipped the armrests with cloth, making the harsh plastic armrests highly uncomfortable.
Being a sedan, the Hyundai Accent would never have the greatest available cargo space, but it still impresses with 13.7 cubic feet, while the standard 60/40 split folding rear seatback enables more utility if needed. The trunk is easy to load and the square shape of the aperture and load floor, as well as the low load sill, make it highly practical compared to sedan rivals from Ford and Toyota. On the Limited trim, a hands-free trunk feature is offered with the proximity key to aid loading when your hands are full.
Inside the cabin, storage space is limited. Slim door pockets don't fit much but do offer sculpted bottle holders, while all but one of the three center console cupholders are only suited to small cups. The storage bin ahead of the shift lever may be deep, but it's not wide enough to accommodate the ever-growing dimensions of some modern smartphones. A seatback pocket is only available from the SEL trim.
Budget cars come with budget features, and the Accent is no exception to the rule with limited convenience and comfort features equipped across the three trim lines. A federally mandated rearview camera is equipped across the range, as is cruise control and manual seat adjustment. Higher trims get front and rear USB charge ports and a height and reach adjustable steering wheel along with rear disc brakes, but only the Limited gets really decent equipment levels with keyless entry, push-button start, automatic climate control, heated front seats, standard forward collision avoidance, and the option to equip a power sunroof.
The base SE-specification Hyundai Accent is equipped with a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system with limited functionality and only four speakers through which audio quality is not impressive. It offers AM/FM radio functionality with music inputs also being offered via USB, auxiliary input, or Bluetooth media streaming. The standard USB port is not strong enough to charge a modern smartphone. By upgrading to the SEL or Limited, the infotainment is beefed up to a seven-inch touchscreen system with enhanced functionality and six speakers of a higher standard. In addition to AM/FM radio, it benefits from SiriusXM satellite radio and also comes equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. There is no onboard navigation, and the base SE has no option to upgrade to the seven-inch touchscreen system.
The plastics inside the cabin might be hard and cheap, but they seem solidly screwed together and even on bumpy road surfaces there isn't a rattle to be heard anywhere from the cabin. Panel gaps are even, inside and out, suggesting high levels of quality control from Hyundai. Of course, Hyundai offers some of the best warranties in the motoring industry with their incredible ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty unmatched by anyone but sister-company, Kia. There's also a five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty included, but there's no complimentary scheduled maintenance cover included which is a potential downside.
There have been no safety recalls pertaining to the 2019 Hyundai Accent, or for the first model year of the current generation in 2018.
The IIHS thinks highly of the Hyundai Accent, awarding it the status of Top Safety Pick for 2019, with only the passenger-side small overlap, headlights, and use of LATCH anchor tests yielding scores of 'Acceptable'. The NHTSA has not yet tested the new generation Accent.
Standard safety features are extensive, with four-wheel ABS complementing a range of other features. Six airbags are standard, including front driver and passenger, front head, rear head, and front side airbags. A rearview camera is standard on all models, but the best safety feature is only available on the Limited model, with forward collision avoidance being the key to the IIHS Top Safety Pick rating. Unfortunately, that isn't available on lower trim lines, meaning safety is slightly compromised on budget derivatives.
Cheap needn't mean nasty, as the Hyundai Accent proves every time you get behind the wheel. While the seats are poor in terms of their levels of support, and the rear of the cabin is cramped - not unlike most offerings in this segment - the Accent is lots of fun to drive, comes fairly well equipped, and is impressively fuel efficient. It's a pity the Accent isn't offered in a hatch variant, but the sedan features impressive storage capacity and versatility. The engine may be dull and uninspiring, but the manual gearbox is a real joy to row along and makes the most of an exciting chassis.
We recommend the base SE model to those who enjoy the drive, but for everyone else, the SEL is the one you want for the inclusion of the upgraded infotainment system, extra speakers, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay functionality. Against the aging Ford Fiesta, the Accent sedan feels more modern and practical, while still ticking the economy and budget boxes thoroughly. Two years into the new generation it remains as strong an option as ever, and the guaranteed peace of mind from Hyundai's extensive warranties is massively appealing. The subcompact segment isn't always exciting, but the Hyundai Accent is a great contender.
The base MSRP of a 2019 Hyundai Accent sedan of $14,995 gets you behind the wheel of the entry-level SE trim with the manual gearbox, before the addition of a $920 destination charge, while if you're looking to add an automatic transmission it'll set you back an extra $1,000. Two additional trims are offered with the SEL priced at $17,345 while the fully-loaded Limited trim will cost you $19,080. Numerous lease offers and dealer incentives are also available.
The 2019 Hyundai Accent is offered in three trim lines: SE, SEL, and Limited.
All trims are powered by a 130 horsepower naturally aspirated 1.6-liter engine, with a manual gearbox standard on the base SE trim, while higher models get an automatic transmission only.
The Accent SE gets a manual gearbox, 15-inch steel wheels, power-adjustable mirrors, cloth seating surfaces with six-way driver seat adjustment, air conditioning, 60/40 split folding rear seats, cruise control, Bluetooth hands-free with audio streaming, power windows, and a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
Moving up to the mid-spec SEL equips the six-speed automatic gearbox, rear disc brakes, 15-inch alloy wheels, and front fog lamps. Hill start assist features on the automatic gearbox as well, while the SEL also incorporates automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a driver's sliding armrest storage box, and the upgraded seven-inch touch screen infotainment system which boasts six speakers, AM/FM/SiriusXM radio functionality, and dual USB charging capabilities.
The top-spec Limited model is a little pricier, but not outrageously so for the segment. It comes highly equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, side mirrors with integrated turn signals, and a power tilt and slide sunroof. Inside, the Limited model gets heated front seats, automatic climate control, and a proximity key with push-button start, while the upgrade to the top trim also unlocks forward collision-avoidance assist.
With only three trims and being in a relatively budget-focused segment, the 2019 Hyundai Accent doesn't offer much in the way of additional extras and optional packages. The usual carpet floor mats and trunk liners are available as accessories, but the only real option available is the hands-free trunk lid on the Limited model. There's a missed opportunity for Hyundai as items like the forward collision avoidance, heated seats, LED lights, and power sunroof standard on the Limited trim are not available on the lesser models as options - all three of which are nice touches that would be great to add as a bundle or individually. But as it stands, those niceties are reserved for the range-topper.
Two trims from the line-up of three are recommended. However, the recommendation depends on your needs. If a budget driver's car is what you're after, the base SE gets the six-speed manual gearbox you need to enjoy the Accent, but that's about all it has going for it, as it cuts back on essential features and conveniences. The mid-range SEL doesn't add much to the offering, but the Limited trim, on the other hand, comes jam-packed with smartphone integration, automatic climate control, stylish alloy wheels, heated seats, and the option of a sunroof, while adding forward collision avoidance to give the top-spec Accent one of the best safety ratings in this budget segment. As one of the most well-equipped subcompacts around, the Limited is the definite pick of the range.
While the Accent is a great budget buy, there's a certain amount of overlap when it comes to pricing, with a mid-spec Value Edition Elantra priced the same as the Accent Limited. At that sort of price range, the Elantra offers buyers greater amounts of space than the subcompact Accent, while the Elantra also gets a range of impressive features such as a power sunroof, keyless entry, hands-free trunk, and lane keeping assist. But the base engine in the Elantra is truly lackluster and the smaller, more efficient Accent matches it for performance and beats it on frugality. However, the Elantra has two turbocharged engine offerings that are more efficient and offer greater performance, provided you're willing to spend a little more. The Elantra offers more seating space, greater cargo volume, and a higher quality interior, but retains the easy to use touchscreen infotainment system also present in the Accent. The Elantra is the better vehicle, but it must be equipped with a turbocharged engine, which requires an extra $2,000-3,000, particularly if you're stretching for an Elantra Sport.
Brothers from different mothers, the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent share a great deal due to Hyundai and Kia's familiar partnership. Both share a chassis with similar suspension setups, so they both ride equally comfortably and handle equally as well. Both are powered by the same 130 hp 1.6-liter engine, too, but only the Accent is available with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the Rio is available with just a six-speed automatic. The Rio line-up has been simplified for 2019 with just two trims, but an available options package mimics the features available on the Accent Limited, meaning both are equally well-equipped for just about the same price. So really, it comes down to styling and brand preference - are you a Kia or Hyundai kind of guy or gal?