2018 Hyundai Accent – Pure Automotive Honesty

The restaurant exists, the servers are actually from-Italy-Italian, and the food is great, but as I sit on the cobblestone patio noshing gnocchi I can’t help but feel lost in a dream not of my making. The Italian villa is a con, a plaster facade on an interchangeable building. I’m actually in the desert of southern Nevada just a few miles outside of Las Vegas, and it feels like a video game simulation. I feel like I’ve stepped into an open world sandbox game that has crossed the uncanny valley into proper Matrix-esque simulation. The visuals are only skin deep, as the lake is obviously man-made, and the buildings were assembled far more recently than the Renaissance, given a painted-on false age. It feels wrong. 
The juxtaposition of Hyundai’s Accent against the backdrop of Las Vegas is purely farcical. This is a truly honest car that looks out of place in the world’s most fake city. 

Facing facts, cars are too damned expensive these days. It seems as though we’ve already forgotten the economic collapse that plagued the world just a decade ago, and people are overleveraging themselves to purchase larger pickups and SUVs with ever-larger fuel bills to commute by themselves into the city from the large suburban homes they just overleveraged themselves to purchase. It may be cynical, but we need more properly-built inexpensive cars in the world. The average automobile loan today is $30,032. This car comes with a base price less than half that figure. While this compact Hyundai isn’t going to be a luxury experience, it’s the pragmatic approach to the small car, and is honestly better than other similarly priced compacts I’ve driven. 
The 2018 Hyundai Accent provides a much nicer driving experience than a comparable Nissan Versa or Mitsubishi Mirage by leaps and bounds. Honda’s Fit is larger and more expensive, but the Hyundai feels more or less on par with that. Perhaps Toyota’s [well Mazda’s, really] Yaris iA sedan is the benchmark of the class. I’d really like the opportunity to compare the iA, the Fit, and the Accent head-t0-head-to-head, but as I sit here I think I’d rather have the Hyundai for its elegant good looks and seriously strong 10 year/100k powertrain warranty. The bargain basement model comes with a stick shift and a $14,995 price tag. 

For years the compact and subcompact buyers market has been shrinking. That’s largely due to the fact that people have been forced to drive cars like the Mirage and Versa. So-called “penalty boxes” do exist, but the Accent isn’t really one of them. I kicked off the morning in a base SE model with 15″ steel wheels and drum brakes in the rear. Popping into the driver’s seat, there’s a surprising amount of room for someone as large as I am (6’2″ and extra wide). The base model doesn’t have a center arm-rest, which is difficult to abide, and a lack of tilt steering column makes this tall man sad. That said, the car does come equipped as standard with a 5″ touch-screen infotainment system, power windows, cruise control, bluetooth connectivity, and power steering. Not bad.
The interior surfaces are hard plastic in many places, but that’s to be expected really. What isn’t expected is how quiet the interior is. Jumping on the freeway heading north I can hear myself think. Wind noise is minimal, as Hyundai spent a lot of time shaping the aero profile of this compact. The tire noise, even, is less than expected. With some serious insulation inside, even roaring semi trucks barely register. I’ve driven a lot miles in a lot of junk over my lifetime, and it’s usually noise, vibration, and harshness that contributes to road-trip fatigue. I am confident that this car would make a decent cross-country road-trip machine, due not in small part to its 38 mile-per-gallon highway EPA rating. 

Once off the highway we hit the route through the Valley of Fire with some tricky long sweepers and tight corners to really put the car through it’s paces. It’s certainly lightweight in today’s climate, at around 2700 pounds, but it wouldn’t be quite right to call it nimble. For one thing, the tires have a tall washy-feeling sidewall, and the suspension is tuned more for potholes and highway than for rushing through corners. The car is stable under normal driving conditions, but I did have a moment or two where the back end of the car wanted to do something different than the front. Those moments were certainly outside of the car’s intended use range, but it was a little offputting all the same. If you don’t drive it like a knob, the Accent will treat you well. 


If you step up a bit to the SEL model, you’re forced into an automatic, but at least it’s a decent automatic. With the SEL you get a bunch more equipment. It’s a couple thousand dollar jump, at $17,295, but you get alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, a larger touch screen with Apple CarPlay connectivity, and crucially for me the tilt/telescope column and a center arm rest. It’s not quite as cheap as the base model, but seventeen grand seems reasonable for this ride. I’d miss the manual, for sure, but the SEL would probably be my choice as a good balance of price and features. 

For the truly bourgeois, you can opt for the Hyundai Accent Limited, which adds a sunroof, forward collision assist, LED daytime running lights and LED tail lights, massive 17″ rollers, chrome accents, fog lights, turn signals in the mirrors, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. That package will cost you $18,895, which seems a little too much for my taste. As mentioned before, the SEL seems to be the sweet spot. 

In every trim of the new Accent is a 1.6-liter GDI engine. It produces 130 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough for around town duties, and doesn’t fall on its face at higher speeds. The 6-speed traditional automatic routes power through the front wheels, and provides one mpg better than the 6-speed manual (only available in SE trim). It’s a bit on the buzzy side, but no worse than anything else in this segment. 

The long and short of it is that this is certainly among the best compact cars on the market. It’s leaps and bounds ahead of the car it replaces, and matches up with the leaders in the segment. The design is well proportioned, and features a useable interior compartment that can ostensibly fit four adults, though not necessarily in comfort for hours on end. Two adults and two children? No problem. If you want a new car that you can count on, a great warranty, and decent amenities without spending a fortune, this is probably the place to look. 

I’ve driven a few Hyundais lately, and they all boil down to being pretty damned honest cars. As current Toyota drifts ever toward circa 2004 GM, Hyundai seems to be filling in the space Toyota left. They’re making quality cars with competitive price tags and focussing on long-term reliability. I’m more confident than ever in the products coming out of Korea (I just drove a Stinger GT, and it was so good. More on that soon.). Building a quality entry-level car like this and not charging too much for it? That’s a huge step in the right direction. 

In keeping with the honesty of this Hyundai, I was invited to Las Vegas to drive this car and spend a day at the SEMA show. I was provided travel, food, drink, and a room at the Mandarin Oriental by Hyundai in order to bring you this review. I have done my best to remain impartial. 

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21 responses to “2018 Hyundai Accent – Pure Automotive Honesty”

  1. Citric Avatar

    The nice thing is that Canada is getting a hatchback version of this, and since I’d very much like a replacement for the better half’s car it seems like a good option.

  2. mrh1965 Avatar

    199 torques? that seems like a lot from a naturally-aspirated 1.6.

  3. smokyburnout Avatar

    I’m guessing that grille badge is also the sensor for that forward collision assist, but it makes it look like the H has been photoshopped into every one of these photos.

  4. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Even in Europe where cars of this size are the conventional norm, not the low prestige outlier, and the market is vastly more competitive, with entrants from the Volkswagen Group and Peugeot Citroen, these are considered good cars. And if you don’t like the styling, there’s a more European styled, (literally) alternative in a Kia.
    Fiat should be in this market too, but I note the current Punto, (which is also the 12 year old Punto) just got 0 stars in the NCAP test, When it first came out, the testing at the time gave it 5 stars. It just shows how things have changed when 12 years later, the same car gets zero. This is the first time a car has recorded zero on the European test. Not exactly giving a vote of confidence in FCA, is it?
    Remember when you bought Hyundais on price because you knew Fiats and Mitsubishis and Nissans were better? Those days are long gone.

    1. Eric Rucker Avatar

      To be fair, wasn’t the zero because of a passenger seat belt warning being optional?

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        NCAP ratings are interesting/difficult, the base versions of the Stinger here dropped from 5 to 3 stars because they don’t have autonomous braking or lane departure prevention (I think).
        I can agree that the safety ratings should reflect active safety performance as well as passive, but zero stars for lacking a warning light regardless of actual crash performance seems to be misleading to me – how could they distinguish between a ‘safe’ car versus a second-world car without airbags, if given one to test?
        Could it be that hard to get the public to understand active/passive safety ratings? They have water and energy efficiency ratings on washing machines and people manage.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          Without even checking for facts, I am terribly certain that washing machine rating fetishists have a lot to say about how they don’t appropriately reflect reality. There are choices to make here and if people really care, one should expect them to be able to read how they were made and how that affects the rating. Sort of tempted to say that people who are interested in buying the new old Punto don’t have safety in mind as a #1 priority.

          1. outback_ute Avatar

            Yes but shouldn’t the ratings reflect the difference between a Punto and a Chery J1? It can’t be that hard to just say zero stars for avoidance technology and two stars for crash performance and then you can make a more informed decision without delving into the gory details which nobody ever does?
            I’m almost scared to ask but are there washing machine rating fetishists? They would have to would have to install separate meters for the machine to measure consumption.
            Or perhaps they complain that the machine can detect when it is being measured and switch to a low consumption mode that leaves your clothes dirty?

          2. Sjalabais Avatar

            Haha, the washing machine emissions scandal is an avalanche waiting to happen.
            Imho the mission of the NCAP system is to force manufacturers to produce cars that hold a certain safety level. That would also mean they have an interest in pushing out old platforms. If a car that is not anymore competitive in this field gets 1 or 0 stars doesn’t really matter in my mind, even though I understand the criticism and would like a more fine tuned rating myself. But with cars improving that much over time, I think it works just fine to rate the Punto at 0 stars.

      2. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        Yes, but Fiat let it get zero, because ?

    2. outback_ute Avatar

      FCA is in big trouble IMO, they are way off the pace for development, even their most recent new vehicle (before the new Wrangler anyway), the new Compass, is based off a version of the Punto’s platform isn’t it?
      Agree about Hyundai’s competitiveness, the new i30 has been rated as about equal to the Golf which has been the benchmark for the class. And I would be more confident in it for long term ownership.
      NCAP ratings are interesting, the base versions of the Stinger here dropped from 5 to 3 stars because they don’t have autonomous braking or lane departure prevention (I think). I can agree that the safety ratings should reflect active safety performance as well as passive, but zero stars for lacking a warning light regardless of actual crash performance seems to be misleading to me – how could they distinguish between a ‘safe’ car versus a second-world car without airbags, if given one to test?

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        I was going to comment about the Italian references in Bradley’s first paragraph, and since you mentioned FCA, I’ll note that the rumors continue to grow about a possible sale of FCA to Hyundai.

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          Giving Jeep another new owner?

        2. outback_ute Avatar

          I wonder if those rumours originate from a source external to Sergio’s dreams? Can’t see it myself, H-K is big and mature enough to build their own pickups if they want to. Surely there is more value for a Chinese manufacturer to break into global markets?

      2. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        Based on the FCA Small US Wide 4×4 platform, which a wikilink on the same shared platform Jeep Renegade Wikipedia page sends me to this page, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_Fiat_Small_platform
        Oh, the irony! Marchionne complains about not being able to make money by selling Fiats and Chrysler/Dodges, but half their range comes from other, competing manufacturers. Still using a GM shared platform after all these years after GM had enough exposure to Fiat to realise it would be a disaster and paid 2 billion dollars to extricate themselves way back in ’05? The very same lump of money Fiat used to buy Chrysler and in the TWELVE YEARS since they’re still using that technology to underpin their latest models, and paying the licencing fees to GM to do it.( and fees to Daimler Benz for the Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger and Challenger platforms)
        No wonder they’re acting like a drunk hooker, looking for another partner.
        Further irony, Hyundai/Kia would be perfect!

  5. outback_ute Avatar

    “I did have a moment or two where the back end of the car wanted to do something different than the front”
    To be able to do this at not-insane road speeds is a feature not a bug! The econo-car equivalent of Toyota putting the ‘Prius tyres’ on the 86. Also unless the “something different” wasn’t not-understeer was the hand brake part of the “outside of the car’s intended use range”? If not then the car sounds even better because most fwd cars do nothing else.

  6. Ross Ballot Avatar
    Ross Ballot

    I kinda love Hyundai and I have no shame saying so.
    As cars get more and more expensive, people will only gravitate more towards nicely-optioned lower model cars rather than the bigger, more expensive cars with less options. Hyundai is doing a great job filling this space. They’re positioning themselves well.

  7. MattC Avatar

    I appreciate the review, especially in the vane that the average buyer will drive/buy it over the competition. Overall, Hyundai did an impressive job aping the lines of the Elantra in a smaller package. The only downside is no center armrest with a manual.

    1. Bradley Brownell Avatar
      Bradley Brownell

      Yep. That was my big gripe. For comfort’s sake, I want tilt/telescope and I want a center console. But I also want a manual.

  8. srx6 Avatar

    Nice review of cool small car. Light years ahead of what I started out with.
    Spent 20 minutes on HyundaiUSA where they show a 4wd variant in their generic diagram for “safety”… the generic engine lump is shaped like a flat four.. somebody there has dreams…
    US site shows the hatchback.
    Hyundai shows estimated net price $14,995 for the sport hatch. That is not a lot of money for a small quiet nice car.