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 4-cylinder engine does duty beneath the hood, driving the front wheels through either a 6-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.
|SE Sedan Manual||1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Manual||FWD||$14,652||$14,995|
|SE Sedan Automatic||1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC||FWD||$15,601||$15,995|
|SEL Sedan Automatic||1.6-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic with SHIFTRONIC||FWD||$16,883||$17,345|
Released initially for the 2018 model year, the 2019 Hyundai Accent continues largely unchanged in its second year of production for the 5th generation model. Available only as a sedan, the subcompact is simple yet functional. 3 trim lines remain for 2019, all powered by the same 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine Hyundai has been using for several years. The subcompact Accent’s budget price of just $14,995 doesn’t mean it’s cheap and nasty though, as the Accent provides more than enough substance to rival the likes of Ford’s Fiesta sedan and the Nissan Versa.
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, mounted low and wide to give the subcompact a broader stance. Flanking the grille, large, drawn back headlights (LED units on the Limited model) take influence from those found on larger Hyundai sedans, while lower faux air intakes house chrome-surrounded fog lamps on higher trims.
A strong shoulder line runs the length of the Accent’s body, breaking the monotony of a simple slab-sided design and giving the Accent further presence, while a coupe-like roofline makes the Accent come across as larger than the standard subcompact sedan.
15-inch wheels are standard on SE and SEL trims, while the Limited model upgrades to 17-inch alloys that fill the arches substantially.
Around back, wraparound taillights once again broaden the compact dimensions of the Hyundai Accent, while the lower bumper is sculpted squarely. Tailpipes are hidden behind the bumper and are not visible.
Under the hood of the 2019 Hyundai Accent you’ll find the same 1.6-liter Gamma 4-cylinder engine as the previous generation Accent. But power is down from the previous model, the Accent now boasting outputs of 130 horsepower (down 8hp from before) and 119 lb-ft of torque. The engine drives the front wheels of all derivatives with no option for all-wheel drive. On the base SE model derivative, the standard gearbox is a 6-speed manual transmission with a 6-speed automatic gearbox available as an option. The automatic is standard on SEL and Limited trims, which is disappointing as the manual has a lovely, crisp shift and an accurately weighted clutch action. It also feels the quicker of the two transmissions and makes the most of a truly lackluster engine.
The 1.6-liter Gamma unit is a carryover from the fourth generation Accent, but producing even less power. It was never tremendous in that iteration and several years later it’s still unimpressive, drones at high engine speeds, and needs to be worked hard to get the most out of it.
But it is highly economical, with EPA estimates of 28/37/31 mpg city/highway/combined for the manual, while the automatic scores 1 mpg higher on the highway and combined cycles. On the base SE with an 11.9-gallon tank and mixed driving on the highways and through the city you can expect a range of around 370 miles which is decent for the segment.
Like other small cars of its ilk, the Hyundai Accent prioritizes compact dimensions over outright comfort. While the driver and front passenger will find it easy enough to climb in and out, the sloping coupe-like roofline impedes entry and exit for rear passengers with those not used to the roofline likely to knock their heads more than just a few times.
Once inside, the rear seats are cramped - suitable for children and perhaps teenagers, but adults will likely find the quarters confined with little legroom and the sloping roof cutting into headroom substantially. Although classified as a 5-seater, quarters are cramped and the only way you’ll reach that figure is with kids in the back, and still, they’ll be quite cozy.
Up front, the driver’s seat does offer height adjustment which makes it easy enough to find a comfortable driving position, but the ergonomics suit those on the average or below-average end of the height spectrum, particularly as the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel on the base SE makes it awkward for taller folk. The steering wheel does feature tilt adjustment.
The seats are quite uncomfortable, particularly on longer journeys, with a very flat seat not offering much in the way of support or bolstering. It also would’ve been nice to at least have the option of a leatherette surface on higher trim models, heated seats are after all available on the Limited trim, but alas, with cloth seating only. The front of the cabin feels roomy enough, with the dash design emphasizing airiness and giving excellent forward visibility. Rearward visibility isn’t bad and the reverse camera on the SE trim helps overcome whatever blind spots there are.
Like all others in the segment, the interior is made from low-rent materials. Harsh plastics, hard rubber, and synthetic cloth surfaces are all durable but hardly luxurious. However, the build quality seems solid and it seems the Accent’s interior is screwed together to stand the test of time.
The budget-build means the controls are simple and easy to get accustomed to with simple ergonomics that just work. But there are a few downsides to the budget nature - particularly on the base SE which features below-par sound quality on the 5-inch touchscreen AM/FM-only radio with 4 speakers and a USB port that struggles to charge a cellphone. It does feature USB, Bluetooth, and auxiliary jack inputs. Higher trims remedy the situation a little, featuring voice control and a 7-inch touchscreen with SiriusXM satellite radio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and 6-speakers, along with a second USB port.
The interior of the cabin may be cramped, and sedans may not be renowned for large cargo volumes, but the Accent trunk is reasonably sized and efficiently shaped to make the most of the space available. 13.7 cubic feet is the figure on offer behind the back seats, which will manage a school run and a week’s groceries for a small family. It’s rather large, considering the Ford Fiesta hatch only offers 14.9 cu. ft. But the Accent isn’t available in hatch guise, so it loses on some practicality compared to other potential buys in the segment. The rear seats of the Accent do fold in a 60/40 split to increase space into the cabin, but the rear parcel shelf still limits load capacity for larger items. An available hands-free trunk opening makes life easier when you’ve got your hands full, but is only available on higher trims.
The rest of the cabin offers decent storage spaces, with several small cup holders, 1 large one between the front seats, and a deep storage bin ahead of the shift lever. But, some larger smartphones don’t fit comfortably, and the door pockets are thin.
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.
The engine is where the Accent falters though. It might be decently economical, but it’s down on power and feels like it’s based on an older engine architecture, which is because it is. The powerplant is decently peppy, but it feels labored at higher engine speeds and sounds it too. It’s an engine that doesn’t like to be worked hard but needs to be to extract maximum performance.
When paired with the manual gearbox of the SE model it’s easier to get the most out of it, and the shift is slick and enjoyable - adding a layer of driver involvement that makes the Accent a hoot to drive in base trim. The automatic is efficient but boring, and it’s a genuine pity the manual isn’t an option on higher trims.
The plastics inside the cabin might be hard and cheap, but they seem solidly screwed together and even on bumpy road surfaces there wasn’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 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty unmatched by anyone but sister-company, Kia. There’s also a 5-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 which means that the is top-notch.
The 2019 Hyundai Accent is offered in 3 trims with a base MSRP for the Accent SE of $14,995 not including tax, destination charges, and licensing fees. For the base price, you’ll get a manual gearbox, 15-inch steel wheels, power-adjustable mirrors, cloth seating surfaces with 6-way driver seat adjustment, air conditioning, 60/40 split folding rear seats, cruise control, Bluetooth hands-free with audio streaming, power windows, and a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Moving up to the mid-spec SEL will set you back $17,345 but for that you get the 6-speed automatic gearbox, rear disc brakes, 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps and a driver’s side blind-spot mirror. Hillstart assist features on the automatic gearbox. The SEL also incorporates automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a driver’s sliding armrest storage box, and he upgraded 7-inch touch screen infotainment system which boasts 6-speakers, AM/FM/SiriusXM radio functionality, and dual USB charging capabilities.
The top-spec Limited model, at $19,080 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 temperature control with auto defogging, and a proximity key with push-button start, while the upgrade to the top trim also unlocks forward collision-avoidance assist, which we wish was available on lower trims, even if only as an option.
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.