Hyundai’s smallest car impresses with a refined ride and loads of standard features.

– Las Vegas, Nevada

So, you have $14-$18k to spend on a vehicle. Sure, you can find a wide variety of cars on the used market for that kind of cash – even some with more than 400 horsepower. But many are likely to come with hidden maintenance costs, outdated infotainment systems, and plenty of miles on the odometer. Hyundai doesn’t want you to buy that used vehicle, rather a new 2018 Accent. Hyundai’s newest small car offers a compelling package: loads of standard features, style, and a surprising amount of room and refinement.

Now in its fifth iteration, the 2018 Accent gives off a more postgrad vibe – less college freshman than the last-gen Accent. Its new cascading grille and handsome projector headlamps with LED accents make the Hyundai look ready for its next job interview. Out back there are nicely sculpted LED taillights that are reminiscent of the larger Sonata. Opt for the top-level Limited model and you get some swanky 17-inch wheels that give it a more assertive stance on the road.

Dimensionally, the Accent has gained an inch or so here and there: the 2018 model is 0.6 inches longer, 1.2 inches wider, and has 0.4 inches added to its wheelbase. In person, the larger size makes the new Accent look more planted and better proportioned than the old one. Due to poor sales, the hatch variant won’t be returning for 2018 – only its Kia Rio cousin will offer the five-door setup.

2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive
2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive
2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive
2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive

Hyundai’s newest small car offers a compelling package: loads of standard features, style, and a surprising amount of room and refinement.

The added width increases total interior wiggle room – so much so, the EPA now classifies the Accent as a compact car, rather than a subcompact. Compared to its classmates, the Accent’s total interior volume of 103.9 cubic feet is more than the Ford Fiesta’s 97.9 and Toyota Yaris iA’s 99.4, but slightly less than the Nissan Versa’s 105.1 cubic feet. Anything above 100 cubic feet is classified as a compact sedan, according to the EPA.

Beyond its roominess, the Accent’s interior is pretty straightforward. Whether you are pushing 80 years old or just snagging your driver’s license at age 16, you should have little trouble operating the controls. There’s no BS: knobs and buttons for climate and radio controls, four analog gauges behind the steering wheel, and a USB drive with a convenient storage bin right below it in the center console.

Despite my preference for the more sophisticated Limited trim, the base SE trim isn’t as much of a penalty box as you might think. Although hard plastic dominates the interior on all Accents, the little Hyundai makes up for it with lots of standard features. Even the base Accent gets a five-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, cruise control, and steering wheel audio controls. Step up to the mid-grade SEL trim and you get niceties like a seven-inch center touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, automatic headlights, two USB drives, and rear disc brakes, as opposed to the SE’s drums.

2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive
2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive
2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive
2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive

Unless you’re really burying the throttle, the engine hums along unobtrusively. At highway speeds, there is less wind and road noise in the Accent than in cars that cost way more.

Features like heated seats, push-button start, a leather wrapped steering wheel, and sunroof are reserved for the Limited trim. Overall, the Accent’s interior may not be the most alluring of its kind, but is inoffensive and easy to use – perfectly acceptable for a car that starts around $14,000. Hyundai hopes unique features like a forward collision avoidance system, hands-free smart trunk (that will open after standing next to the trunk for about three seconds), and the company’s Blue Link capability will help set its compact sedan apart from the rest. Blue Link enables you to start or unlock your car with an app on your smartphone, or ask Alexa on your Amazon Echo to start your Accent and set a certain cabin temperature.

Let’s be real, the Accent’s 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque isn’t blistering, but the car doesn’t feel like it craves more power. The six-speed automatic is eager to downshift and makes all of those 130 ponies easily accessible. A six-speed manual is also available, but only on the base SE model. The stick-shift is very easy to operate with a light clutch, but isn’t particularly engaging with its long throws and bulky shift knob – just get the automatic.

Speaking of not particularly engaging, that pretty much sums up my thoughts about the Accent’s handling characteristics. Steering is light, but doesn’t communicate much to the driver on what the two front wheels are doing. Torque vectoring between the front wheels will help cornering performance and traction going in and out of a corner. On the curvy mountain roads Hyundai set us out on, the Accent took corners with ease, despite the lack of road feel.

2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive
2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive
2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive
2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive

The Accent’s fuel economy may not be class-leading, but it is in line with most of its competitors. The automatic Accent gets 28 mpg in the city, and 38 mpg on the highway, which matches the Chevrolet Sonic sedan figures but comes short of the Nissan Versa’s 31 mpg city and 39 mpg highway rating. But, the Toyota Yaris iA, Ford Fiesta, and Honda Fit can achieve the coveted 40 mpg or more on the highway.

What’s most impressive is how quiet the Accent is. Unless you’re really burying the throttle, the engine hums along unobtrusively. At highway speeds, there is less wind and road noise in the Accent than in some cars that cost way more than the little Korean subcompact.

The 2018 Accent is set to hit dealerships later this month, starting around $14,000, with official pricing to be announced closer to the on-sale date. A new bare-bones Nissan Versa may run slightly less at $11,990, but offers less standard equipment than the Accent.

Although the Hyundai Accent may not be the most thrilling car on the road, it’s not trying to be. If you need a cheap, feature-packed, fuel-efficient, approachable vehicle with a dash of style, the 2018 Hyundai Accent fits the bill.

 

2018 HYUNDAI ACCENT

Engine 1.6-Liter I4
Output 130 Horsepower / 119 Pound-Feet
Transmission 6-Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy 28 City / 38 Highway / 32 Combined
Drive Type Front-Wheel Drive
Weight 2,679 Pounds
Seating Capacity 5
Base Price $14,000 (est.)

2018 Hyundai Accent: First Drive