By on November 21, 2017

2018 Hyundai Accent Limited

Selling a car in the subcompact/compact classes is an exercise in balance.

For one thing, car buyers will no tolerate a penalty box, even at cheap price points (the Mitsubishi Mirage notwithstanding). There’s a baseline of expectations that’s higher than it once was. Case in point: A previous-generation Hyundai Accent rental nearly drove one of our writers to tears on a recent vacation.

Enter the redesigned 2018 Hyundai Accent. Content matters now in this class, and two of the three trims offer the features most buyers have come to expect these days.

Hyundai keeps it simple with the new Accent. There’s just three trims, one engine, and two transmissions. Options are grouped by trim level.

That one engine is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, and it pairs with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic.

Full disclosure: Hyundai invited Chicago-area media to their regional office and fed us a nice lunch as part of the drive event.

Before you get too excited about #savethemanuals, please note that the stick is only available on the base car, which is the SE trim. The other two available Accents are the mid-level SEL and top-trim Limited.

2018 Hyundai Accent Limited

My drive was brief and consisted merely of suburban surface streets, and Hyundai didn’t bring any SELs to the event. So I spent my time in the fully-equipped Limited and the stripped-down base model with the manual.

First up, the Limited. Hyundai equips this trim with fog lamps, LED headlights, hands-free remote trunk release, sunroof, heated front seats, push-button start, automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and its BlueLink “telematics” system. Those features are all not available on the SEL or base model. Oh, by the way, leather seats aren’t available on any trim level.

Even when well-equipped with a lot of desirable content, the Accent has hard plastic trim everywhere, including at all the key touch points. That may be the biggest letdown here – even at this price point, hard plastic where one rests his or her elbows makes for a major annoyance.

That aside, the Accent delivers on other fronts. By no means is it quick, but it keeps up with traffic well enough. Passing punch is lacking, but the engine is stout enough for standard commuting duty, and the six-speed auto was unobtrusive.

2018 Hyundai Accent Limited

Hyundai has actually dialed in some feel to the steering – it’s engaging enough for this class, and not far off that of the Toyota Yaris iA (formerly Scion iA) or the Honda Fit. The ride can best be described as “competent.”

Shifting to the stick-shift base model (pun intended) was illustrative. The clutch is dialed-in nicely with a perfect take-up point, and the gearbox is satisfying to row, but the car is still not quick. Not to mention that the interior feels even cheaper. While you do get a USB port and Bluetooth, you get just a 5-inch screen in the center stack, as opposed to the 7-inch unit in the two upper trims. You do at least get air conditioning and power door locks, however.

The SEL may end up being the volume seller, pending pricing. While it comes with none of the specific Limited-only features mentioned a few paragraphs up, it still offers the 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and tilt and telescope steering wheel (the wheel in the base car tilts only). If you can forego a sunroof, heated seats, and automatic climate control, this could be the trim for you.

2018 Hyundai Accent Limited

Other key features of note: The base car has rear drum brakes (yes, in 2017) and 15-inch steel wheels, while the SEL has 15-inch alloys and the Limited has 17-inch wheels. I didn’t notice a big difference between the 15s and 17s, but again, the sample size was small.

Driver’s assistance tech is limited to automatic emergency braking (only available on Limited), hill-start assist control, and a standard rearview camera. Of course, rearview cameras will become standard by government decree starting next calendar year.

From a looks perspective, the Accent is plain but handsome, with a nice stance and a roofline that flows nicely into the back deck. There’s a hint of Ford Fiesta sedan in the way the body appears to rise from front to rear.

The interior is cleanly drawn and functional, with knobs and buttons where they should be. Hyundai kept it simple here, to its benefit. Yet attractiveness doesn’t suffer for the sake of simplicity. The cabin is also spacious enough for most adults.

Road noise is an issue – the Accent isn’t quiet, especially when the engine is working hard. That’s not unusual for the lower end of the price spectrum, but the noise is intrusive nonetheless.

2018 Hyundai Accent Limited

The Accent, almost by default, is now one of the strongest buys in the class, along with the iA and Fit. But there’s a pricing problem – the Accent costs a tad more than its Toyota brethren. It starts at $14,995, adding $1,000 for the automatic (SE models). The SEL comes in at $17,295 and the Limited at $18,895. Destination and delivery is $885.

So you have the iA and the Fiesta checking in for less money, and Hyundai’s own Elantra/Elantra GT costing not much more. Yes, those are base prices and the Elantra will cost more when extras unavailable on the Accent are tacked on – but if the monthly payment isn’t much more, why not walk up to an Elantra?

Not to mention the Honda Fit hatchback is right there at the same price point. And you can get a manual without sacrificing as much content on the Fit and iA.

On its own merits, the Accent is well-done – a handsome little runabout with a decent content mix and driving dynamics that don’t punish, even if they aren’t best in class. It’s no penalty box. But it doesn’t stand out either for being fun to drive or as a value proposition.

In the end, you get a pretty good car that doesn’t rise above the rest. For a lot of buyers, that’s more than good enough.

[Images: © 2017 Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars]

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48 Comments on “2018 Hyundai Accent First Drive – Comfort Can Be Cheap...”


  • avatar

    I cry over the old Accent, as my fingers were nearly cut open by the rough, unfinished plastic around the steering wheel cover. A ride that’s tight and jittery on surface streets becomes wallowy at highway speeds. Everything feels cheap.

    This one looks better outside, and has a much updated interior.

    Just buy a used car instead.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’ve got a staff member who doesn’t know beans about cars. (The woman paid a tow truck to take her car 30 miles into Gallup from her home so the dead battery could get replaced.)

      I encourage her to buy the best new car she can afford, even if it is a no options except automatic Sonic/Accent/etc just so she can get a warranty.

      YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think you got a bad one, Corey.

      My GF has a ’14, which I’ve driven quite a bit over the years. No one’s going to confuse it with a Lexus, but it’s a perfectly acceptable little commuter. Even took it up in the mountains for a weekend trip, and it did fine (it was a buzz-bomb going up I-70, but that can’t be helped). And it’s been very reliable.

      For basic transportation I’d certainly recommend it.

      • 0 avatar

        The one I got seemed really basic (brand new ’17, 125 miles on it) – no Bluetooth or anything beyond a little radio screen, and alloy wheels. No floor mats, but Enterprise may have removed them.

        And so loud, SO loud inside.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          It is loud, and the engine is a bit buzzy. You’re right on that point and the lack of equipment.

          But around here you can pick one up for $12,000 or so new (assuming the Hyundai dealer isn’t lying about the price…so you know how that goes), and at that price point, you’re looking at something like a Versa.

          Trust me, an Accent feels like a freakin’ S-Class Benz compared to a Versa. For basic transportation you can do FAR worse.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Follow up: if you want a loud subcompact, try out a Fit.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Yea, NVH and a dearth of torque are my only real gripes with small cars. I was going to say I’d pay the premium to get those things taken care of, but then I realized that would probably put me in an Elantra.

          They may as well go the Mirage route and just make this a pure low monthly payment stripper deal. Any problems the upper trims hope to solve will be actually solved in the Elantra. As I’ve said before, C-segment is peak car which is why it’s the only mainstream sedan segment not in complete freefall….

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Hard-plastic interior pieces! The horror! First-world problems…

  • avatar
    gtem

    “Not to mention that the interior feels even cheaper. While you do get a USB port and Bluetooth, you get just a 5-inch screen in the center stack, as opposed to the 7-inch unit in the two upper trims. ”

    Just a slightly smaller SCREEN in a economy car? The horror! :p

    I’d be more than happy to not have ANY screens in a car, let alone a cheap one.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Given economies of scale I’m sort of amazed that any automakers bother with two part numbers.

      How much cheaper would the 7in screen be to purchase from suppliers if it was the only one?

      How much cheaper could we source the tilt-telescope column if it was standard?

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        The 5″ unit is designed to shame you into purchasing the higher level trims. Given the economies of scale I’d bet both units actually cost the same, so the 7″ is bonus profit.

        I get these Accents as rentals often, they are perfectly fine and much better then a Versa. As long as Hertz leaves the satellite radio activated I don’t complain. However a Sonata is what you really want here.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          My girlfriend bought an ’09 that she later gave to her son, and it was an ex-rental – the sat radio stayed on for something like five years after she bought it. Apparently someone at the rental company wasn’t watching the XM bills.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Speaking of cheap plastic, look at just how little grille that grille actually has open.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Repeat after me: rear drum brakes are completely acceptable on a subcompact car.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Rear drum brakes are completely acceptable on a subcompact car.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Agreed. Was this whole article a subtle troll and astute commentary on the state of the auto-journo bubble?

      In the salt belt, rear disks will rust out and/or seize calipers a decade before rear drums will ever need messing with.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      Rear drum brakes are completely acceptable (dare say preferable?) on a subcompact car.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Umm, sorry, but no. In AD 2017 drum brakes are acceptable on nothing.
      Somewhere around the second year of ownership they will stop self adjusting properly, and fiddling with those damned springs, clips and other parts is not something I miss. The only salt problem I’ve ever had was corrosion on the outside edge of the rotors.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “second year of ownership they will stop self adjusting properly,”

        B.S.

        “corrosion on the outside edge of the rotors.” Yeah and that will necessitate rotor replacement long before they actually wear out in my experience. On the last 4 older used cars I’ve bought, the three with disks all needed the rears replaced due to rust. The one that didn’t need any attention? A Ford ranger with… rear drums that worked just fine, 20 years later with no special care paid to them from what I could tell. A pretty common occurrence as well on disks is the pad/caliper interface where the shims go starting to rust behind the shim. This will effectively squeeze the shim tight to the pad, jamming it up and causing drag. Just had to deal with this on my wife’s 2012 Camry last winter, again, on the rear wheels.

        The single time I’ve had to mess with rear drum brakes was due to a failed axle seal on my 4Runner that contaminated the shoes.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I have drum brakes on the rear on my 2-1/2 ton pickup truck-with the top trim level.

    No one could tell the difference driving an Accent back to back comparing drums to disks.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I would guess nobody is paying MSRP for this car, and Hyundai may be discounting more than Honda or Toyota.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    How did we live without screens before? ;)

    • 0 avatar
      Heino

      Bought a Connect 4 game for the kids on our way to the Smokies. 5 year old (now 14) – Dad how do you turn it on? Does Superman have an app now that there are no more phone booths? John Wilkes Booth?

    • 0 avatar
      2manycars

      I don’t see why the hell anyone would want a television screen in their car in the first place. Though unfortunately at this point an armed criminal gang of psychopathic thugs has dictated that new cars sold in the U.S. must come with them starting next year whether you want it or not.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Pour one out for the lost hatchback. One less reason to buy an Accent, if that’s all your budget allows for.

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez_Returns

    Holy cow, are TTAC copy editors already off in Turkey land? My God, this is a painful read.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    I must be the only one that actually likes this car…. My father has a 2012 Accent hatch. I love driving it. This seems to be moving a bit more upscale, but I still like it.

    Hard plastics are no an issue for me… so long as they fit well, don’t squeak, and look above poverty level :)

    My 2012 Prius (@ $27000) had more hard plastics than my 2009 Hyundai Elantra (@ $18000)

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “… so long as they fit well, don’t squeak” Bingo. If the assembly quality is good and the car is squeak and rattle-free, and if I’m realizing a savings because the materials are basic, it doesn’t bother me at all that they’re basic.

      And ditto for all of the comments above in defense of rear drums. They’re totally fine for a subcompact (or for a compact, frankly).

  • avatar
    deanst

    I’ve only ever bought small cars – and I think they are great. However, if given the choice between a loaded subcompact with nasty plastic and loud noises, and a bare bones midsize car – at the same price and fuel economy – I would have to pick the midsize sedan. How much could it possibly cost to put some padding on an arm rest you will use 99% of the time when you’re in the car?

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I’m not flaming you, deanst, and I realize you’re speaking hypothetically.

      That said:
      – Several commenters over the past few years–again, not you; you’ve qualified your comment–have made assertions along the lines of, “Midsizes get the same fuel economy as small cars, so get the midsize.” No, no they don’t. For virtually all manufacturers, the smaller models get better fuel economy.
      – Do you seriously have your arm on an armrest 99% of the time? Unless I’m on a highway run, I have both my hands on the wheel well in excess of 90% of the time, and probably closer to 100% than to 90. My right hand will come off the wheel essentially only to change gear or adjust the radio or climate control. That’s why a cheap armrest or no armrest is acceptable to many buyers.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    How much did they save per car by using those cheap plastic pieces on the C-pillars instead of actual glass, for what I would consider to be the most blatant form of DLO fail in the last ten years?

    Probably $8 per car. Those are big savings in the automotive world. Also, it’s not an unprecedented thing (see 1989-1996 Buick Century). However, perception is priceless. And it has turned what would have been a real looker for the segment into an eyesore. So…yeah.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Sir, if this Accent isn’t for you, let me show you this Elantra we have in stock. It can be yours for only, say, $50 more a month. You can swing that, can’t ya?

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      I’m glad you noticed it too. They could – should – have let the DLO end at the doors, and allowed everything behind to be painted steel. Save all the money. Those black plastic things stick out like Mickey Mouse’s ears but without the endearing qualities.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I’m still so offended by the post-facelift XV50 Camry’s DLO fail that this barely bothers me. The salient difference for this Accent–as it was for the first-gen Cruze–is that the DLO fail is part of the original design. At least it’s a cohesive DLO fail. For the Camry, they actually spent money to ruin a perfectly nice-looking C-pillar and make the car worse.

      And +1 to TMA1. That response made me chuckle.

  • avatar
    brettc

    It looks nice, but it sounds like it’s not exactly nice to drive (a modern day penalty box?)

    It’s a shame that the only body style in the U.S. is a sedan, with the hatch saved for Canada. Hopefully a Canadian TTAC writer can review the new hatch variant.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    It appears the rear window triangles of doom are returning with a vengeance! Very sad, although I must admit for a cheap car it’s not bad looking overall.


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