By on September 19, 2018

For some, dirt cheap wheels are all that’s required. Nothin’ fancy; nothin’ extra. Four tires and a steering wheel are the main requirements of these shoppers. Oh, and a warranty for worry-free driving. Anything further is just gravy. This outlook accurately describes about half of the Quebec market, by the way. Especially the gravy. Poutine is delicious.

Enter the Hyundai Accent. This entry-level Korean sedan has been finding its way into the hands of new drivers and frugal shoppers for 25 years now. As it turns out, even the base model of one of the cheapest new cars in America is laden with standard equipment.

Starting at a fiver under fifteen grand, the 2019 Hyundai Accent in SE spec is powered by a 130 horsepower 1.6-liter inline-four, exactly like every other Accent built for this model year. Ladling out extra cash for a more expensive trim will not net buyers any extra oomph. The base SE is equipped with a manual transmission as standard equipment; in fact, it’s the only trim in which a stick is offered. That alone is good enough to choose the base car.

Fifteen-inch steel wheels with cheapy wheel covers will announce your frugal ways to other commuters on the interstate, but surely the true Ace of Base connoisseur cares not one whit about the fop in that Range Rover looking down his nose at us, right? Sideview mirrors are color keyed, however. They’re even power operated. All colors are offered at $0.

Inside, the driver’s seat adjusts six ways, two more than the miserable econoboxes of this author’s youth. Back then, height adjustments were permanently set by way of gradually sagging seat springs. The base Accent does do without a driver’s armrest, which is a mark against it in the Ace of Base ledger. At least the rear seat is a split folding unit to open up more cargo space.

Huge news is the discovery that air conditioning is standard equipment on Hyundai’s least-expensive car. Thank you, economies of scale. That same budget truth means the company is content to make a single steering wheel for the entire range, ensuring even the most cost-conscious of Hyundai customers enjoy cruise control and audio controls on the wheel. Bluetooth is on board, as are power windows.

The two main knocks against this car are the vanishing driver’s armrest and rear drum brakes. I am an evangelist of four-wheel disc brakes, even though I know drums generally perform fine under normal use in a 2,500 lb econocar like the Accent.

If you can live with those two things, the 2019 Accent SE – with its air conditioning and manual transmission – can find a home in our Ace of Base trophy case.

[Images: Hyundai]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones that have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in Freedom Dollars. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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45 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2019 Hyundai Accent SE...”

  • avatar

    “I know drums generally perform fine under normal use in a 2,500 lb econocar like the Accent.”

    Perform fine and operate with zero need for maintenance for the expected lifetime of the car (especially in the salt belt), key point you missed there Mr. disc brake evangelist.

  • avatar

    The biggest knocks against this car are hard, cheap looking plastics in the interior, and a rough ride. Other than that, it’s a great value with features that were considered luxuries 10 years ago. I guess the base model doesn’t have android auto or apple carplay?

    • 0 avatar

      Outside the echo chamber of car reviews, does anyone in the world actually care about the softness of the interior plastics?

      When was the last time anybody physically touched a dashboard?

      • 0 avatar

        I do. That was one of my biggest objections to the MK 6 Jetta when it was released. (The 2.slow engine didn’t impress me either.) If you want to sell me a car with a rock hard dash that feels like it was made by Little Tykes, it better not cost a dollar more than this Accent.

        • 0 avatar
          Keith Tomas

          Touching the dashboard, console and door panels is one of the first things that I do when looking at a car. Even when I ride in Uber, I feel the door panels and seat pockets.

      • 0 avatar

        Dashboard? No.
        However, a hard plastic center armrest or door panel can cause discomfort for people that often place their forearms or elbows on that part of the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        Bingo!! Every time I read those reviews degrading “cheap plastic” interior, I wanna scream, “ Who gives a sh** “!!’. If it looks decent and has good fit and finish, soft interior means nothing more than snob appeal. Both are going to make zero difference in a severe crash because air bag deployment. As you said, people do not sit around rubbing on the interior simply because it is soft.

      • 0 avatar

        As someone who has experience working on and around dashboards I typically prefer harder plastics. They dont “morph” in the sun, and they’re tougher against cargo items and what not.

        They’re easier to remove and replace too which matters more to me, I have no interest in massaging car interiors.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Good Grief deanst…

      No one who gives a second thought to the plastic on the dashboard or arm rest is going to consider this car. Ever.

      This car nails it for anyone who is frugal or exists in the income spectrum that makes this car a luxury good, for them. AC & PW and I bet remote door unlock clickers for the win. For a newbie teacher, actually one of whom works with my wife and has one of these, she thinks this is the coolest car on the planet, for her. Even drove my wife to lunch it during a teacher work day to show off her new car. I assure you the 25 year old Language Arts teacher could give two cares about the ‘hard plastics’; she loves the fact the AC is cold at the end of the day for her ride home, and is reliable, and affordable.

      • 0 avatar

        87…this. A thousand times. Yes, I know we’ll hear that “used car X is so much better than a cheap new car,” and while that may well be true, there are folks that want a new car that gets them from A to B in little fuss. This car does just that. The AC is cold, the warranty decent and the drive virtually trouble-free. The only thing holding it back is it’s not a SUV/CUV…;)

      • 0 avatar

        I like that teacher’s review and opinion. She’s probably a better than average teacher.

        • 0 avatar

          My point was that it strikes me as odd that we’ve arrived at a place where every car has AC, cruise control, etc. but somehow manufacturers place a low priority on 50 cents worth of padding on the door arm rests. Further, I reject the notion that only the poor and down trodden will settle for this car. On my recommendation my mom bought one of these, and I think for most people who care about the product rather than the image, it is a great vehicle. Some people actually like small cars, and have enough self confidence to know that the image of the car they drive does not define them.

          I realize I may have different priorities than most, as I do not use AC and rarely use cruise control. I do, however, have an arm to put somewhere every time I use a car.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s a feature not a bug. Hard plastic penalty box to nudge shoppers into splurging for the Elantra (or civic or corolla) for the extra $25 /month

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      My Saturn had a hard, cheap plastic dash that still looked new after 325k. Unlike the soft dashes I’ve had that tend to look like someone set off an atomic bomb on them at that sort of mileage. For this sort of car it is perfectly acceptable and perhaps even preferable.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Hurrah for the B&B. More in tune with the market than auto ‘journalists’/reviewers.

    For a car of this weight and power, rear drums are more than adequate. And generally longer lasting cheaper to maintain, particularly in areas where salt is used regularly.

    As for ‘soft’ interior plastics. The majority of vehicles have interior panels that look like then came from mid-market German vehicles from the 1980’s. Dull and austere. Few that are colour co-ordinated. Few that have accents or appliques. So why not a harder, better wearing, longer lasting plastic, that saves the consumer some money.

    Why no mention of the upholstery? Is it cloth, velour or vinyl?

    What of the ‘safety’ features? Can we assume that ABS,ESC/traction control and side/front air bags/curtains are standard?

    5 year/100k warranty. Bluetooth. 6 way adjustable seat. Power adjustable side view mirrors. 60/40 folding rear seat. A/C. Cruise. That is all, that I need for members of my family. Anything else is as Matthew stated, ‘gravy’.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      130 hp, in this class, is huge. A lot of gravy. I really can’t imagine choosing a Versa or a Mirage G4 over this Hyundai. Yes, it’s a couple grand more, but amortized over 60 months, that’s not much of a difference.

      I could live happily with this car. Actually, I did, for eight years, but back then, it was called a Saturn SL2.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Arthur Dailey – I don’t think hard necessarily correlates one way or the other to durable–a plastic could be hard but brittle and scratch-prone–but I totally agree with your point. I’ll take durable over nice-but-delicate any day. (And I realize nice can be durable, though also expensive.) I’m a frequent borrower of a relative’s subcompact with a hard plastic interior. It doesn’t squeak or rattle after ten years of city driving; it’s a great interior, as far as I’m concerned.

      Re: deanst’s comment above, do these Accents really ride roughly? 185/65-15 is a great tire size for real-word conditions, and my guess would be that a lot of fancier cars actually ride worse because of the dumb wheel/tire choices that manufacturers and consumers are making these days.

      Kudos also to Hyundai for offering
      – an alloy on the mid-range SEL that’s NOT bigger than the base steelie. All things being equal, I like alloys, But I don’t like alloys that make my car functionally worse.
      – the cheerful “Admiral Blue” and “Pomegranate Red” colors.

  • avatar

    My daughter totaled her car in 2016 while a Junior in college. The insurance money (wrecked a low mile 2007 Altima) was enough to buy a decent replacement. Being the Toyota fanboi/brand whore I am, I was looking a used Corollas or a Civic. While shopping, we came across a new Hyundai dealership in Richmond, Ky who had approximately 25 of these exact cars on their lot and were blowing them out for $11,999. All identically equipped,just different colors. Since the price on these was similar to used Corollas/Civics with thousands of more miles, we bought one of these. It is an automatic but the seats have built in arm rests, similar to the ones in my Sienna.

    Nothing fancy but it gets the job done. It gets fantastic gas mileage and has ice cold a/c. My daughter loves it. She now works in the hospital and likes that the car is easy to park in the parking garage. It seems well put together and has a great warranty. She doesn’t give a sh*t how hard the interior plastics are, she’s more concerned with the ease of drive-ability and the a/c.

  • avatar

    Can you buy an armrest at the parts counter? Dealer installed option?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It would just be soooo much better if Hyundai could have scrounged up another $11 to put in actual quarter panel windows, instead of those plastic bezels, which aren’t remotely convincing.

  • avatar

    The only real problem I have with interior plastics in base models is when they’re on the steering wheel. Yeah, nobody touches the dashboard – but you *do* touch the steering wheel and the shifter, and Hyundai’s plastic/resin steering wheels are truly awful, while the leather-wrapped ones are quite nice. In a pinch I could live without a lot of things, but man, plastic steering wheels are really bad.

    • 0 avatar

      Very nice leather steering wheel covers are available for less than fifty bucks. They make a significant improvement in driving pleasure. You will need a couple of hours to stitch it in place, but it’s worth the money saved from a dealer-installed leather steering wheel.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d gladly pay a few hundred bucks for a nice steering wheel, shift knob and padded arm rest. (Firm, non-leather seats would be nice too.)

      • 0 avatar

        Good call, RHD. Wheelskins makes a good one. I know because I actually put their cover over my already leather wheel, in order to beef up its diameter so I didn’t get shooting pains in my hands on long drives.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you guys have a higher bar than I do, and that’s fine.

      I actually don’t mind a plastic wheel, but I can’t abide by a plastic or vinyl wheel that turns sticky or slimy over time – blech!

  • avatar

    This is appealing to me. I’d rather not wrench on a daily driver, save that for the classic car. Unlikely to be stolen, compared to a Civic or Corolla at least. Easy to park in urban areas, parking garages.

    My only question is how does it compare to other cars in its class for crash ratings?

    • 0 avatar

      It has excellent ratings (see On that score alone, this new Accent (and the related Rio) are a nice leap forward vs. the previous generation, which had subpar safety ratings.

  • avatar

    Just looked this car up on Hyundai’s build and price, a couple of notes.

    1. Too bad the hatch isn’t available anymore, such a useful configuration.

    2. For $70 you can order a USB charger for the backseat.

    3. All of the offered colors are “no cost” (kudos to Hyundai)

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The Hyundai Canada website does not list a 2019 Accent.

  • avatar

    People who barely qualify for an auto loan are going to sign the papers rather quickly, they’ll practically go into a crazy fib pattern and flatline to get the keys to this car. Nobody buying this thing will ever say “Whoa, wait just a minute. Is that a cheap, hard plastic dashboard? What do I look like, a chump? Give me my deposit back. C’mon honey, we’re outta here. Cheap, hard plastic…can you believe the nerve of that guy?”

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I like the baseness here, it certainly would be a good car for a young urban or suburban person with their first “real job”. But for me it wouldn’t work because I do a whole lot of highway driving, and no 4 cylinder car is worth a damn going 80 mph all day on the super slabs. For that kind of use, a Mark V Golf or Jetta with a manual trans and the highway-gem 5 cylinder is the best tool for the job. I know, a lot of VW fans hate that engine. But drive it across the plains Rockies and tell me it’s not the best small car ever made.

  • avatar

    If this rig is dependable in its old age, it’s got to be winner.

    Three acquaintances with out of warranty Kia, Hyundai, and Genesis have had some pretty expensive repairs…although the Genesis guy via some hard fought complaints up their management ladder eventually got reimbursed.

  • avatar

    Couple issues…

    I’m pretty sure cruise is only available/included with the automatic trans package. No sticks with cruise, I think.

    The other problem is that a base Elantra exists. The MSRP is $2k higher than the Accent, but the Elantra has $1k more cash on the hood.

    For saving a mere $1k, it’s hard to make a good argument for the Accent over the Elantra. The Elantra is bigger, has more engine, AND gets better MPG.

  • avatar

    A sedan can not be the Quebec special

    It has to be a 5 door, and the 5 door is about 2000$ trudeau dollars less than the 4 door.
    I honestly can say i have never seen a 4 door accent here in quebec

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    So why is this better then other base cars in its class?

    The mazdayota yaris is $600 more and comes with back up camera and power locks and 7″ display, albeit with 25less ponies. but for that A-to-B appliance demographic the camera seems more useful.

  • avatar

    The drum brakes are to be expected, but for a base car this iant half bad. You even get a passengers side mirror and sun visor! The lack of an arm rest does stink but is to be expected on a cheap car.

    Does it come with map lights as well or is that an option?

  • avatar

    I have a Mercedes S430 which cost the previous owner 10 times more than this Hyundai. It is 15 years old and has soft plastic all over the dash around the wood trim. It has all gone sticky and horrible. I WISH it were hard, durable plastic.

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