2018 Hyundai Accent Review and First Drive

It’s a symptom of the universe that the slow death of small cars in the United States is heralded by perhaps the best crop of safe, efficient, and affordable compact and subcompact vehicles to have ever been available to budget-conscious buyers.

As SUVs continue to soak up dollars at the entry level of the market, some automakers have made the choice to withdraw and refocus on crossovers, while others — such as Hyundai — press on in a bid to preserve one of their strongest selling nameplates.

The 2018 Hyundai Accent is a vehicle that offers little in the way of surprises, with the possible exception of its resounding competence as a commuter. After nearly a quarter century of development, there’s little wonder that Hyundai has completely nailed the Accent formula. More impressive is that the brand has elected to stay the course with the car on a parallel track to its sport-utility efforts, rather than abandon the hope that one day its customers will return to the sedan fold after wandering the crossover wilderness.

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Completely redesigned for 2018, the new Accent has shunned its previously available hatchback body style in America (although it will continue on in Canadian showrooms). The reason? A 75 percent preference for the three-box design over the practicality of the three-and-five door editions.

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I spent a day out on the sun-bleached asphalt that surrounds Las Vegas, Nevada, split between the base SE and top-tier Limited trims of the Accent and traveling a path already well-worn by the legions of tourists plying the same roads in their rental Hyundais. “Accent or equivalent” has long been a part of car counter conversation, and the 2018 model reveals why so many fleet buyers have helped to bolster the sedan’s sales figures. Slightly longer and a touch wider than it was the year before, the car offers enough interior room to qualify for compact status from the EPA, despite what its modest pricing and exterior dimensions would suggest. The trunk can hold 13.7 cubic feet of cargo.

Features and Value

The Accent’s cabin also maintains a sense of cheer, even in hubcaps-and-basic-stereo trim. The SE’s available two-tone black and tan interior color scheme does well in distracting from the various harder plastics that adorn the door panels and dash, while its simple entertainment system (five-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, but no satellite radio) is matched with easy-to-read instrumentation that offers the driver a functional trip computer between two analog dials that report on engine and vehicle speed, respectively.

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Move up to the Limited and you’re in 7-inch touchscreen territory, with navigation, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay all putting in an appearance alongside the brand’s Blue Link telematics system (which allows for conveniences such as remote starting), automatic climate control, a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, and heated seats. The mid-range Accent SEL also benefits from the larger infotainment display and smartphone integration and adds four-wheel disc brakes over and above the SE’s rear drums.

Two things you won’t find with the 2018 Hyundai Accent? Leather upholstery (with even the Limited model featuring cloth seats for the buckets and bench), and options or packages of any kind. This means if you want to snag any advanced safety gear in the Accent, you’ll need to go Limited, which features an automatic forward braking system, but even then you’ll miss out on blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems, which simply aren’t available with the car no matter what you pay.

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Still, although pricing has yet to be released, don’t expect to be shelling out all that much for the new Hyundai Accent, as the window sticker should hew fairly close to what was offered the previous year. This means an ask of roughly $14,000 for sedans equipped with a six-speed manual transmission (an SE-only perk), and roughly $18k for the Limited in both Canada and the U.S.

Driving Impressions

In such an affordable car, it’s easy to overlook things like substantial road and wind noise at highway speeds and focus instead on its comfortable ride, reasonable performance, and acceptable handling capabilities. The 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that’s standard across the board in the Accent delivers its 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque without much fuss. The provocations of its six-speed automatic gearbox are enhanced somewhat when put into Sport mode, but for the most part, the Hyundai was content to cruise through the red cliffs of the Valley of Fire and past the dry shores of Lake Mead at a more relaxed pace. Keeping your foot out of the throttle also translates into 32 mpg in combined driving (7.3 L/100 km).

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The Verdict: 2018 Hyundai Accent Review

There’s a lot to be said for the non-aspirational automobile, and the 2018 Hyundai Accent is a verbose champion of this class of car. Easier to park and more frugal to operate than a larger crossover, the Accent is intended to eat up miles for drivers who value basic transportation over baubles. That it runs the risk of being eclipsed by product planners intent on flooding the market with more expensive SUVs is a shame, as it means fewer and fewer customers will get a chance to experience just how right the Hyundai is for their needs.

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