The 2017 Hyundai Accent subcompact sedan and hatchback offer a good value, but are now in the sixth year of their generation. Fortunately, the styling still holds up and it gets excellent fuel mileage. The Accent hatchback offers more room than almost anything for the money,
Acceleration performance is adequate for everyday commuting but lackluster, especially with the automatic. Handling is predictable but not notable. The Accent can ride roughly, like rivals with short wheelbases.
It’s powered by a direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 138 horsepower, mated to a standard 6-speed manual gearbox with a light clutch; this transmission gives the best acceleration, fuel mileage, and enjoyment. The available and more common 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly but reduces get-up-and-go, even with Sport mode and manual control.
The Accent got a light facelift for 2015, but this fourth-generation design dates back to a 2011 model. A redesign is expected soon.
Fuel mileage is EPA-rated at 27 mpg City, 37 Highway, and 31 Combined with the manual transmission, or one less mpg with the automatic. It used to be that manuals always got better fuel mileage than automatics, but nowadays that’s opposite. However not so, here. Which is an indication that the automatic transmission, although smooth, isn’t as efficient and modern as others. (That said, the new automatics, especially the 9-speeds, can be jerky.)
In the Accent, the automatic has an ActiveEco button that triggers early upshifts to improve gas mileage, while the manual gearbox uses an eco shift light that flashes at the shift point for the best fuel mileage. Assuming the EPA uses the driving technique for maximum mileage, the moral to the story must be that humans win over computers. When they listen to the computers.
The Accent doesn’t score so high in safety tests, with four stars overall from the NHTSA, with a comment saying the left rear door was a weak spot, as impact there injured the crash-test dummy. Still, the Accent got mostly top Good ratings from the IIHS, with Acceptable in side impact, and Poor in the difficult small frontal overlap test. Six airbags and active headrests are standard. Warranty is five years or 60,000 miles.
The 2017 Hyundai Accent comes in SE Sedan ($14,745), Value Edition Sedan ($16,450), SE Hatchback ($14,995), and Sport Hatchback ($17,495) models. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge. All models are front-wheel drive with 1.6-liter engine.
Accent SE includes power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; heated mirrors; AM/FM/XM/CD player with USB port; and keyless entry. The SE Hatchback adds a rear defroster, 172-watt sound system with satellite radio and iPod connectivity. Cruise control and Bluetooth are available, but leather, navigation, sunroof or rearview camera are not.
Accent Sport Hatchback gets 16-inch wheels; sport-tuned steering; fog lamps; a sliding armrest; and special trim.
The Accent sedan is not distinctive; it looks like any other compact sedan, with a stubby trunk and tall roofline. It’s a generic car, only the Nissan Versa looks more boring.
Accent looks big for a subcompact, with its embrace of the Hyundai Elantra profile. The trapezoidal grille and graceful lines running to the rear deck are Hyundai features.
The hatch has an upswept rear end that’s pert, not edgy and swoopy like the Honda Fit. We like it. The shoulder line runs with the longer roofline to a pinched hatch, where taillamps wrap around the rear pillars.
The Accent is spacious for its class, although it can’t compare to the Honda Fit, which costs much more. The sedan is 10 inches longer than the hatchback, with more cargo space with the seatbacks up, but it offers less interior versatility. It’s technically a compact by federal guidelines.
The cabin is simple and effective, with streamlined controls and low-gloss plastics, except for the hard and shiny black plastic on the center console and doors. The dashboard is shaped like a big boomerang, and finished in a matte that suggests carbon fiber. It’s nicely finished for the price point. The finish is average or better.
There’s ample storage inside. Big glovebox, and good bins and trays.
There’s plenty of headroom, legroom, and ease of entry and exit for tall passengers, in front. The front seats are height-adjustable, and even at the top there’s good headroom. The standard seats need more bolstering, and are uncomfortable after a few hours. The Sport seats are nicer and a bit better.
Room in the rear seats is respectable for a subcompact, but the cushions are a bit low. They fold forward easily in both the sedan and hatch, although again can’t compare with the clever fold of the Honda Fit.
Rearward visibility is restricted in the hatchback because of the big rear pillars and the standard rear headrests, but the sedans don’t have the same issue. We wish a rearview camera were at least optional.
Some of the Accent’s competitors are quick, we’re thinking of the racy and delightful models of Ford Fiesta and Fiat 500. The Accent is not quick. If you want quick and sporty, then see: Hyundai Veloster.
Accent’s 1.6-liter engine makes 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. It builds speed deliberately, taking about 10 seconds to hit 60 mph. Revving the engine above 3500 rpm draws as much power out as quickly as possible. The engine sounds relatively smooth at those engine speeds, which is saying something some competitors can’t say; although there is a bit more noise at higher revs, particularly in the hatchback, apparently because of its cabin structure.
The 138-horsepower engine struggles a bit up long hills or when there are backseat passengers. Otherwise, it works well with the 6-speed manual gearbox; the 6-speed automatic works fine, too, with its Sport mode and manual control.
The Accent can feel graceful on winding roads, if not particularly lively, because the electric power steering is tuned to feel firm like a midsize sedan. We prefer the Sport model.
The suspension features twin-tube shocks and a stabilizer bar for the front struts, while the rear uses a torsion beam. Ride quality can be jarring over potholes and bouncy on frost-heaved highways, although that is true of any short-wheelbase vehicle.
Hyundai Accent is a competent subcompact at a compelling price. It offers good looks, a clean cabin, 30 mpg, and the best warranty in the class.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.