While some people still regard Hyundai as a newcomer to the South African market, the reality is that it has now been here for more than 20 years! The Hyundai Accent compact sedan – and, occasionally, hatchback – has been a part of the local offering nearly from the start. Indeed, worldwide, the Accent is now in its seventh generation and it shows just how far this South Korean brand has come. The latest model is said to represent a significant step up in terms of fit and finish, and also price. Has it outgrown its budget roots?
Mini-Elantra looksHyundai’s larger C-segment sedan, the Elantra, has been widely praised for not only its value offering, but also its design flair. Like the current Sonata and Elantra, the Hyundai Accent now displays some impressive sculpting and creases. On its bigger siblings the result is perhaps a little bit more flowing and elegant, but the Accent is nevertheless a reasonably attractive not-so-compact sedan. We particularly like the strong shoulder line that flows along the sides and gently terminates above the rear lamps, where there is also a hint of a boot spoiler. But, sadly, the overall impression is somewhat spoilt by the fitment of small 14-inch steel wheels with plastic covers.
It is inside where Hyundai’s design team has really worked its magic. As in the Elantra, the surfaces of the plastics are still mostly hard, but they “look” soft. Also, the application of piano black and chrome trim work well to lift the ambience, along with smart instrumentation that feature blue backlighting. It’s a classy look that not many compact sedans in this segment can compete with.
Given the Accent’s surprisingly large exterior dimensions (4 370 mm in length, 2 570 mm wheelbase), it doesn’t feel particularly spacious inside, especially in the rear. The sweeping roofline has impacted headroom for taller passengers, while perhaps the decision to prioritise a very large 389 L boot has forced the designers to push the rear seats forward, impinging on legroom. But, that being said, most families with smaller children will find the packaging superb, and will appreciate the big boot – a full-size spare wheel is included, too.
The driver is reasonably well looked after in the Hyundai Accent, even if the steering wheel only offers rake adjustability. The seat, however, has manual height adjustment and although they’re not the most supportive of seats in general, they certainly proved comfortable on longer trips. Standard features that will make such trips even more pleasurable include air-conditioning, electric mirrors/windows and a radio/CD player with remote audio controls and USB/auxiliary support. Even rear park assist is part of the deal, along with two airbags and ABS/EBD.
Good power, economyThe Hyundai Accent is powered by the familiar 1,6-litre, four-cylinder engine that delivers impressive power figures (91 kW and 156 Nm). Interestingly, especially given the Accent’s growth in size and the generous equipment, it remains a relatively lightweight vehicle (1 035 kg). The performance is therefore quite nippy, with a 0-100 km/h time of just over 10 seconds being on offer as well as a 190 km/h top speed. The engine is willing in the mid-range as well, providing good overtaking power and the transmission is very easy to use. In fact, the clutch could do with a bit of extra “feel”. If there is a concern it is with regards to mechanical noise. Perhaps the vehicle’s light weight is indicative of a lack of sound-deadening material, but the engine came across as overly “buzzy”. Fuel economy is impressive, but a figure of 6,1 L/100 km is not very realistic. Expect to average closer to 7,5 L/100 km.
Poor steering feelThe Accent’s target market will undoubtedly prioritise ease-of-driving and comfort over entertaining dynamics. A basic torsion-beam arrangement is used for the rear suspension and has certainly been set up for maximum compliancy. As a result the Hyundai Accent boasts a supple ride that should endear it to buyers who will also end up using it as a family car. Less impressive, however, is the steering – it’s not the first time that a Hyundai’s steering has come in for sharp criticism. The “feel” from the wheel is inconsistent and at times the car seemingly wants to steer itself. It is particularly badly affected by the camber of the road. Another minor point of criticism is that the rear end of the car can feel quite light when it is pushed hard into a corner. It’s not something that most owners are ever likely to experience, but nevertheless care has to be taken in such extreme situations, as there is no ESP (electronic stability system).
Hyundai Accent - VerdictFor the price of the Hyundai Accent, it offers outstanding value for money. It’s not only about a high level of standard specification either, because this Hyundai Accent now has some other talents, too, including an upmarket, well-made cabin, big boot space and an impressive engine. Not to mention… the long warranty and standard service plan. Just as Elantra has significantly improved Hyundai’s fortunes in the C-segment, the Accent is likely to contribute much more to the Korean maker’s bottom linef
- Upmarket cabin finish
- Strong performance
- Standard features
- Build quality
- Warranty/service plan
- 14-inch steel wheels
- Noisy engine
- Terrible steering
Fast factsEngine: 1,6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol Power: 91 kW @ 6 300 rpm Torque: 156 Nm @ 4 200 rpm Transmission: Five-speed manual Wheels: 14-inch steel Top speed: 190 km/h 0-100 km/h: 10,2 seconds Fuel economy: 6,1 L/100 km
- Volkswagen Polo Sedan 1,4i Trendline: Also new on the market and does offer a more upmarket-feeling package, but it can’t nearly match the Hyundai Accent standard specification, nor its performance. Given that the service plan is also optional, perhaps a bit too pricey?
- Toyota Yaris Zen3 Sedan 1,3 Spirit: The Toyota is ageing, but it’s still a very capable compact sedan. The Yaris sedan offers a comfortable, refined interior environment and bullet-proof reliability. The standard specification is also reasonable. But it doesn’t feel as modern and sophisticated as the Hyundai Accent.
- Ford Fiesta Sedan 1,6 Ambiente: The Fiesta sedan hasn’t quite been the success its maker had hoped. The price is a bit high, and it’s not as refined as it could be. Plus, it looks a bit awkward.