Yay for subcompact cars! No, seriously! How else would we truly appreciate our Honda Civics, Hyundai Elantras, and Ford Focus (Subaru Impreza in my case)? Our “bigger” cars are classier, more high-end, and get many more amenities! Or do they?
Nope. Not any more. These days, a subcompact car can be spec’d out with navigation, leather, a rear-view camera, heated seats and steering wheel, and much more! Does your 2012 Toyota Camry have all that? Didn’t think so, but my neighbour’s 6-speed automatic 2016 Kia Rio 5-door’s got all of the above and he spent under $23k before taxes. What was the sticker on your automatic Camry SE? About $4,000 more, right?
The situation has levelled, at least with the recently updated or renewed cars, over the last few years. Now, a luxuriously appointed version of most small cars is readily available.
This trend of very well equipped small cars could be credited to the Koreans who are well known for cramming all kinds of kit and value into their cars. All the while, we have the big Japanese makers that ride their reputation’s coattails, choosing to keep amenity levels where they’ve been and betting on their name; I’m talking about Toyota.
We decided to take two “older” generation cars with very different approaches for convincing consumers to purchase them and pit them against each other.
Enter the 2015 Hyundai Accent SE automatic vs. 2015 Toyota Yaris hatchback 5-door SE automatic.
Let’s start with the car from the land of the rising sun.
The Toyota Yaris was the Echo, which was the Tercel, which actually started out as the Corolla, and then, somewhere in the mix, there was that Starlet. Sue me; I love old cars… The Yaris as we know it arrived for the 2006 model year and was revised for the 2012 model year. A number of the important parts you don’t see are are unchanged and that proves to be a strike against this lively little car.
Aesthetically, it has evolved quite a bit, but certainly not for the better. The 2012 face-palm, sorry, update and the 2015 face-lift, threw in a gaping front mouth, exaggerated bumpers, a snarky grille and (to be fair) a regular butt. In other words, what was cute turned into not cute.
The cabin refresh turned out better than the outer shell did, however, it remains dated by the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and the absence of accessories such as heated seats. The large touchscreen display is nice and reasonably user-friendly. The previous cars also had numerous cubbyholes, of which few are left. The seats are very firm and only mildly comfortable; I get the feeling that I’m artificially boosted up towards the ceiling, as in forced to sit square.
As I touched on in my earlier review on the car, I really enjoyed the drive. Suffice it to say that a few extra gears and better driving position would really improve the Yaris’ overall appeal which is, decidedly, good anyhow.
The coming Yaris sedan will be the next step in Toyota’s assault on the small-car market. However, because it’ll be a rebadged Mazda2 sedan, it’s difficult to know what, if anything, will relieve the “old” Yaris hatchback from duty. Time will tell.
The Hyundai Accent has been a sales staple since it first arrived in 1995 as replacement for the forgettable Excel. It turned out to be a rather forgettable car as well, but seriously helped solidify Hyundai’s place among the big players in North America as a provider of affordable transportation.
The 4th generation came about in 2012 and in the process, raised the bar on what is typically expected from a subcompact car. Stylish, available with a large array of amenities and good to drive, the Accent’s popularity remains strong. Between the two cars, the Hyundai’s far easier on the eyes.
The cabin is still contemporary and well appointed. It’s comfortable and plenty roomy for four occupants. The ergonomics are good and the seats are fine. True quibbles are very few and far between. An updated touchscreen and other revisions would be nice but not necessary. A thoroughly revised 2016 Hyundai should break cover later this year and will likely address this and more.
Even going as far back as the early 2000s, I’ve always enjoyed driving the Accent, as has my cohort. And by enjoy, I mean appreciate what and why it is. Its 138-horsepower are strong and the optional 6-speed automatic does a fine job.
The ride’s a little off if the road’s surface is less than perfect; the dampers compress slowly but release too quickly. It can get slightly annoying, but overall the drive is comfortable. Easy day-to-day driving is fine, however, it won’t out-drive the Yaris.
Japan vs. Korea
Japan wins, but the Yaris doesn’t. Blame it on the Nissan Micra that’s stealing hearts and money from wallets. Thankfully, the amount taken from your man-purse is very little in exchange for the fun you will have.
Between the two, I’d spring for the Accent for its quieter, more powerful and refined powertrain. Its looks certainly make it more attractive but then, the Yaris is the better handler. The Accent is better equipped and offers up a better warranty. The Yaris will hold a stronger resale value and should -- and I do mean should -- be more reliable.
The tested Accent SE auto retails for $18,849 while the Yaris hatchback SE auto goes for $18,715. Base prices are $13,599 and $14,595 respectively.