A new Hyundai Accent will soon be upon us, but until then the current 2016 model continues forward as Canada’s most popular subcompact model by a long shot. The Accent more than doubled its next closest competitor, the Kia Rio, last year.
It helps to have market longevity. The Hyundai Accent dates back to 1994 and is now in the fifth model year of its fourth generation. It’s an excellent example of doing things right: Even in this iteration’s waning years, it remains highly competitive thanks to sportier than average styling (especially in hatchback form), an ultra-roomy interior (ditto the hatch), loads of standard and optional features, superb performance, a much better than average warranty, and the Korean brand’s renowned value.
From a styling perspective, there’s nothing that differentiates the base L model from the mid-grade GL Auto I’m reviewing. The pricier SE and GLS models get fog lights, 16” alloy wheels, and a moonroof, while the GLS sports projection headlights with LED accents and turn signals integrated into the mirror housings. Such upgrades aside, all 2016 Accent hatchbacks wear Hyundai’s outgoing grille design, while my tester gets a set of faux brake ducts fitted to each corner where fog lights otherwise go on higher trims; a creative addition that actually looks pretty sporty.
Even the base headlights are wonderfully detailed and only dwarfed in size by the car’s scythe-shaped vertical taillights, the latter finishing off an edgy rear end design that also gets a standard rooftop spoiler and rear fog lights.
The overarching Accent shape is much more interesting than most others in this segment, with a go-fast profile featuring a near vertical backside. The base model’s 14” steel wheels and covers are shod with 175/70R14 tires, ideal for comfort while providing decent road-holding, although most Hyundai dealers have reams of rims to upgrade the look while still keeping you on budget.
My tester was done out in Triathlon Grey, which is a nice medium grey metallic that really works well with the design. Alternative colour choices include Ironman Silver, Century White, Ultra Black, Coffee Bean (brown) and Pacific Blue, or if you want something flashier Hyundai offers Boston Red and Vitamin C (orange).
The interior is black no matter the exterior colour, and while this cabin has been around the block a few times along with the rest of the car, it still looks plenty fresh. The dash and door uppers aren’t soft to the touch, of course, but the textured matte composite material Hyundai uses appears quite upscale and offers a higher-quality feel than the same surfaces on most competitive subcompacts.
The fit and finish of all switchgear is excellent, too. From the power lock switches, sliding sunvisors, and standard display audio interface with aux, USB, and iPod connectivity, all sourced from the base L model, to the LE Auto’s upgraded air conditioning controls and this GL’s power heated side mirror controller, power window toggles, and multifunction switchgear on the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, it’s all a cut above. My tester’s fabric upholstery was great looking, as well, its bolsters in black and inserts enhanced with a stylish wavy blue thread pattern.
The GL, which starts at $16,599 plus freight and other dealer fees (just $2,700 more than the $13,899 base hatchback), also gets keyless entry, heated side mirrors and front seats, two tweeters (for a total of six stereo speakers), satellite radio, and 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks.
As mentioned earlier, you can spend more for more equipment―$17,849 for the GL Auto I tested, $18,649 for the GLS Manual, $18,749 for the SE Auto, and $19,899 for the GLS Auto. Top-line Accents certainly include more luxury than the class average.
Also better than average, Hyundai’s 6-speed automatic transmission isn’t the usual fuel-economy-at-all-costs gearbox. Along with the extra forward cog that lets it eke out more highway mileage than some competitors that only offer 4- and 5-speed automatics, those who really like to drive will enjoy its manual shift mode, letting you hold a given gear through corners and downshift for more control while setting up a turn or braking.
Speaking of which, the Accent doesn’t hold its line as tightly as Hyundai’s very talented (and very cancelled) Genesis Coupe, but it’s plenty fun to fling through curves thanks to its direct-injected 1.6L 4-cylinder engine producing 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful engines in the segment.
If the Hyundai Accent didn’t match some of the stingier fuel misers in the class, all that power would be moot, but its 7.7L/100km combined rating with the automatic transmission shows this sporty Korean has some brains to go with that brawn. Incidentally, manual mode is also good for saving fuel, letting you short-shift to keep revs low.
As is usually the case in the small car segment, the Accent rides on MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam setup in the back for a good compromise between ride comfort and decent handling, not to mention a lower load floor for better cargo room (I’ll get back to that in a moment), while its rack-and-pinion power steering responds well to input and feels pretty good for the class.
Hyundai is a leader when it comes to all-important braking. Behind the medium-grade Accent’s steel wheels and covers is a very unusual albeit welcome set of rear disc brakes. Most competitors only offer rear drums, with just a few including rear rotors on top-line trims. The Accent’s standard 4-wheel discs feature ABS and electronic brake-force distribution, too, while the stock safety suite also includes traction control, stability control, active front headrests, front seatbelt pretensioners, and all the usual airbags.
Practical and reliable
All of these impressive attributes are reasons enough for the Hyundai Accent’s continued sales success, but also key is interior spaciousness. Few will find the front seating area too small, while those in the rear will appreciate better than average room for the head, shoulders, hips, and legs. Then again, this hatchback’s biggest selling point might be cargo capacity. A full 600 litres of gear-hauling volume is available behind the rear seats, or a total of 1,345 litres when they’re folded mostly flat, making it perfect for active lifestyles.
Reliability is another vital Accent asset. The little Hyundai ranked highest among small cars in the latest 2016 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS), while the Hyundai brand ranked second-best among mainstream competitors, just behind Kia. Similarly, the Accent achieved a top-3 spot in the same third-party analytical firm’s 2016 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), although the brand was slightly below average. Then again, it placed sixth out of 17 volume brands in Consumer Reports’ 2016 report card on reliability, which is considerably above average. Either way, Hyundai’s 5-year/100,000km comprehensive warranty is much better than average, so you’re covered—price out the extra two years of comprehensive aftermarket warranty coverage you’ll need if you choose most Hyundai competitors and you’ll quickly appreciate the value in this feature alone.
The 2016 Hyundai Accent clearly proves the benefits of aging when a car is initially well-designed, so whether you’re now entering adulthood and purchasing your first new vehicle, are 30-something with a small family and greater need for functional space, or doing your best to enjoy your retirement on a fixed income, Hyundai has a small car that delivers big style, features galore, great performance, good fuel economy, superb reliability, and an awesome warranty.