The all-new Hyundai Accent is a great addition to the ever-expanding light car segment.
In today’s uncertain economic times, light cars make a lot of sense. In fact, it was three years ago now in the height of the first global financial crisis that sales of light cars overtook those of large cars in Australia. As it stands today, one in every four cars sold to private buyers is a light car.
With prices for the Hyundai Accent starting from $16,990 for the Active five-speed manual, Hyundai has yet another excellent entry point into a competitive market.
We last saw the Accent nameplate in 2009, so it’s interesting that the South Korean company has continued to keep the badge for the new model. Unlike its ‘i’ cars, which are designed primarily for the European market, the Accent is destined for 'general' markets, which includes pretty much everywhere but Europe.
Even so, the Korean-built Accent is now the fourth model to be styled in Hyundai’s new Fluid Sculpture design language. From the outside it’s certainly an attractive little car, with its sharp and modern styling both front and rear. Even from a distance you can instantly tell it’s got the new Hyundai ‘look’.
Offered in both hatch and sedan, the Accent is set to target a large group of buyers, from those looking for their first new car to the elderly seeking a practical retirement car.
Hyundai has repositioned the Indian-built i20 to sit below the new Accent, with all model year 2012s only being offered with a 1.4-litre engine. Meanwhile, the Accent gets a 1.6-litre petrol from launch and is positioned below the i30.
The South Koreans will offer the Accent in three trims and two body shapes with all models initially powered by a 1.6-litre four cylinder engine. Delivering 91kW and 156Nm of torque, the four-cylinder is great for city driving and cruises comfortably on the highway. If you want more performance, wait a few more months as a direct-injection petrol engine and a common-rail diesel are in the pipeline.
The 1.6-litre can be coupled to the standard five-speed manual, which returns fuel economy figures of 6.0L/100km, or you can option up a four-speed automatic that consumes 6.4L/100km. Like most light cars, the automatic variant tends to highlight the engine’s lack of punch when overtaking, making the manual the preferred transmission.
All variants get all the safety kit as standard. In addition to the six airbags, the Accent is full of electronic aids to help prevent an accident before it even happens. The combination of Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Traction Control System (TCS) helps form Hyundai’s Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) system. Apart from doing the regular job of applying brake and power to whichever wheel needs it the most, VSM also uses a Motor Driven Power Steering (MPDS) system to guide in the steering process when needed.
If none of that makes any sense, all you need to know is that the new Accent gets the maximum five-star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assesment Program (ANCAP) – and that’s not easy.
Base model Accent Actives come standard with a four-speaker audio system that supports Bluetooth telephone and audio streaming with controls on the steering wheel. This allows wireless, hands-free transmission of not only your phone calls but also your music. A USB port adds a wide variety of additional media integration opportunities (e.g. iPod). From the outside the standard 14-inch steel wheels let down what is otherwise a good looking car.
To launch the new Accent, Hyundai brought CarAdvice to Sydney where we embarked on a test drive around the CBD and surrounding suburbs. The company was keen to emphasis the Accent is primarily a city dweller, destined to spend the majority of its life in CBD locations doing short trips. This was possibly done to stem any potential criticism of the vehicle’s ride and handling.
Our first car was a green mid-trim manual Elite hatchback, which for an extra $1500 over the base model Active, is certainly worth the extra coin if you can afford it.
It gains an upgraded steering wheel, gear knob, two tweeters for better sound clarity, a classier interior trim and more. From the outside you’ll notice the front fog lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels (with full-size spare) and chrome rear garnish (on the sedan).
Measuring 4115mm long (4370mm for sedan), 1700mm wide and 1450mm high, the Accent may not look all that big from the outside, but step inside and the interior space is rather surprising. It’s a bit like the Tardis in that regard. There is plenty of headroom both front and rear and you can comfortably fit four average-size adults in the front and back without anyone complaining. The 60:40 split fold rear seat allow for a great deal of storage space when required.
The interior plastics are all hard, but where it counts they are textured to look more expensive than they really are in the Elite and Premium variants. We would have liked to see telescopic reach adjustment on the steering wheel, but otherwise it's not too hard to get comfortable in this little Hyundai.
The company has tuned the new Accent's suspension specifically for Australia’s relatively rough roads, so the ride quality remains good even when the roads deteriorate.
Around the Sydney CBD we found the Accent to be well behaved, absorbing the bumps with ease but also not floaty around corners. Despite Hyundai’s insistence that the Accent is a city car, we also tested it around some tight corners and found ride and handling to be better than expected for a car of its size. The local tuning has certainly helped the overall driving dynamics.
The pick of the bunch is the mid-spec Elite manual, but if you can justify it an additional $2500 will get you into the range-topping Premium. This is ideal for buyers that want the latest in-car technology on a tight budget. A reversing camera cleverly embedded into the rear view mirror, rear parking sensors, push-button start system with proximity key, as well as leatherette seats and door trim easily justify the price hike.
Given the relatively low asking price and feature-packed cabin, it’s hard to fault the all-new Hyundai Accent. Despite being a light-car it offers a lot more interior space than you’d think, comes packed with a good range of standard features, maximum five-star safety rating and has been engineered to ride and drive well on Australian roads.
If you’re in the market for a light hatch or sedan, be sure to put the Accent on your test drive list. If you can stretch your budget another $2000-$2500 and want a diesel engine, best to wait a few more months.
Hyundai Accent Pricing:
Active - 5MT $16,990 - 4AT $18,990
Elite - 5MT $18,490 - 4AT $20,490
Premium - 5MT $20,990 (not available in sedan) - 4AT $22,990