One step above a regular hatchback but a couple below hot-hatches, the Hyundai Accent SR aims to blend sporty styling cues and locally tuned sportier suspension with a tempting price tag.
Available for $18,990 with the six-speed manual tested here, or $20,990 for an optional six-speed automatic, the newly released Accent SR undercuts the also-new Holden Barina RS and forthcoming Ford Fiesta Sport by $2000 and $1500 respectively.
It misses both those sporty rivals’ small turbocharged engines, instead offering a non-turbo 1.6-litre four-cylinder.
Although it is the same size engine used in the regular Accent Active and Elite models, in the SR application it adds direct injection, raising power by 13kW to 103kW at 6300rpm, and torque by 11Nm to 167Nm at 4850rpm.
The engine and outputs of the Hyundai Accent SR are identical to that found in the Kia Rio Si that has been available since 2011, though its rival isn’t marketed as a sporty model.
The Accent SR’s power and torque also lines up closely with its more expensive rivals, the 103kW/200Nm Barina RS and 92kW/170Nm Fiesta Sport.
Standard equipment in the Accent SR includes 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, USB input and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, cruise control, trip computer and keyless entry.
Those features all match the identically priced Rio Si, but the Accent SR also adds a five-inch touchscreen display and automatic headlights and wipers over its Kia rival.
The Hyundai does, however, miss the rear parking sensors and integrated app connectivity of the Holden – including being able to stream via mobile phone internet and use apps such as Pandora – although the Ford and Kia get neither of these features standard.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that while the Hyundai Accent SR gets the peace of mind of six airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, and easy-to-use connectivity functions featured in almost every other key rival, it uniquely adds the ability to record from your phone’s music to the car’s small hard drive on the run.
The interior is otherwise a simple and clean affair, but the hard dimpled plastics and addition of bright silver inserts make the Hyundai look and feel cheaper than its immediate rivals.
Among the larger hatchbacks in the class, the Accent SR offers generous rear-seat headroom and legroom, Isofix child seat anchor points, and a 370-litre boot that eclipses many larger cars. That a full-size spare wheel resides below the floor is all the more impressive. A detachable net to secure luggage is also standard, and a 60:40 split fold rear backrest enables even more storage space, confirming the Accent SR as a light hatchback option for those who value interior space more than interior style.
The Hyundai is also a light hatchback for those who value after-sales care. The five-year, unlimited kilometere warranty is matched only by the Kia, eclipsing the three year/100,000km cover of the Holden and Ford. There’s cheap servicing, too, thanks to the first three check ups all capped at just $189 to three years or 45,000km.
The Accent SR isn’t, however, a car for those who genuinely enjoy driving, and it too misses the mark somewhat for those commuters who just want to ride comfortably around town.
Hyundai Australia engineers have retuned the standard Accent’s suspension to create what it calls a ‘sports suspension’ set up.
The aims to enhance turn-in to a corner and improve how the car responds to big bumps – or body control – are well founded. The steering is neither sharp or tactile, but it is decently progressive and consistent. The Accent SR tips keenly in corners, thanks to the surprisingly grippy Kumho Solus tyres, and it is reasonably adjustable and can be entertaining.
The stability control is aggressive, and it can be switched off, but in a sporty light hatchback it probably shouldn’t need to be to have some fun on a twisty road.
While the Accent SR feels solid on a typical backroad, and is never thrown off line by big irregularities, it can also feel a touch too abrupt in its rebound control. It’s a trait that is also felt on poorly maintained urban arterials, to the extent that the flat front seats started to become more noticeable than they otherwise would be.
Around town ride quality is absorbent at low speeds and composed over big speed humps, but fidgety and overly firm at speed. The Accent SR doesn’t come close to matching the spirit, comfort and dynamics of a Fiesta, and even the non-sporty Rio delivers a marginally more convincing ride and handling balance.
The Hyundai weighs 1065kg, or 102kg less than its Kia rival that uses the same engine, but the Accent SR feels no quicker. The engine is tractable from low engine revs but offers no meaningful punch until the tacho is in its top half, and the 1.6-litre is loud and grainy in this application. Rowing the six-speed manual is no great chore, though, as the gate is decently slick.
Off the line at traffic lights, for example, touchy throttle response makes the Accent SR feel perky, the emphasis here being on peaky power rather than smoothing torque and fine refinement.
Those searching for finessed sporting abilites, cruising comfort or high levels of interior class and refinement should look to the class-benchmark Fiesta, or even the Renault Clio or Volkswagen Polo.
Buyers looking for simple virtues such as sporty looks, strong straight line performance, a roomy cabin, and strong after-sales package will, however, find plenty to like about the Hyundai Accent SR.