LAS VEGAS, Nevada—On the topic of basic, no-frills transportation, it seems the grass is always greener. At least in the U.S., entry-level new cars have never been more reliable, comfortable, quiet, and better equipped. It’s a Catch-22—the more you dress inexpensive cars with tinsel and trim, the more expensive they become, pricing themselves out of the market they’re trying to capture. Hyundai just updated its least-pricey offering, the Accent, and I explored what it means to be one of the cheapest cars of late 2017 in southern Nevada.
It’s not just technology creep this segment has to manage. Thanks to crash regulations and increased competitiveness regarding comfort and interior space, subcompacts are growing in size. Compared to the older car, the new Accent is bigger in nearly every aspect. It’s 0.6 inch longer, 1.2 inch wider, and rides on a wheelbase that’s extended by an additional 0.4 inch. It’s also heavier, but thankfully not by much. When equipped with the manual transmission, the 2018 Accent only packs on 22 additional pounds.
Even with the inevitable growth spurt, the Accent remains a handsome little car. It leans heavily on corporate Hyundai styling, but the Korean manufacturer’s current batch of sedans bear clean, if not inoffensive shapes. Creating a well-proportioned subcompact sedan with usable interior space is no easy feat, so it’s nice to see the Accent escape the ungainliness suffered by the Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa, and Chevrolet Sonic. Gone is the five-door hatch for 2018–the sedan is the only body configuration available. Hyundai cites lackluster hatch sales as the cause of death, admitting only a quarter of previous-gen Accent sales were hatches.
Regardless of trim level, power still comes from the same naturally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder, routing power to the front wheels through either the standard six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic transmission. Surprisingly, power drops by 7 hp and 4 lb-ft of torque to a total of 130 hp and 119 lb-ft, but Hyundai worked to improve the power delivery and low-end torque. Fuel economy is up by 6.6 percent over the outgoing car, returning an estimated 32 MPG combined.
Out on the wide-open freeways outside Las Vegas, the Accent was much quieter and isolated than expected. Tire noise was reasonable, as was engine refinement and wind intrusion. It isn’t quick, but it’s absolutely adequate for 80 mph cruises.
It handles and rides better than the previous car, too. Hyundai modified the rear suspension, repositioning the rear shock absorbers on the rear torsion bar that allows for a smoother ride and more predictability if you somehow make a wrong turn and end up on a canyon road. Settle for the base Accent SE, and braking power is distributed between front discs and rear drums. In the mid-tier SEL and range-topping Accent Limited, disc brakes are standard at all four corners.
Inside, it’s budget done correctly. Plastic surfaces abound, but the cabin is free of any creaks, rattles, and, for the most part, flimsiness. It doesn’t completely pull the wool over your eyes with false pretenses, but it’s not a scratchy and tinny budget special.
Aside from standard cruise control, power windows, and Bluetooth connectivity, the base SE comes outfitted with a five-inch color touchscreen infotainment system and a backup camera. Hop up to the SEL, and buyers receive USB charging ports, center armrest and storage console, heated mirrors, upgraded 7-inch touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and automatic headlights. Be truly bourgeois and splurge on the Accent Limited, and Hyundai fits the sedan with a power sunroof, projection headlights, heated front seats, keyless entry, auto-open trunk, automatic climate control, and forward collision avoidance.
Strangely, Hyundai has yet to release official pricing. However, looking over the pricetag hanging from the platform-sharing 2018 Kia Rio and the outgoing Accent, prices will likely begin right around the $13,000 mark for the SE. Expect the mid-level SEL to sticker for around $15,500, and the Limited to come in near $17,500. If this runs true, the Accent will land near the middle of the segment, but leads with standard features like the touchscreen infotainment, power windows, and backup camera.
Cars aren’t getting cheaper, smaller, or simpler, but it’s nice to know there are still pockets of vehicular austerity left. For those hunting for bargain-basement transportation in a world bursting with oversized SUVs and an average new vehicle transaction price of $35,000, the 2018 Hyundai Accent is a good way to fill the basic needs.
2018 Hyundai Accent Specifications
|ON SALE||Late 2017|
|PRICE||$13,000 (base, est)|
|ENGINE||1.6L DOHC 16-valve I-4/130 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 199 lb-ft @ 4,850 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan|
|L x W x H||172.6 x 68.1 x 57.1 in|