When the Hyundai Accent first appeared on the scene back in 1994, it was known more so for its rock bottom price point versus being an exceptionally good long term value. While it undercut many econoboxes at the time, owners paid a price for this by having to deal with middling engines that delivered ho hum performance, and a plastic fantastic interior that would make a Chevrolet Cavalier blush with envy. But with budget focused CUVs representing a very real threat to the Accent’s existence, Hyundai had to completely revamp the Accent to not only be a mere darling to those with tight budgets, but also an offering that could bring higher degrees of value, technology, and style to buyers. Hyundai thinks it has managed to do so with the 2019 Hyundai Accent, but can the revamped four door still be a formidable presence in a declining segment? We were eager to find out.
New And Improved Styling Spices Up The Breed:
When you first take a look at the 2019 Hyundai Accent, one of the things you will undoubtedly notice first is just how much the styling has improved when compared to older Accent models. The current generation offering first made its appearance back in 2018, and Hyundai designers were determined to inject more personality and flavor into the Accent. The front fascia for example features an all new cascading front grille design that is supposedly inspired by liquid metal pouring out of vast vats at Hyundai’s plant in South Korea. Slick looking headlights compliment it nicely, and the side profile leads out to a tweaked rear end that has a few whiffs of Elantra in its design. The core elements of the styling isn’t new, with the Accent embodying the latest iteration of Hyundai’s Fluidic Design language which works quite well despite the rather small footprint wielded by the Accent.
When viewed alongside some of its competition, the Accent has a very clean presentation, with our tester’s red paint further enhancing this effect. Of course, nothing is perfect, and in the case of the Accent the sedan’s radical transformation coincides with the hatchback’s departure. The hatchback looked more sporting, but with the Elantra GT on the scene and the variant itself being on the lower end of Accent sales, it was only natural for Hyundai to axe it and focus its investment on the sedan. With the Nissan Versa and the Honda Fit being the only two key rivals left for the Accent to fight off, the compact Hyundai is in a rather unique spot on the totem pole especially with the Fiesta exiting the U.S. market. Limited models like our tester add more chrome accents and trim exclusive wheels to help them stand out better when viewed by customers.
A Comfortable Interior Adds More Value and Technology:
The 2019 Hyundai Accent is also out to prove that its interior can match some of the flair that defines the exterior. Hyundai designers left no stone untouched when it came to improving things, and while hard plastics still define the dash and door panel design, the seats are more comfortable than ever before, and offer good amounts of support on longer journeys. Material quality here is very good, with strategically placed pieces of soft padded trim helping provide occupants with comfortable touch points. The rear seats are equally spacious, though look for them to appeal more to small children than adults, A 13.7 cubic foot trunk can swallow a whole days worth of groceries, and can be expanded upon when the 60/40 split bench seats are folded down. The cabin does a good job silencing wind noise, but the Accent is far from being a Genesis model, with ample amounts of road and tire noise penetrating the cabin.
The technology that our tester wielded also allows it to be a potent offering in the compact vehicle segment. For instance, a 7.0 inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard on SEL and Limited grade models, and it even comes bundled with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. No built in navigation is available, but Hyundai’s integration of both systems is one of the best with the voice command system not requiring specific phrases to access certain menus. This was proven with the Android Auto portion of the system which performed smoothly with the Samsung S10 phone that we had hooked up to our tester. Google Maps is displayed nicely here, and Waze is even available as an alternate map option. A 5.0 inch screen is standard issue, but we highly recommend moving up to either the SEL or the Limited to not only take full advantage of the bigger screen, but to also have access to premium features such as a sunroof and automatic climate control.
Value Minded Performance For Everyone:
All Accent models get their gusto from a revised 1.6 liter four cylinder that is good for 120 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can choose from either a standard six speed manual gearbox or an optional six speed automatic. Our Limited grade tester arrived with the six speed automatic, and it did a good job delivering smooth shifts when we took it out and about during our trips into town. Power is down when compared to the last gen Accent, but this is due to Hyundai engineers tuning the car for more low end responsiveness, as well as better fuel economy.
When driving our tester out on the road, it revealed that sub-compact cars are no longer depressing penalty boxes with our tester having a very eager and playful character. It won’t outshine a formal N model, but we really appreciated the good amount of low end torque and mid-range response that the Accent had to offer. Sport mode helps enhance things further with improved throttle response and the transmission;s ability to hold gears longer, but don’t use the manual shift gate which offers sluggish responses and lazy activation of gears (while also serving as a subtle reminder of the Accent;s limitations as the ultimate driving machine.)
Handling in the Accent is also very commendable, again it will not best a formal sport sedan in this regard, but when we threw it at some of the twistier sections of tarmac in town, the Accent handled things with minimal fuss and complaint from its economy focused tires. A well tuned chassis helps mitigate body roll, and is paired with an all new Torque Vectoring Control system which applies the brakes on the inside wheel slightly to reduce understeer. The steering is reasonably weighted, but we prefer to have a bit more feedback at the tiller. Ride comfort on the other hand has been improved, thanks to engineers adding revised rear shock absorbers to the suspension. While we liked the smoother ride on smooth tarmac, the Accent still uses a rear torsion beam type suspension. This causes the rear end to have a tendency to get unsettled and bounce around on rougher sections of road.
Pricing for the 2020 Hyundai Accent retains the value focused price ladder that has become a strength for many members of the Hyundai model lineup. While minimal changes exist between our 2019 tester and 2020 models out in the market, buyers will still be pleased with the pricing scheme that is on hand here. Base models start at $14,295 and offer built in Bluetooth capability, a Rear View Monitor System, and the base 5.0 inch infotainment system. Step up to the mid-level $17,650 SEL model and you will be rewarded with a bigger pool of standard content including dual USB charging ports, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Last but not least is the range topping $19,400 Limited model which brings Forward Collision Alert, Proximity Key with bundled remote start, 17-inch alloy wheels and more. When viewed in the broader market, the Hyundai is right in the cross hairs of the Nissan Versa, which has a slightly higher $14,730 base sticker and expressive exterior styling of its own. However, its interior design and quality fall short of the Accent, while it lacks the same level of standard equipment and technology. Meanwhile, the Honda Fit is an aging design that not only has a higher starting price of $16,190, but is also not even available in sedan form, with only the hatchback model lingering around for 2020. The Fit’s 1.5 liter four cylinder does have performance numbers that are similar to the Accent’s, but buyers looking to not shift the gears themselves will have to make do with a CVT versus a traditional automatic offering.
Overall, the 2020 Hyundai Accent is still a very solid entry in the sub-compact segment, While it will be interesting to see how sales are affected by CUVS like its corporate sibling the Hyundai Kona, we think the Accent will have the tools to still stand out. We will miss the hatchback dearly, but at the same time the transformation that the sedan has undergone is very impressive, and we hope that alone will be enough to woo over value focused buyers especially those that want style, fuel economy, and technology.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.