Test Drive: Hyundai Accent has a formula that works

The 2016 Hyundai Accent SE.

The 2016 Hyundai Accent SE.

American drivers who haven’t followed Hyundai’s trajectory in the U.S. market may associate the brand with the forgettable 1986 Excel, and may be unaware the Korean automaker now builds sport-utility vehicles, midsize and full-sized cars, and even luxury sedans. And it sells a lot of them in the United States – 61,201 in November alone. But the Excel’s long-running descendant, the Accent, remains the automaker’s baseline subcompact sedan and is selling well this year at 75,607 through November, compared with 58,768 through the same period of 2015.

What’s the attraction? It’s a simple formula: low price, loads of desirable standard features, high functionality, peppy performance and low cost to own over the long haul.

Unlike many of the cars we test drive, our 2016 Accent SE was a no-nonsense package. But in this and other Hyundai models, “no optional equipment” does not mean “stripped.” The 2017 Accent, with 6-speed stick shift, has a base price of $14,745, plus delivery charge. Our test car was identical to the base model except that it came with a 6-speed automatic transmission. But all Accents are equipped with remote keyless entry, air conditioning, power windows and locks, heated exterior mirrors, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, auxiliary audio input and USB with external media control, 172-watt audio system with six speakers, and satellite radio capability, among other features. Opting for the Value Edition adds rear disc brakes, 16-inch wheels, sliding center armrest with storage compartment, Bluetooth hands-free phone, and steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls.

auto-hyundai-accent-int-12-29Notable for their absence in our test car were cruise control and rear camera. The latter is unavailable on any Accent model. And drivers who demand high levels of infotainment will find themselves moving up to the compact Elantra, which can be equipped with the optional Hyundai Blue Link system.

The cabin seemed roomy for a subcompact, and the trunk holds 13.1 cubic feet of luggage. The 60-40 rear seat folds down to expand cargo room. Using a length of twine, we were able to secure a medium-sized wingback chair in the trunk and transport it several miles without incident. (People who transport large items regularly would be served better by the hatchback version of the Accent SE, which costs $250 more.)

The Accent’s 4-cylinder, 137-horsepower engine moves the ton-and-three-quarters car briskly and responds well at all speeds and in all circumstances. Handling, however, is somewhat awkward; the car seems to lunge into corners rather than shrugging them off. The ride is comfortable and noise levels reasonably low; we could discern some road and wind noise, but barely heard the engine and drivetrain.

Our Accent’s fuel economy ranged from 34 to 39 mpg, on regular gasoline.

The 2016 and 2017 Accents fared poorly in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small-overlap crash test and earned a score of “Marginal” in side-impact crashes, but received the top “Good” rating in other crash-test categories.

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

2016 Hyundai Accent SE

Price: $16,580

Engine: 1.6-liter inline Four, 137 horsepower, 123 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Weight: 3,549 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion axle rear

Wheels: 14×5-in. steel

Tires: P175/70R T all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 13.7 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 11.4 gallons

Fuel economy: 27 mpg city, 37 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline


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