2011 HYUNDAI ACCENT REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door light sedan
Price: $22,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.4 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.8 l/100km
The light car segment is getting more crowded with each passing month. Buyers are now spoilt for choice thanks to the sheer number of well-equipped offerings currently on the market.
But they're not all the same, either in size, quality or performance. In fact, because it's bigger than most in the segment (and perhaps the THE biggest), it could be argued that the The Hyundai Accent shouldn’t technically be in the light car segment.
Small car liveability at a light car price? The Accent Premium delivers on that premise.
Quality: Faux-leather seats, upholstered door trims and some glitzier trimmings give the Accent Premium an interior that feels more, well, premium than the Active and Elite.
However with plenty of hard plastics and a thin headliner, it’s also obvious that the Accent is built to a price.
Comfort: The Premium’s leatherette-upholstered front seats are comfortable and give good upper-body support, while the wide cabin makes it feel a great deal more spacious than other light cars on the market.
Counting against it though, is a tilt-only steering column.
The rear bench seat also features good cushioning and a relaxed, not-too-upright backrest, but footroom is a little cramped due to the low-mounted front seat squabs.
Equipment: It’s the range-topper, so there’s a good array of standard features on the Accent Premium.
Things like cruise control, climate-control, keyless entry, push-button ignition, a USB audio jack, iPod integration and Bluetooth telephony make life inside the Accent’s cabin a little special.
Meanwhile, standard-issue driving-aids include a reversing camera integrated into the rear vision mirror, rear parking-sensors, front foglamps and a trip computer.
Storage: The Accent has an enormous amount of luggage space for a light car, with 465 litres of room in the boot plus the flexibility of 60/40 split rear seats.
The high lip and low boot floor can make it a chore to lift something bulky into and out of the boot though.
In-cabin storage is pretty good up front. In the back though, there are no door bins nor cupholders, and only a single seatback pocket to store your odds and ends in.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Accent’s 1.6 litre petrol four is reasonably punchy, pumping out 91kW and 156Nm of torque.
But off-the-line performance is brisk. There's a zesty feel underfoot that is handy for highway on-ramps and for ducking in and out of traffic.
It can be challenged by steep hills though, and the four-speed auto gearbox (the only trans option in the sedan) would benefit from an extra gear or two.
Refinement: Most light cars tend to be noisy inside, but the Accent is relatively quiet during normal suburban driving.
Tyre noise becomes apparent over 80km/h though, and the engine sounds loud and thrashy when worked hard.
Suspension: It handles pretty well, particularly on the Premium’s 16-inch alloys. But while the locally-developed suspension tune might please keen drivers, it’s a bit too firm for dealing with poor-quality urban pavement.
The ride is jittery over corrugations, and the damping is too sharp-edged to deliver good passenger comfort.
Another dynamic shortcoming is the electric power steering. It’s over-assisted and lifeless, and an inconsistent feel around dead-centre becomes very noticeable at highway speeds.
There are plenty of electric power steering systems that give good feedback and feel, but unfortunately the Accent’s is not one of them.
Braking: The Accent’s all-disc braking hardware gives it an advantage over other light cars, which commonly make do with a combination of disc and drum brakes.
Pedal response is good, and thanks to the Accent’s light weight it comes quickly and effortlessly to a halt from highway speeds.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Front, front side and full-length curtain airbags are standard. Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) is also standard, and integrates the functions of traction control, stability control, ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Costs vary from dealer to dealer. Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Fiesta LX sedan ($20,990) - The absence of a Zetec model in the Fiesta sedan range means Ford has no direct spec-for-spec match for the Accent Premium sedan.
However the Fiesta LX does have one significant ace up its sleeve - a highly polished drivetrain in the form of an 89kW 1.6 litre petrol engine and a six-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. (See Fiesta reviews)
Honda City VTi-L automatic ($23,490) - Honda's City is a better-driving product than the Accent, but its 88kW 1.5 litre feels a bit breathless when asked to work hard.
In VTi-L automatic trim it's also rather expensive - and offers less equipment than the Hyundai - but with a boot measuring 506 litres in capacity the City's got the biggest rump in its class. (See City reviews)
Kia Rio SLi ($21,990) - The Rio is a more pleasing drive than the Hyundai thanks to its 103kW direct-injected 1.6 litre engine, six speed automatic and better-damped suspension.
It’s not as spacious inside, but we reckon the Rio is a much more well-rounded offering than the Hyundai - not to mention slightly cheaper. (see Rio reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Hyundai's Accent Premium is a fine car in its own right, but is bettered by other highly-polished entrants to the light car segment - particularly its Kia cousin, the classy Rio.
Where it wins out though, is in the amount of space it offers. It’s priced like a premium light car, but it has interior space that betters some from the small car segment.
Its on-road manners could use some finessing though, and a more sophisticated automatic gearbox would also help its cause.