The skinny: Behold the new saviour for bargain hunters shopping in the light hatchback class – the Hyundai Accent.
In an attempt to fill both the pricing and sales void left by the cheaper, more popular, but now retiring i20 (see below), Hyundai has made the larger Accent its 'light hatch' main player.
The result is a new 1.4-litre Accent. The base model Accent Active is priced from just $14,990 plus on-road costs, though at the time of writing (October 2015) it’s on-sale for $15,990 driveaway… with a free automatic transmission.
The 1.6-litre Accent SR tested here is now priced from $16,990 plus on-road costs, a $2000 price-haircut compared to the asking last year, and with no equipment pulled.
Vehicle Style: Light hatch
Price: $16,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 103kW/167Nm 1.6 4cyl petrol | six-speed manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.1 l/100km | tested: 7.8 l/100km
However, the next-generation i20 must be sourced from Turkey rather than India, and exchange rates have forced the hand of Hyundai in ditching the i20 and instead putting its efforts into the Accent, which is still made in South Korea.
So the Accent needs to fill a sales void and the winner is you. The repositioned Accent SR is now among the roomiest light hatchback contenders, and, for the price, offers the strongest performance and the most equipment.
This allows us to review the revised Accent in a completely different light.
- Standard equipment: power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, multi-function trip computer, air conditioning, cloth seat trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, luggage net, variable intermittent wipers, auto-on/off headlights
- Infotainment: 5.0-inch colour touchscreen with USB/AUX, media recording function, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, AM/FM radio, CD player, 6 speakers
- Cargo volume: 370 litres
Few middle-grade light hatch competitors offer both 16-inch alloy wheels and foglights. And if they do, they charge much more than $17K asking for the Accent SR. The $17,490 Mazda2 Maxx, for example, only gets 15-inch alloys and lacks fogs.
The Accent SR also comes with a fat feature list (with cruise control, Bluetooth and audio streaming, etc.), but does, however, miss the reverse-view camera, reversing sensors and brilliant 7.0-inch screen of its Japanese rival.
They match each other elsewhere, though (see equipment list above).
This fourth-generation Accent is also now four years old, so it can’t match the sassy fashion of the year-old Mazda2 and it lacks the quality of the similar-vintage Volkswagen Polo.
Some of the low-grade switchgear and plastic finishes however are acceptable given the revised pricing and included features. Likewise with the simple-to-operate, but dowdy colour screen.
Space is the Hyundai’s trump card. At 4.12-metres long the Accent stretches 55mm further than a Mazda2, but that advantage is felt to an even greater extent inside.
The front seats are broad and comfortable, the rears especially so for the class, with a tilted bench and fine legroom. Each door gets bottle holders, silver accents (ahem) and cloth trim covers.
It actually eclipses both those segment-above hatches and beats the Mazda2 by 120L; all the more impressive when you consider a full-size alloy wheel resides underfloor.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 103kW/167Nm 1.6 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering type: Electrically assisted mechanical steering, turning circle: 10.4m
Considering the size of the revisions to the pricing – yes, a theme is emerging here – the Accent SR is fast for its class.
The standard 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine uses sophisticated (for the segment) direct-injection to achieve outputs of 103kW and 167Nm, produced respectively at a high 6300rpm and 4850rpm.
The engine is as sweet and flexible to rev as the six-speed manual is delightfully tactile, making this is a very happy combination.
Despite the peaky delivery, this Hyundai is also surprisingly tractable at lower revs – thank the light 1067kg kerb weight.
On-test fuel consumption of 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres is a bit higher than we’d expect from some of its competitors, though.
Where this newly price-chopped model most shows its age is with its steering and suspension. The steering is direct when the road gets bendy, but is vague in the first movements. Worse, when parking and twirling the wheel quickly, the electric motor can’t keep up feeding in assistance, making its weighting turn horribly heavy.
The Accent SR comes with a locally developed, sports-tuned suspension that deals with rough country roads with greater sophistication than urban arterials.
Around town this Hyundai can get too jittery and bumpy over seemingly minor imperfections. Although it’s composed in the rough, an overly intrusive stability control system fails to allow a driver to enjoy tighter roads in the same way newer Hyundai models do.
The Mazda2 and Polo are certainly more finessed and fun to drive.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.66 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and full-length curtain, ABS and ESC.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Fiesta is ageing, but a cracking semi-hot-hatch in $20K Sport guise. The Mazda2 equals Accent for value, swapping space for driving fun and fashionable style if those are your priorities. The Polo is the class act of the class, meanwhile, feeling genuinely premium and superbly refined for the price.
- Ford Fiesta Trend/Sport
- Mazda 2 Maxx/Genki
- Volkswagen Polo 66TSI/81TSI
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Hyundai has done exactly the right thing with an ageing product. It has made the Accent SR more competitive by repositioning it as a semi-sporty middle-grade offering, but for base model prices.
It works a treat for such a roomy and well-equipped cabin, and the sweet, strong drivetrain. That treat becomes sweeter when you consider the cheap servicing ($239 for the first three annual or 15,000km check ups) and a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
It may not be as fun to drive nor as stylish to sit in as its best competitors, but that price is hard to ignore. Factor in the value, and, as a pragmatic ownership proposition, the Hyundai Accent SR shifts towards the top of the class.
MORE: Hyundai News and Reviews
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