WHEN IS A LIGHT HATCHBACK NOT A LIGHT HATCHBACK? WHEN IT IS THE NEW 2016 HYUNDAI ACCENT ACTIVE, AS IT TURNS OUT.
Stretching 4.15 metres from tip-to-toe, the Accent sits between segments for size, but it is now priced like sub-four-metre-long light car competitors such as the Mazda2.
The Active is the entry ticket to the Accent range, and indeed the whole Hyundai line-up. It is priced from $14,990 plus on-road costs with a six-speed manual or $16,990 (plus orc) for the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) tested here.
But if you want to drive a bargain, Hyundai has had the pencil out with sharply-priced ‘driveaway no-more-to-pay’ offers since the realigned five-door hatchback and four-door sedan range arrived late 2015.
Vehicle Style: Light hatch
Price: $16,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 74kW/133Nm 1.4 litre 4cyl petrol | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 8.0 l/100km
Previously, the i20 was the cheapest model in the Hyundai range, but it has now disappeared from the Australian market, forcing the Accent to fill the gap.
And fill it, it has. Accent sales in the first quarter of 2016 are running at more than double that of last year, and it is now sitting at second place in the light-car segment, falling only nine units behind the top-selling Mazda2. Culling the price of the Accent Active by $2000 has meant replacing the previous 1.6-litre engine with a smaller 1.4-litre unit, and flicking the four-speed automatic for a CVT.
The question with the five-year-old Accent range is simple: is it now merely cheap or genuinely good value?
- Standard equipment: power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, multi-function trip computer, air-conditioning, cloth seat trim, automatic-off headlights
- Infotainment: 5.0in touchscreen with USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, media storage capability and six speakers
- Options fitted: none
- Cargo volume: 370 litres
Anyone downsizing from a larger car will feel more at home behind the wheel of the Hyundai Accent than any rival in its class.
Sure, the Honda Jazz may be smaller externally yet more intelligently packaged inside, but it can feel a bit tinny. The Mazda2 that duels with the Accent on the sales charts has a demonstrably smaller cabin, although it is certainly funkier.
This Hyundai interior feels “substantial”. The conservative dashboard with freckled grey plastics may not be the most stylish around, but feels a distinct cut above for the segment.
The standard touchscreen may be small, but its high-resolution graphics are impressive and the interface is easy to use.
An identically-priced Mazda2 Neo lacks a touchscreen altogether, although the identically-priced Honda Jazz gets one, and further adds a reverse-view camera lacking here. Rear parking sensors aren’t included either.
There are other impressive touches, though, including the ‘cocktail bar’ blue lighting, including illuminated steering wheel audio controls, and a multi-function trip computer as standard.
While the front seats are ordinarily firm, they are tilted upwards to aid under-thigh support. A lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel is the only real complaint. Further rearward the Accent leverages itself further above competitors.
The seat base is tilted upwards, as with the front seats, and legroom is among the most generous in the segment. Although seatback map pockets are lacking, the Accent is one of few competitors to get cloth trim on the back doors, proper bottle holders in each back door, and a centre roof-light to match the front map-lights. Most rivals place vinyl on door trims and the only light at night is positioned up-front above the rear-view mirror, creating a cave of darkness behind.
Speaking of caves, the 370-litre boot is also massive by class standards, eclipsing the luggage volume of many contenders in the small hatchback class above it, including most notably the Mazda3 and the Toyota Corolla.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 74kW/133Nm 1.4 4cyl petrol
- Transmission: CVT (and FWD)
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front-end and torsion bar rear
- Brakes: ventilated front and solid rear discs
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering, 10.4m turning circle
It may be one of the cheapest new-car segments in Australia, but the light hatchback class is full of contenders that drive superbly, such as the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo to name but three.
With these rivals in mind, the Accent Active falls below average when it comes to steering and ride comfort, if not to the same degree in terms of its outright performance and handling.
The 1.4-litre four-cylinder packs a modest 74kW of power produced at 6000rpm, and 133Nm of torque at 3500rpm.
On road, those numbers are helped by the Accent’s relatively light weight. Despite being very roomy inside, it tips the scales at just 1070kg in automatic guise.
The 1.4 litre under the bonnet doesn't mind being put to work and never really struggles on any incline. The CVT can take due credit for this, because it subtly and seamlessly feeds in revs when needed and drops them to increase refinement when coasting.
While the feeling at the wheel is generally relaxed, keeping the 1.4 litre ‘on the boil’ in mixed driving conditions on test saw fuel consumption of 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres – or 1.4 l/100km above its official combined cycle consumption claim.
Although this base model rides on chubby 70-aspect 14-inch tyres, that you’d expect should aid comfort levels, the ride quality of the Accent Active is fidgety at times, and can occasionally jar.
Oddly for a city car, this Hyundai deals more impressively with country bumps and irregularities than urban lumps and potholes.
The steering becomes quite direct at speed, but can be heavy when parking because the electric motor that feeds in power assistance doesn’t seem to quite keep up when quickly turning the wheel.
So, it’s fair to say the Accent Active is not a handling superstar in the segment.
It is quite composed through corners, but it lacks the fun and verve that separates the average from the great cars in this class.
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
Choose the Honda Jazz for clever packaging, if not dynamic appeal.
The Mazda2 is a brilliant drive, but it is small inside, and the Kia Rio is an appealing buy, but is now getting on a bit.
At the time of writing, Holden is offering the Barina CD with free automatic for $15,990 driveaway – nearly $2000 less than the new Spark, and a tough deal to beat, although the car is average to drive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Hyundai has done a decent job of repositioning the Accent Active as it enters the twilight years of its lifecycle.
It can’t match the company’s newer products (or fresh competitors) in terms of the way it drives, however, for those upgrading from an older vehicle, it offers value buying and is a little larger than most in the segment.
For a bargain price you get one of the roomiest and certainly the most substantial interior fit-outs in the light hatchback class.
Factor in the very competitive ‘driveaway’ pricing, its five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and annual/15,000km servicing (the first three costing $239 each) and this Accent certainly remains worthy of consideration.
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