If you’re not familiar with the tale of the Ugly Duckling, the short version is that it’s a tale by a Danish poet about personal transformation for the better. In the 90’s, the popular term was, according to Maury Povich, “from geek to chic”. Now the “ugly” reference is a bit harsh as it relates to the Hyundai Accent’s younger years. Let’s just say it was a work in progress.
The good thing is that in the last 10 years or so, the design team at Hyundai must’ve read the Ugly Duckling and realized that it was time to turn the average looking Accent’s of years past into something beautiful in the sub compact hatch segment. As Hyundai’s entry level car, it’s got great looks, solid styling and is quite handsome indeed.
Powering all Accent trim levels is a 1.6L, 4 cylinder GDI engine producing 138 horsepower, which also happens to be best in class. With such a small car, there’s ample power to safely get you on the highway and to pass others on the highway when the situation calls for it. Combined fuel economy between city and highway operation is a respectable 7.7 L/100km and it’ll take 43 litres of 87 octane fuel to fill the tank.
The cabin is small and cozy with easy to find and operate controls. The dashboard is flanked by two large gauges (RPM and speedometer) with fuel consumption, gear choice, temperature, etc info in between.
Seating is comfortable for this class of car and I found a comfortable seating position quickly. As this is a Canadian model, heated seats are indeed available, as is Bluetooth.
Smartly laid out steering wheel controls ensure that your hands are on the wheel as much as possible.
Rear seats are good for a couple of kids or one adult comfortably. Yes, you can put a couple of grown-ups back there but this compact hatch is focussed on the front two folks primarily.
On the road, the Accent does well by keeping road noise to a minimum so you can enjoy whatever flows out of the available six speaker, 172 watt sound system. The handling and steering are good and even though you’re in Hyundai’s smallest offering, you get the larger car feel. I found some pictures of early Accent’s and boy oh boy, they were miniscule compared to today’s offerings.
The one thing I would’ve liked to try is the six-speed manual transmission to see how it compares against the automatic transmission my tester had. The sport shifting mode was good but my heart will always lead me to a true manual gearbox. I find that with smaller cars, having a manual transmission boosts the fun factor for driving. But hey, that’s just me. There’s plenty of folks out there who want the ease of an automatic transmission.
I’ve seen young folks, middle aged folks and older ones behind the wheel of Accent’s so that tells me that there’s a wide appeal for this car. And with Canadians leaning further towards smaller cars, Hyundai has a strong asset in their corner. With all the work that’s been done to the Accent, there’s definitely a significant difference between it and the next level up, the Elantra. Usually, there’s a minimalistic disparity between the entry level offering and the next one up, but not in this case. It’s also a great way to attract younger buyers to help build brand loyalty by offering an entry level car that’s full of value.
If I was in the market for an entry level hatch that has a high fun factor, well dressed, well designed and practical, the Accent would be in my top three list.
Hyundai has come a long way in the past decade with bolder styling, improved build quality and focus on making the driver happy, from the right foot all the way up to the fingertips.
And if you ever need a drive to the Maury Povich show, take the new Accent and show them what a difference a few years can really make.