2013 Hyundai Accent Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 10, 2013

The 2013 Hyundai Accent is one of the best-equipped small cars, and it gets very good gas mileage, but it's not quite as exciting to drive as it looks.

Following a redesign in 2012, the 2013 Hyundai Accent is larger than before, equipped better than ever, and that slightly different take on small cars sets it apart from the moddish newbies like the Fiat 500 and Ford Fiesta. Size and features can be just as important as gas mileage, and that's the theory at work in the new Accent. It's more about fiscal responsibility and practicality, and in that way, it has a lot in common with the Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, and its mechanically related cousin, the Kia Rio.

Versus most of its competition--including the Fiesta, the Fit, the Versa, the Chevy Sonic and the Toyota Yaris--the Accent has a styling advantage, provided we're talking about the five-door hatchback. While the four-door is fine--perhaps a little homely--the five-door nails it, mixing the usual hatchback profile with the cues and details that have become Hyundai's first real design statement. Cabin design is even better, with nice low-gloss plastics and streamlined controls that altogether give the Accent more presence than you'd expect for the price.

Acceleration, ride, and handling for the 2013 Accent are all on par for this type of car. But thanks to a fuel-stingy direct-injection engine, it reaches a lofty goal of 38 mpg highway for all models, whether you choose the light-touch clutch version or the clean-shifting, Sport-moded automatic.

In terms of actual passenger space, the Accent's interior is vast for a subcompact. The Honda Fit has more space, and much more versatility, but even tall passengers will be able to find enough head and legroom in the front seats. Hatchbacks have about 8 cubic feet of storage space, but both Accents have big gloveboxes and bins and trays smartphones, energy drinks, and toll change. All the airbags and electronic assists are present in the Accent, though no official safety scores are in.

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The Accent earns respect with standard stability control (mandatory in all cars for 2012) and curtain airbags. We consider Bluetooth a safety feature, and it's available or standard on two of three Accent trim levels--and it's recommended. The Accent doesn't offer a rearview camera, however. The IIHS gives it good scores for front and rear impact protection, but only an acceptable grade for side impacts--and the NHTSA grades it at four stars overall, noting that the rear door met a four-star standard, but intruded more than usual.

It's also leaving leather upholstery and navigation systems to the competition, but the base Accent GLS sedan does come with that safety equipment as well as tilt steering--but no air conditioning, and no audio system. Those are available in packages, along with a USB port, satellite radio and power features. The base Accent GS hatchback has more features than the price-leading sedan, and the SE bundles most of the features in as standard equipment, while still topping out at just under $17,000, not including destination. It's no longer the least-expensive new car you can buy--the Hyundai Accent is a much bigger, better story than that.

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2013 Hyundai Accent

Styling

The 2013 Hyundai Accent is sharp and sporty as a hatchback, but stubbier and less svelte as a sedan.

One by one, Hyundai has replaced a generation of bland, somewhat derivative designs with revolutionary ones that are daring and imaginative, with a distinctive, unique design direction.

With some of the brand's swoopy 'fluidic sculpture' design cues and well-sculpted sheetmetal, the Accent is quite handsome. On sedans, the stubby trunk cuts short the curves of the roofline a bit soon, but the trapezoidal frame around the grille and the shoulder lines carved and honed into the Accent's flanks accumulate into an authentic Hyundai design thesis. With the five-door, it gets better, as that shoulder line is drawn all the way out to its tightly pinched hatchback. The upthrusts of the taillamps are particularly strong details, wrapping around the hatchback and summing up the styling like punctuation.

The dynamic sheetmetal has an equal in the Accent's remarkably well-finished interior. A matte-finished dash cap evokes the feel of carbon fiber, with big boomerang lines molded into it. The simpler center stack of controls isn't as shapely as the one in the Elantra, but avoids the slanted, fashion-victim look of the Ford Fiesta, and it leaves plenty of room for tall drivers' knees. Some passages of hard, shiny black plastic live on the low reaches of the doors and the center console, but it's remarkable how finely finished this entry-level car feels.

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2013 Hyundai Accent

Performance

The Accent merely meets econocar standards for acceleration and handling.

The 2013 Accent hits a number of class benchmarks all at once, thanks to an economical direct-injection engine and 38-mpg highway ratings for the entire lineup. But it's hardly the quickest or sportiest performer in its class, and we'd say the driving experience is merely par for a high-mileage small car. 

Going by specs panels, the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine makes a best-in-class 138 horsepower and a respectable 123 pound-feet of torque, but acceleration is about average with zero-to-60 times no faster than about ten seconds. Rev it above 3,500 rpm and you can extract a little more from it, but it does feel taxed with more than two people aboard.

Both six-speed transmissions, manual or automatic, do a fine job in making the most of the engine's power. The stick is a good one, with very light uptake and lever feel, and an "eco" light to nag you when you're winding out the engine too much. The six-speed automatic has an ActiveEco function to complement its sport-shift mode; choose Eco and those upshifts come quickly.

With last year's redesign came a much-needed chassis rethink, and with more nuanced suspension tuning and a new lightweight body structure (about 2,400 pounds) the Accent feels more graceful, if not edgy. The design includes twin-tube shocks and a stabilizer bar for the front struts, while the rear suspension sticks with the classic torsion-beam setup. Ride quality, as with any short-wheelbase vehicle, can be jarring over potholes and bouncy on frost-heaved highways, but there's surely a more fluid ride quality here than before.

We like the somewhat meatier feel of the electric power steering in SE versions, though throughout the lineup the steering tuning feels like it's trying to emulate the strong-centered feel of a large sedan; it's fine, but it also doesn't make the Accent feel as lively as it could be.

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2013 Hyundai Accent

Comfort & Quality

Six-footers--perhaps even four of them--will fit comfortably inside the 2013 Hyundai Accent's surprisingly vast interior.

The 2013 Hyundai Accent is a subcompact on the outside, but inside it measures up as a compact in nearly every way--although the hatchback-only Honda Fit still has it beat for versatility and cargo capability.

At about 162 inches long as a five-door and 172 inches long as a four-door--several inches longer than the previous model, with most of it going to the cabin--the Accent is significantly roomier than it had been before, with more passenger space than most other cars in this class.

The Accent's front seats have plenty of leg room for adults, and even though the Accent doesn't have the Elantra's hourglass-shaped center stack there's still plenty of space for taller drivers to splay knees out. Seats are adjustable for height on all models, and even with in one of the higher positions most should still have enough headroom.

Unlike in most new cars, the steering wheel doesn't adjust telescopically, but it does tilt. Seating comfort itself isn't great, as the cushions are thin and flat, but SE models get a little more lateral support and bolstering.

Low cushions in the back seat allow knees to go upward and avoid much contact with the front seats, although it won't be a comfortable position for adults to be in for hours on end. Headroom might be a little tight back there for some of the tallest passengers (hatchbacks get a tad more). Otherwise, getting in is easier than in some other small cars, as the doors have been cut widely.

Whether you get the sedan and hatchback, the split rear seatbacks fold forward easily, and the Accent has standard split-folding back seats--not a given in the class--and that helps make the most of the available space. We'd opt for the hatchback, as you get more cargo flexibility.

There are plenty of storage spaces for smaller items in the Accent as well. The glovebox is huge; there are door pockets and a large tray ahead of the transmission lever; and in SE versions the center console on has a sliding lid and enough covered storage for a small purse.

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2013 Hyundai Accent

Safety

An 'acceptable' IIHS side-impact score is a sore point against an otherwise strong set of credentials.

Crash-test scores weren't a strong point for the outgoing Accent, and with the new-generation models that were introduced last year we expected a big improvement. But the new Accent has so far been a bit of a disappointment. And especially in the small-car class, where you should pay even more attention to safety ratings--as some aren't adjusted for the greater size and weight of most vehicles on U.S. roads, shoppers should carefully consider these ratings. 

Six airbags in all are standard on the 2013 Hyundai Accent, including side and side-curtain bags; so are anti-lock brakes and stability control. Active headrests are also included.

The federal government awarded the Accent a four-star overall score, but it pointed to intrusion at the left rear door in the side impact test, which struck the rear passenger dummy--indicating "a higher likelihood of thoracic injury," said the agency. The IIHS gives the Accent mostly "good" scores, but calls its side-impact protection only "acceptable."

Outward visibility can be challenging in the Accent hatchback--more so than in the sedan. That's mostly due to the positioning of the big D-pillars and the rear seat headrests. While the Accent does have large side mirrors, which helps, it doesn't offer a rearview camera or blind-spot monitors.

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2013 Hyundai Accent

Features

The Accent now offers a slew of standard features, with many more added for 2013--but misers might grimace at the $2,000 price hike.

Three different trim levels of the 2013 Accent are offered: GLS, GS, and SE. And in a complete turnabout compared to 2011 and before, Sedans are now the budget-priced entry models; they're only offered in the most frugal GLS trim, but hatchback models are only offered in mid-range GS and premium SE versions.

Last year the base GLS went out the door for as little as $13,545, but it was missing a sound system, air conditioning, power windows, and mirrors. This year all of those features are included at the base level, but the price of that entry model has gone up by $2,000 (to $15,320, with destination).

Now standard on the base GLS sedan--the model with a manual transmission--are an audio system with satellite radio, a CD player, and a USB port; heated side mirrors; air conditioning; and remote keyless entry. Add the Premium package, and you get steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth, cruise control, fog lights, rear disc brakes, and 16-inch wheels.

In the five-door Accent, the base version is a $15,570 GS. That model does have many of the same features as the GLS--including a rear defroster and the same 172-watt sound system with iPod and USB connectivity and satellite ratio.

The five-door Accent SE is the sportier, top-of-the-line model and gets a sliding armrest, 16-inch wheels, sport-tuned steering, heated side mirrors, fog lamps, and other appearance upgrades. Even after adding an automatic transmission--making the most expensive Accent you can buy--the SE tops out at less than $18k.

Accents do require a special $35 iPod cable to allow full control through the sound system and steering-wheel controls.

Keep in mind that the Accent is well-equipped, but not luxurious. Unlike some subcompact models in this class, you won't find leather upholstery, a navigation system, or a sunroof on the options list--the consequence of a very simplified set of build combinations.

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2013 Hyundai Accent

Fuel Economy

Simply put, the Accent gets great but not best-in-class gas mileage of 37 mpg highway.

The 2013 Hyundai Accent sedan and hatchback can be configured with a manual or an automatic transmission, with a standard or a sporty suspension, and with smaller or larger wheels. No matter which you choose, it earns 38 mpg on the highway.

With either transmission, the Accent stands at 28/37 mpg. Compared to other vehicles in its size and price class, it's competitive--not the best, but still impressive, in the wider view. The best Ford Fiesta manages is rated at 28/37 mpg without options; add on the SFE package and it nudges 40 mpg; the leader in some other respects, the Honda Fit, only manages 33 on the highway.

That leaves a pretty long driving range. Fill up the tank and the Accent could go as far as 400 miles without another stop. Wring it out, or leave in Sport, and you're sure to land at the lower end of that scale however

The manual-transmission Accent has an "eco" shift light to help train you to use less fuel, though, while the automatic has an ActiveEco button that triggers early upshifts to improve gas mileage.

NOTE: The 2012-2013 Hyundai Accent is one of a group of vehicles with restated gas-mileage numbers. Its original figures of 30/40 mpg were found to be overstated by the EPA, and have been lowered to 28/37 mpg. Owners can register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at HyundaiMPGInfo.com.

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October 26, 2015
2013 Hyundai Accent 5-Door HB Automatic GS

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Can't wait to upgrade. Lousy Bluetooth. Car feels like I'm driving a tuna fish can.
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