2014 Hyundai Accent Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 7, 2014

The 2014 Hyundai Accent isn't exciting to drive, but it's one of the most comfortable, well-equipped cars its size--and still a great value.

The Hyundai Accent is a solid choice in the subcompact class--which makes it much improved over past generations of the Korean automaker's smallest cars. It's a more traditional effort than some of the hatchbacks and sedans in the segment, with its big interior space a strong value, and predictable performance. But it's also endowed with a more elegant look and a higher-grade interior, like most of the competition.

The Accent really made its ascent out of the small-car doldrums for 2012, when it was completely redesigned with some of the same 'Fluidic Sculpture' influences as other modern Hyundai models. Additionally, it was equipped better than ever, and given a heft helping of maturity that some models like the Fiat 500 and Ford Fiesta are arguably lacking. The Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, and Chevrolet Sonic are definite mainstream rivals, as is the nearly mechanically identical Kia Rio. 

Versus all those models that reach for the middle of the market, and practical concerns, the Accent has a styling advantage--provided we're talking about the five-door hatchback. While the four-door sedan 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. Inside, the design is simple, even elegant, and the combination of streamlined controls and nice low-gloss plastics gives it a lot of presence for the price.

The Accent accelerates, steers, and handles in an adequate, predictable way, although its performance is no standout. That said, its direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is quite fuel-stingy, and it mates well with either the manual gearbox, which has a light clutch, or the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic that includes a Sport mode and manual control.

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While the Honda Fit might have the Accent beat by the numbers, the Hyundai Accent has a very comfortable, spacious interior for passengers--one of the best in its class, really. Even tall passengers will be able to get in and out easily and have enough headroom and legroom in the front seats. Back-seat space is also respectable for a car this size, and there's plenty of space for smaller items, with bins and trays for smartphones, energy drinks, and toll change. You get a little more cargo space in sedans, with the seatbacks up, although you lose some of the hatch's versatility.

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. For 2013, Hyundai added a bunch of additional standard features (including air conditioning and power accessories), while raising the base price about $2,000. This year the changes are relatively minimal, with an updated-and-improved base audio system, a new one-touch turn signal, sliding sun visors, and a driver's blind-spot mirror. 

For 2014, the SE gets a new B&M racing sport shifter, while five-door SE and four-door Premium models get new projector headlamps with LED accents, a driver's side auto-up window, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
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2014 Hyundai Accent

Styling

As a hatchback, the 2014 Hyundai Accent is sharp and sporty; but the sedan looks less at ease.

The Accent really made its ascent out of the small-car doldrums for 2012, when it was completely redesigned with some of the same 'Fluidic Sculpture' influences as other modern Hyundai models.

Several years after this recast, the 2014 Hyundai Accent remains quite handsome. The sheetmetal's dynamic look find an equal in the 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--which has, admittedly been improved somewhat for 2014.

We don't think the design works as well for sedans, where a stubby trunk cuts the curves short; but the trapezoidal frame around the grille and the shoulder lines running gracefully back add up to Hyundai's consistent current design aesthetic. 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.

Overall, there are few criticisms of the interior, save for the passages of hard, shiny black plastic live on the low reaches of the doors and the center console. But for the price point, it's remarkable how finely finished this entry-level car can feel.
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2014 Hyundai Accent

Performance

There's nothing inadequate about the Accent; yet it's no standout in acceleration or handling.

The Accent accelerates, steers, and handles in an adequate, predictable way, although its performance is no standout.

The 1.6-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine makes a best-in-class 138 horsepower and a respectable 123 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is about average, with zero-to-60 times no faster than about ten seconds.

You'll need to rev the engine above 3,500 in order to extract the most pep out of it, although it's quite fuel-stingy if you can keep those revs as low as possible. It mates well with either the manual gearbox, which has a light clutch, or the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic that includes a Sport mode and manual control.

Although the chassis feels fine with a full load, the powertrain does feel considerably less perky with more than two people aboard--underscoring that the Accent is a small, relatively lightweight small car.

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.

The Accent feels more graceful, if not edgy, when the road turns curvy. 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.

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2014 Hyundai Accent

Comfort & Quality

The 2014 Hyundai Accent has a surprisingly vast interior; you'll even find that six-footers fit in back.

While the Honda Fit might have the Accent beat by the numbers, the Hyundai Accent has a very comfortable, spacious interior for passengers--one of the best in its class.

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.

Back-seat space is also respectable for a car this size (although cushions are a bit low). The glovebox is also huge, and there's plenty of space for smaller items, with bins and trays for smartphones, energy drinks, and toll change.

Unlike in most new cars, the steering wheel doesn't adjust telescopically on most models in the lineup, but it does tilt. We wouldn't rate longer-distance seating comfort very high either, although you get a little more bolstering in sporty SE models that might be of help in all-day drives.

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 while you get a little less space with the seats up you get a lot more cargo flexibility.

Ride quality in the Accent is quite good--and relatively quiet--although higher-speed driving can bring out some boominess inside.

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2014 Hyundai Accent

Safety

The Accent's safety credentials are reasonably good, but the 'acceptable' IIHS side-impact score is a sore point.

The 2014 Hyundai Accent continues a less desirable tradition of this nameplate: of not faring very well with respect to safety and occupant protection.

Relative to other rivals--and the list of better performers keeps growing--the Accent has been a bit of a disappointment. And especially in the small-car class, where you should pay even more attention to safety ratings, the Accent is a mid-pack (or lower) performer. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the Accent gets mostly "good" scores, but side-impact protection is only "acceptable." The Accent achieved just a four-star overall score from the federal government, and in test results the feds 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."

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.

Six airbags in all are standard, including side and side-curtain bags; so are anti-lock brakes and stability control, as well as active headrests.

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2014 Hyundai Accent

Features

The Accent is no longer one of the cheap skates of the market; but it now offers a slew of standard features -- some of which aren't expected in this class.

The 2014 Hyundai Accent remains offered in three different trim levels: GLS, GS, and SE. Sedans are the budget-priced entry models; they're only offered in the most frugal GLS trim, but if you want a hatchback you need to step up to either the mid-range GS or premium SE.

For 2013, Hyundai added a bunch of additional standard features (including air conditioning and power accessories), while raising the base price about $2,000. This year the changes are relatively minimal, with an updated-and-improved base audio system, a new one-touch turn signal, sliding sun visors, and a driver's blind-spot mirror. 

The base GLS sedan is pretty well equipped, as it is. An audio system with satellite radio, a CD player, and a USB port; heated side mirrors; air conditioning; and remote keyless entry are all among the included features. Add the Premium package, and you'll 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 the 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 satellite radio plus iPod and USB connectivity.

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.

For 2014, the SE gets a new B&M racing sport shifter, while five-door SE and four-door Premium models get new projector headlamps with LED accents, a driver's side auto-up window, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
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2014 Hyundai Accent

Fuel Economy

With EPA ratings ranging up to 37 mpg highway, the Accent is fuel-efficient but by no means best in class.

You can opt for either the manual gearbox or the automatic transmission, with a standard or a sporty suspension, and in either case the 2014 Accent is rated at 28 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway.

With the manual gearbox, you get 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.

Compared to other vehicles in its size and price class, these numbers are competitive, but definitely not the best. We've seen close to the EPA numbers, provided we can keep the revs relatively low.

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

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7.2
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Styling 8.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 7.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 8.0
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