2018 Hyundai Accent SE new car reviews

The Hyundai Accent is new for 2018, making it the fifth generation for the model. The first Accent arrived back for the 1995 model year, replacing the Excel–the first Hyundai that some of us ever met. Back then you could buy a new Excel for $4995.

So, back to the present. One thing to quickly mention about this all-new Accent: The spec sheet lists the availability of a six-speed manual transmission. Cool, huh? It’s even standard–well, standard on the base SE model.

The optional–and, likely, more common gearbox–is a six-speed automatic. The sole engine offered is a 1.6-liter four that should make 130 horsepower along with 119 lb.-ft. of torque. (We say “should” since the Hyundai media site says that the figures are estimated.)

The Accent is the least expensive car in Hyundai’s lineup, but it does have some frills like a standard 5-inch touchscreen, hands-free trunk release and available heated seats. Connectivity includes Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Hyundai Blue Link and SiriusXM satellite radio.

How much for a new Accent? The base SE model with a stick shift retails for $14,995. Our top-of-the-line Limited model carried an MSRP of $18,895.

Other staff views

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin

This little Hyundai brings up an interesting question: Is it wiser to buy a loaded version of an inexpensive car, or are you better off buying a de-contented version of a more expensive model?

I bring this up, as our Accent SE was pretty loaded for a small economy car. It had power everything, a sunroof, electronic doodads galore, and it even sported heated seats. All of this extra comfort made for a pretty pleasant place to spend time. It also ballooned our entry-level Hyundai's price to nearly $20,000. For that figure you could almost buy a real car—one with power under the hood.

This Accent is not a powerhouse. Actually, it's more like a 98-pound weakling. The poor little hamster-engine tries its best, but it is overwhelmed in this application. Set the cruise at 80mph and even a slight crosswind will force the car to downshift and wail. It's clear that this well-built and designed sedan just needs a bit more go. A bit of fun can be had with the car in it's "Sport" mode. It changes the transmission shift points and creates a bit of urgency by sharpening the throttle response. Perhaps a manual version would be more entertaining, as the automatic transmission is pretty dim-witted when choosing gears.

To achieve any sort of pace, I found myself placing the Accent in "Sport" and using the paddles to shift manually. This Accent's mission is to be a pleasant appliance to the non-car person. It does that quite well, besides the power deficit.

After spending a bit of time driving this little Hyundai, I came to the conclusion that for $20,000 I'd much rather give up the sunroof, heated seats and niceties for a real drivetrain. I'd take a step-up in the product lineup to a Sonata, or even move over to a Civic, Mazda 3, or Focus.

It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. But how slow do you really want to go?

Marjorie Suddard Marjorie Suddard
General Manager

This low-price offering from Hyundai offers everything you'd expect from a cheap car: Disturbing light steering and pedal feel, an undersized engine that makes more groan than go, and an amount of road noise that seems designed to remind its occupants that they couldn't afford a better car. Oddly enough, I would've found all of that acceptable at the Accent's base price of $15,000, but when the SE trim level adds pretty much any option you could dream up onto the little car, the added luxuries serve to remind one of what the car isn't—namely, a luxury sedan—while making you forget what it should be: a super affordable subcompact that doesn't need to make any apologies for what it is.

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