The 2016 Hyundai Accent SE, one of the lowest-priced cars on the market, does a great many things exceptionally well. It feels solid, accelerates briskly, accommodates adult passengers fore and aft, sports an unusually large trunk for a subcompact, and delivers up to 38 mpg when equipped with a 6-speed stick shift.
We were fortunate to receive a fresh-from-the-factory 2016 Accent sedan as a rental car while vacationing in Florida. The cars we usually review tend to be heavily optioned, but this Accent was pretty basic, giving us a taste of the real-world market for this model.
As is typical with Hyundais, the Accent was well-equipped even in its “stripped,” rental-fleet incarnation. Among its standard features were remote locks and panic button, satellite radio, power locks and windows, tilt steering wheel and air conditioning. The 60-40 split rear seat folds down to expand trunk space, but for maximum versatility, the hatchback is the better choice. It can swallow 47.5 cubic feet worth of gear with the rear seats lowered.
Compared with its competition, the Accent has just two significant weaknesses — one of them a potential deal-breaker for young families who might be attracted to the car’s low price, high fuel economy and good reliability. Past Accents have received a “Poor” rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small-overlap crash test, designed to determine how well cars protect drivers and passengers during a collision involving a narrow object, such as a utility pole.
Second, the Accent handles competently, but shoppers who try out a Ford Focus or Honda Fit, for example, will find both of the latter more fun and engaging to drive.
All Accents are equipped with a 1.6-liter, 137-horsepower inline Four. It’s a peppy little power plant that sends up quite a racket under hard acceleration, but is quite composed the rest of the time. Owners can choose between a 6-speed manual transmission and 6-speed automatic, which adds $1,000 to the price tag. The stick shift improves estimated fuel economy by 1 mpg, to 38 on the highway.
Most U.S. and Asian automakers build worthy competitors in the subcompact segment. Among them are the Focus and Fit, as well as the Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic, and the Accent’s close relative, the Kia Rio.
Hyundai offers two desirable and moderately priced option packages, called the Popular Equipment Package ($600) and Style Package ($800). The first includes heated side-view mirrors, audio controls on the steering wheel, tilt/telescoping steering and Bluetooth hands-free phone system. The Style package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, premium cloth seats, fog lights, rear disc brakes and other features. Our test car had neither package.
Our basic Accent included an Economy driving mode, but we turned it off in fairly short order in the interest of keeping up with traffic on Interstate 95. In normal driving mode, and on Florida’s level highways, the Accent ran 70 to 80 mph without breaking a sweat.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 1.6-liter Four, 137 horsepower, 123 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Suspension: four-wheel independent
Curb weight: 2,546 lb.
Wheels: 14×5-in. steel with full wheel covers
Tires: P175/70R14 T all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 13.7
Fuel capacity: 11.4 gal.
Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 37 highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline