A new direct-injection engine, six-speed gearbox and sharper chassis take the Accent Elite from also-ran to also-consider status.
Powertrain and performance: 1.6-litre petrol four, 103kW/167Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 6.6 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4115mm long, 1450mm high, luggage capacity 370 litres, fuel tank 43 litres, 16-inch alloy wheels on 195/50 tyres.
We like: New six-speed gearbox, surprisingly adept chassis, equipment levels.
We don’t like: Expensive, still a bit of an orphan in Hyundai’s range.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The current Hyundai Accent was in a difficult position when it was launched in 2012. Hyundai has a supermini, the i20. It also has a small car, the i30. The Accent sort of fitted between the two: sleeker than the upright i20, but not as grown-up as the i30.
There was a powertrain quandary, too. Accent offered a fantastic diesel-engine option, which was lively but expensive and not that economical. The petrol powertrain was relatively thrifty, but hampered by a mediocre four-speed automatic gearbox.
Hyundai hasn’t been able to do much about the segment confusion, but it has addressed the powertrain situation: the diesel is gone, while the 1.6-litre petrol version has been upgraded to direct-injection technology (with an extra 13kW/11Nm) and sports a six-speed automatic gearbox – at least in the Elite version tested here. The entry-level Accent retains the old multi-point injection and four-speed transmission; you have been warned.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? So better than it used to be. The Accent’s 1.6-litre engine has gained just a touch extra grunt – but a useful touch - and the addition of the six-speed gearbox has really brought it to life.
Hyundai’s claim that Accent is now a “sporty” car is taking things a little too far, but the revised powertrain certainly makes forward progress a more pleasurable experience in this model. It’s slick enough that the pseudo-manual mode is rarely needed. Hyundai claims that a great deal of work was done on the Elite’s chassis in (and for) Australia. Changes included damper tune, spring rates (harder at the front, softer at the rear) and anti-roll bars.
Just how different this Accent is to the Korean factory-standard is a moot point, but it is pleasingly sharp on Kiwi roads. The steering certainly shows the way for other Hyundai product – interesting to note that Accent does not have the FlexSteer system (which allows you to alter the weighting via a pushbutton) of the i30 hatchback or ix35 crossover. It’s better for it.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Hyundai has tried to set the Accent Elite apart with a few luxury touches, including leather upholstery, cruise control, upgraded audio with two tweeters and climate control air conditioning.
None of this is revolutionary stuff, but it does add up to an impressive standard equipment list for a car in this segment. Or rather whatever segment you decide it belongs in.
The cabin is corporate Hyundai – possibly a bit blingy for some tastes, but nicely laid out. It’s clearly configured to impart a more premium feel than the humble i20 and in that it succeeds.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The Accent still stands as a slightly sleeker alternative to upright superminis like the i20. It’s not a cheap car by any means in Elite form, but it does have the performance, presence and equipment to justify the higher price. A groundbreaking small car it is not. But the changes to Accent Elite have at last made this model a contender. It’s a solid package and a surprisingly good drive.
- Air conditioning: Single climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/No
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Gas discharge headlights: No
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Rear with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: No
- Rear ventilation outlets: No
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: No
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Trip computer: Yes
Find your next Hyundai Accent HERE.