All-new Hyundai Accent face less competition in shrinking segment

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(October 1, 2017) Hyundai’s fifth generation Accent debut last week at California’s Orange County Auto Show came not long aft
er Ford announced it would not continue to sell its similarly sized Fiesta in the U.S. The decision robs consumers of competition between two new subcompact models.

But it saves Ford the embarrassment of plodding along with the Fiesta’s trouble-prone dual-clutch automatic gearbox; a transmission it shares with the Focus, and that has alienated a number of customers with its harsh shift performance. Score one for Hyundai.

The new Accent brings Hyundai’s new design language down to one of the smallest cars in its North American stable, increases the chassis’ torsional rigidity 32%, increases interior room (with 103.9 ft3 of interior room it’s classified a compact by the EPA), adds safety and convenience features, and offers both greater torque and fuel economy. But will anyone care?

With a market galloping away from sedans and into SUVs, and with small crossovers being the hottest market segment, is the Accent the right car at the wrong time, and would Hyundai have been better served building a subcompact crossover?

Hyundai has a crisply styled small SUV on the way — the Kona — filling a profitable hole in its lineup when it arrives by the end of the year. The Accent, therefore, is free to compete in a market where the competition is becoming thin on the ground, and grow its market share if not its sales.

The biggest problem it will face is that Hyundai, like most automakers today, has taken to building the vehicular equivalent of Russian nesting dolls — visually nearly identical, but each just slightly smaller than the one above. Telling it apart from the larger but still similar Elantra is difficult enough that most buyers may not realize it’s new — or that it’s not an Elantra.

As you might expect, the interior uses upgraded materials, with soft-touch coverings used in key areas of contact. A backup camera is standard, as is a five-inch color TFT display (a 7.0-in. display is available as an option). Heated front seats are optional, but the 60/40 split/fold rear seat back is standard equipment.

The transverse-mounted, 1.6-liter inline four is carried over from the pervious model, but has been updated for greater efficiency. Power output is 130 horsepower and 119 lb.-ft. of torque, but there is more low-end torque for quicker acceleration and better drivability. Low-friction piston rings, a variable fuel pressure module and an upgraded engine controller increase fuel efficiency by an estimated 7%.

A pair of six-speed transmissions are offered, manual and automatic, with the automatic boasting improved efficiency and a 4.0 lb. weight loss. It is tied into the Accent’s Drive Mode Select unit that changes the response of the engine, transmission and electric power steering depending on which mode — Normal or Sport — is chosen.

In addition to the standard six airbags, electronic ability control, traction control and ABS, the 2018 Accent offers the option of a forward collision warning system. It features a forward-facing radar unit that detects vehicles in the car’s path, and warns of a potential collision. Should the driver not react, the system will initiate emergency braking to avoid a collision.

Every Accent comes with a proximity key and pushbutton start, SiriusXM satellite radio, and dual USB ports. The up level infotainment unit has a 7.0-in. touchscreen, and comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. In addition, the BlueLink remote start mobile app now lets owners control the rear defroster and side mirror heaters, in addition to the climate control system. If that’s not enough, it has integrated the ability for Amazon Alexa and Google Home-enabled devices to start the car.

Thus, you can tell the device to, “Tell BlueLink to start my car, and set the temperature at 72 degrees,” and it will do it. All it requires is that users enable the BlueLink integration in their Alexa or Google Home app, and link their existing BlueLink account within that app.

To make things more secure, the voice commands will be sent only after Alexa or Google Home prompts the user for their BlueLink PIN.

The Virtual Driver