Pros: Great fuel economy, nice looks, pleasant ride quality, hatchback's impressive cargo capacity, usable back seat.
Cons: Steering wheel doesn't telescope, 4-wheel disc brakes are no longer standard on all trims, crash test scores aren't stellar.
What's New: The 2013 Hyundai Accent gets upgraded standard equipment in base GLS trim, and all trims boast standard remote keyless entry and heated side mirrors. Also, a sunroof joins the options list for the SE. Unfortunately, the GS and GLS now come with standard rear drum brakes instead of discs.
Most automakers don't seem that interested in what critics have to say, but the folks at Hyundai are always listening. The 2013 Hyundai Accent is a case in point. In last year's Accent review, we carped about the entry-level GLS sedan, which lacked power accessories, air conditioning and even a stereo. It was a classic "price-leader" that few consumers would actually want to buy.
But fast forward to 2013, and what's this? The Accent GLS comes standard with all of those items, making it a car we can legitimately recommend. Of course, the upgrades aren't free; Hyundai added a couple grand to the GLS's bottom line. But even the humblest Accent now offers enough equipment to compete (downgraded rear brakes notwithstanding), and we see that as a sign of maturity on Hyundai's part.
Otherwise, the Accent is pretty much the same car that debuted last year, and we're still charmed by how it feels like a bigger car than it really is. The ride is smooth, with none of the harshness over rough surfaces that plagues some other subcompacts. There's adequate room for adults in the back seat, and the hatchback model's rear seatbacks fold down to yield a whopping 47.5 cu-ft of maximum cargo space. Cars like this are supposed to be just basic transportation devices, but especially in hatchback form, the Accent makes a case for itself as a substitute for a number of larger vehicles.
There are plenty of capable small cars vying for your monthly payment, so we recommend test driving the competition before deciding. But Hyundai seems to care what people think, and you can feel that philosophy at work in the 2013 Accent.
Comfort & Utility
The Accent is offered as a sedan (GLS) or hatchback (GS and SE).
The GLS sedan comes standard with a 14-inch steel wheels, front disc/rear drum ABS, a height-adjustable driver seat, heated outside mirrors, keyless entry, power accessories, air conditioning and a 6-speaker audio system with iPod/auxiliary audio connectivity. Optional on the automatic-transmission GLS only is a Premium package with 16-in alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, fog lights, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, premium cloth upholstery, piano black interior accents and a sliding armrest storage box.
The GS hatchback features roughly the same standard equipment as the GLS sedan. The SE hatchback steps up to 16-in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, integrated turn signals in the side mirrors, piano black interior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control (optional on GS), Bluetooth connectivity (not optional on GS) and a sliding armrest storage box. A sunroof is newly optional for 2013.
The Accent's front seats seem rather soft--we wonder how they'll age--and their upholstery is a little cheesy, especially the base version. The tilt-only steering column likely won't work for long-legged drivers unless they like driving with their elbows locked. We have no complaints about the gauges, which look crisp and frame an attractive LCD trip computer in every Accent. The controls are mostly straightforward, and the 3-knob climate controls are a model of ergonomics. Materials quality is about average for this class, highlighted by the usual hard plastics (check out the related Kia Rio for a more inspired cabin).
The Accent's back seat is one of its strongest suits, accommodating normal-sized adults with unusual ease by subcompact standards. Cargo space is impressive across the board, ranging from 13.7 cu-ft in the sedan's trunk to 21.2 cu-ft behind the hatchback's back seat and an enormous 47.5 cu-ft with the rear seatbacks folded, dwarfing the maximum cargo capacity of rivals like the Sonic and Fiesta.
We generally don't have high hopes for subcompacts in the technology department, and the Accent illustrates why. It's nice that you can get Bluetooth in the sedan, for example, but it costs extra, and it's not even available in the cheapest hatchback model, the GS. At least the 6-speaker stereo sounds decent and includes an iPod/auxiliary audio hookup. If you keep those high-tech expectations low, you'll probably find the Accent satisfying enough.
Performance & Fuel Economy
Every Accent is front-wheel drive and powered by a 1.6-liter inline-4 rated at 138 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque. The available transmissions are a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic. The latter will be the most popular choice, but it blunts the engine's performance, so we recommend the more responsive manual if you can shift your own gears. The engine itself remains quiet and well behaved even at high rpm, though it sometimes feels a little short on energy for passing or merging.
Fuel economy is outstanding at 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway with either transmission.
The Accent comes with standard stability control and active front head restraints, as well as six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side curtain). However, the 2013 Accent has been downgraded to standard rear drum brakes in GS and GLS trim; last year, all Accents got superior 4-wheel disc brakes, which we applauded as an unusual perk in this class. Shame, that.
In government crash testing, the Accent scored four stars out of five across the board. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Accent highest rating of Good in all categories except side impacts, where it garnered the second-highest Acceptable rating.
The Accent's soft suspension tuning is a boon on rough roads, and the cabin is respectably quiet at highway speeds, which emphasizes the Accent's grown-up vibe. Due to those soft underpinnings, however, the Accent isn't as entertaining in corners as athletes like the Sonic and Fiesta. That might not bother you, but do pay close attention to the Accent's steering and see if it feels alright; we think it's a little too light and numb for its own good.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Sonic - The Sonic's optional turbocharged engine is one of the best in this class, but even the simplest Sonic boasts a comfortable ride along with responsive handling. Its motorcycle-inspired instrument panel is pretty nifty, too.
Ford Fiesta - The Fiesta seems lost in the shuffle these days, and that's not fair, as Ford's subcompact is a pleasure to drive thanks to its Euro-inspired suspension and exceptionally smooth inline-4 engine. Strong fuel economy, too.
Kia Rio - If you want more style and character than the Accent offers, try its cousin from Kia, the redesigned Rio. The Rio feels better from behind the wheel, and we like its attractive, good-quality cabin.
We'll go with the SE hatchback, as we love the extra hauling capability and smart-looking alloy wheels--and we couldn't do without Bluetooth.
In November 2012, Kia and Hyundai adjusted the fuel economy ratings on some 2011-2013 models. This article has been modified to reflect the accurate EPA ratings.