Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Hyundai Accent Active hatch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
There was once a time when the words 'cheap' and 'Hyundai' were intrinsically linked, and not in a particularly good way. But that was before Hyundai staked its claim for new car dominance in Australia and the world, throwing great buckets of Won at engineering, design and technology right across its ever-growing range.
These days, Hyundai relies on being largely very good, rather than being cheap; so much so that they're rarely the most affordable option in a given segment. It's a strategy that has hurt sales not at all, with Hyundai outright third in the 2016 sales race, sitting behind only Mazda and Toyota at the top of the tree.
But there is one model Hyundai still needs to sell on price, and that's the Accent. When local bosses put a bullet in the i20 micro car in the middle of 2015, the brand was suddenly without a true entry-level model.
Attention turned to the Accent to fill the void, with Hyundai Australia shaving $2,000 off the asking price (from $16,990) in an effort to attract budget buyers to the brand.
Acting as a sort of bait to lure first-time buyers, the entry-level Accent seems to be perpetually discounted in Australia, and the pricing is attractive. At this very moment, our test car - an Active Hatch paired with a CVT Automatic - is $16,990 drive-away, but it can be sub-$15k if you wait for a deal.
The Active hatch is the entry point to the two model Accent range, and our automatic-equipped car sits above the manual version of the same ($14,990), and is also available as a sedan. Its sits below the warmed-over Accent SR ($16,990 man, $18,990 auto), which is a hatch-only proposition.
But the question remains, does Hyundai remember how to play in the cheap-car sandpit?
Handsome. And undeniably so. Simple, clean lines and accents (no pun intended) highlight a petite but well-proportioned package. In fact, only the hub cap-covered wheels give it away as an entry-level model.
A Euro-looking grille is framed on each side by two black vents, which in turn sit below a pair of swept back headlights, all of which lends the Accent Active a vaguely premium feel when viewed from the front.
Inside, it does a marvellous job of not feeling like a budget offering, with a (smallish) 5.0-inch touchscreen dominating a clean, understated dash. As expected at this price point, the interior is a sea of hard plastics, but it feels well designed and modern, and its splashes of silver create an aura of low-key prestige. The seats are cloth, of course, but even they don't feel particularly cheap.
Price and features
The Accent range starts with the Active paired with a six-speed manual transmission and wearing a sticker price of $14,990. Our test car, equipped with a CVT automatic, increases that price to $16,990. But you'd rarely pay that.
Often the Accent Active is on sale and offering a free automatic transmission. Other times, it's listed with on-road costs included in the list price. Or with free metallic paint. Or, as it was earlier this year, all three of those things at once, dropping the drive-away price for an Accent Active with a CVT automatic and metallic paint to $14,990. And less, if you're in the mood for haggling.
Predictably at those prices, you'll find a cloth interior and manual air-conditioning, and you can forget proximity unlocking (though you will get remote access) and push-button start, too. Oh, and your 14-inch steel wheels will be hidden behind plasticky hub caps, and the more modern safety technology won't exist. But that's about all the big-ticket items you'll miss out on.
In everyday situations the 1.4-litre engine can feel overworked.
Every Accent arrives with a 5.0-inch touchscreen multimedia unit that doubles as your iPhone screen thanks to standard Apple Car Play. You'll also get Bluetooth connectivity and a five-speaker stereo (with internal file storage) accessed via steering wheel-mounted controls.
Finally, front and rear passengers nab automatic windows, while the driver's trip computer is a tiny digital square in the middle of the analogue dials in the binnacle.
Engine and transmission
The Accent Active is powered by an (admittedly fairly underwhelming) 1.4-litre petrol engine that will generate 74kW at 6000rpm and 133Nm at 3500rpm. It's paired at the entry point with a six-speed manual, and that combination will return a claimed/combined 5.7L/100km.
Our test car was paired with Hyundai's CVT automatic that's tuned, according to the company, to squeeze maximum power from low in the rev range. That combination will return a claimed/combined 6.2L/100km.
Let's be honest, few are buying this car for a night at the drag strip, but even in everyday situations the 1.4-litre engine can feel overworked, with the Accent leaving the line slowly and gathering speed noisily and methodically as it works its way toward the legal limit.
Push it too hard and you'll find yourself engaged in a bit of vague guesswork with the steering. But when you do find the right line the Accent will stick to it. A thrill-a-minute it ain't, but the suspension is a perfect match for the car, and it sits lower and flatter through corners than you might expect, though the CVT can be fidgety if you demand too much of it.
Stay in the 'burbs and off the backroads, and the Accent is a smooth, comfortable and mostly quiet cruiser.
The seats are big and comfortable in the front, and they're separated by two cupholders in the centre console, with room in the front door pockets for bottles. And given this is a size up from the car it's been asked to replace, there's no shortage of space and headroom for backseat passengers, either.
There is no standard reversing camera or reversing sensors, and you can forget about more advanced technologies.
There's room in the rear door pockets for bottles, but backseat riders will go without cupholders. The window seats in the back are also home to the Accent's two ISOFIX attachment points.
Boot storage is a handy 370 litres with 60/40 split rear seats up, and that number swells to 600 litres with them folded flat.
The Accent range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but it arrives with a fairly basic suite of safety kit, including traction control, ABS brakes and six airbags (two in the front, two for the front sides and two curtain airbags). But that's where the list runs dry.
There is no standard reversing camera or reversing sensors, and you can forget about more advanced technologies like auto emergency braking or lane keep assist.
Every Hyundai Accent is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and requires a trip to the dealership for service every 12 months or 15,000km. The range also falls under Hyundai's service quote program, which offers online quoting for every service. At the time of publishing, the total five-year cost for the Hyundai Accent Active was $1,295.