Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the Hyundai Accent SR with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
There will soon come a time when, if you're after a genuine go-fast Hyundai, you'll be able to take your pick from the brand's 'N' performance fleet. The first genuine attempt at creating a Korean M Division or AMG is well underway, with the first metal expected to land on Aussie roads quicker than you can say "wait, there are performance Hyundais now?"
Until then, though, your options are limited to the brand's SR-badged cars - a line-up that, by Hyundai's own admission, is more warm than hot. The range is headlined by the quirky Veloster SR, which sits above the i30 SR. But the cheapest way into this warmed-over world is this, the city-sized Accent SR.
The entire Accent range was repositioned downwards last year, shaving $2,000 off ticket prices and streamlining the offering to just two trim levels. The sports-flavoured Accent SR hatch ($16,990 manual/$18,990 automatic) sits at the top of that very small tree, above the Accent Active hatch and sedan (from $14,990).
Let's get the obvious out of the way early: a genuine performance car this ain't, and if yours is a hankering for sportiness, then you'll be waiting for the incoming N cars.
But with a standard inclusion list that largely mirrors that of the entry-level Active, the real question is whether the SR's slightly bigger engine, slightly sportier suspension tune and the softest whisper of performance is enough to lure buyers away from the value-packed base model.
Simple, swept-back and well-proportioned, the Accent SR cuts a fine looking figure on the road, and one that looks like it's worth more than its 'from $16,990' price tag suggests.
Inside is somewhat less impressive
Springing for the top-spec SR over the base model Active adds 16-inch alloys to the standard features list (replacing the hub cap-covered 14-inch steel wheels on the Active) and they make all the difference, helping fill the wheel arches and giving the SR a more complete and premium appearance.
There's plenty of Euro-inspiration in the design, too, with a clean front end framed by DRL-wrapped headlights that sit above a pair of fog lights, giving the SR an athletic, purposeful look when viewed front-on.
Inside is somewhat less impressive, owing mostly to the fact it shares almost every interior element (including the small, 5.0-inch touchscreen) with the cheaper Active model, including its hard plastics and budget-feeling gearbox housing. It is all nicely put together, though, and its clean, uncluttered and modern-looking dash lifts the mood considerably.
Price and features
The Accent SR is available with a six-speed manual ($16,990) or, as we've tested here, a six-speed automatic transmission ($18,990). That's a fair old premium over the $14,990 (man) $16,990 (auto) Active, but you do get a bigger engine and a genuine six-speed auto instead of a CVT transmission.
As in the base-model Active, you'll find manual air-conditioning, cloth seats and a fairly pokey 5.0-inch touchscreen that's both Apple Car Play and Android Auto equipped. But springing for the SR will add a set of machine-faced 16-inch alloys, some sporty exterior touches and cool LED DRLs. You'll also add front fog lights and dusk-sensing projector headlights.
Inside, you'll find cruise control now standard, and some (but you'll have to look closely to spot them) 'premium' interior elements, including the gear knob, steering wheel and centre console. Both front and rear passengers nab automatic windows, and there's a tiny digital trip computer screen in the instrument binnacle.
Engine and transmission
The Accent SR scraps the base car's 1.4-litre engine for a bigger 1.6-litre petrol unit, generating 103kW at 6300rpm and 167Nm at 4850rpm - up 29kW and 34Nm on the smaller engine. It's paired with your choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed auto, with power sent exclusively to the front wheels.
The steering does require some guesswork, with the electric-assisted set-up far too vague.
Hyundai isn't quoting 0-100km/h sprint times, but expect them to be fairly pedestrian, while official fuel use is pegged at a claimed/combined 6.6L/100km (6.1 litres in the manual).
If you look back to the year 2012, and squint your eyes in just the right way, you'll see Hyundai's Accent SR actually previewed the future of Australian automotive manufacturing.
Think about it for a moment. Hyundai took a car that was built overseas (in this case, Korea), shipped it to Australia, and set its engineers and suspension boffins to work tweaking and tuning it for local conditions. That's a program Ford, Holden and Toyota will be employing on their future fleets.
The result was a more performance-focused suspension tune designed to make the car feel a little more planted on bendy B-roads. It does lean towards the firm side of the spectrum, but it's not enough to bother you hugely on dodgy tarmac, and it does help the car sit flat through corners.
But the biggest change between this and the entry level Accent is the two-punch combination of the bigger, 1.6-litre engine and swapping out the fidgety CVT for a six-speed torque converter automatic. While it delivers little in the way of out-and-out performance, it does help the SR feel far more engaged, regardless of whether you're crawling through the city or tackling some twisting tarmac.
The extra power, and the fact it's delivered so much more smoothly, might not be enough to earn the SR a genuine performance car badge, but it does address the drawbacks found behind the wheel of the cheaper Accent Active, namely asthmatic acceleration and sometimes-stuttering gearbox.
But the steering does require some guesswork, with the electric-assisted set-up far too vague in the way it translates your inputs into action, which saps confidence on twistier roads.
The entire Accent range, including the SR tested, is the big kid playing in the little kid's sandbox. Actually a replacement for the now defunct i20, the Accent is a size bigger than its price-matched competition, and that means there's plenty of space inside.
The Accent SR shows its age when it comes to standard safety equipment.
Expect comfortable seating, plenty of leg and headroom for front and backseat passengers, a brace of front seat cupholders and an ISOFIX attachment point in each of the rear window seats.
The hatch only SR will serve up 370 litres of storage in the boot, but dropping the 60/40 split rear seats will boost that number to 600 litres.
The Accent SR shows its age when it comes to standard safety equipment, missing out on a reversing camera, reversing sensors and AEB, but it does add a cruise control function that the base model misses out on.
The entire Accent range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, and arrives with six airbags as standard (two in the front, two for the front sides and two curtain airbags).
The Hyundai Accent SR is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000km.
Like all Hyundais, the SR is included in the brand's service quote program, allowing owners to secure an online quote for every service. At the time of publishing, the total five year servicing cost for the Hyundai Accent SR was $1645.