Ford Focus VS Hyundai Accent
- Great chassis
- Surprising engine
- Optional advanced safety
- Better tyres would be nice
- Too many optional colours
- Big alloys and new nose make it better looking
- Phone integration unlocks Apple/Google Maps
- Plenty of useable torque from 1.6-litre engine
- Suspension can be jarring occasionally
- Lacks refinement outside of the city
- Standard safety package lacking
Ford's small hatch, the Focus, is criminally under-bought in Australia. The latest model is one of the best hatchbacks on the road and when you chuck in the decent price, impressive equipment and absurdly powerful engine for its size, it's a winner.
But you lot? You don't buy it in nearly the kinds of numbers it deserves. Partly because there isn't a bait-and-upsell boggo model to lure you in, partly because it's got a badge that is not exciting Australians any more and partly because it's not a compact SUV.
Or is(n't) it? Because alongside the ST-Line warm hatch is the identically priced and therefore technically a co-entry level model; the Focus Active. Slightly higher, with plastic cladding, drive modes and a conspicuous L on the transmission shifter, it's a little bit SUV, right?
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
While there are plenty of things that somehow improve with age (art, wine, the seemingly ageless Will Smith, to name but a few), the Hyundai Accent is sadly not one of them.
But then, neither does almost any new cars. With new technology, entertainment and safety features launching daily, and with engines that are getting cleaner, more efficient and smoother all the time, a once all-new model can be left looking positively antique in just a handful of years.
But it’s definitely even worse than normal over at Hyundai; the Korean manufacturer that continues to make great forward strides with every new model. From the members of its fast and frantic N Division to its polished SUVs, to the all-new i30 small car, Hyundai is going from strength to strength with neck-breaking speed.
All of which creates a little problem for the pint-sized Accent, which - having launched back in 2011 - is now starting to feel its age. And unlike the Fresh Prince, it isn’t holding up quite so well.
So in lieu of an all new version, Hyundai streamlined the existing Accent family into one value-packed model in 2017, taking the axe to the Active and SR models and replacing both with a single, Sport trim level, which is available in sedan and hatchback guise.
And in creating the Sport, Hyundai aims to blend the best of the Accent range into one handy package. So have they taught this old dog new tricks?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Ten years ago, the idea that the higher-riding version of a hatchback would be a good city car would have been laughable. The Focus Active is pitched as a kind of SUV with its different low-grip driving modes, which you'll never touch if you stick to the city.
The Ford Focus is genuinely a brilliant car, no matter where you take it. The Active takes a terrific chassis, tweaks it for comfort but, ironically, doesn't lose much of the speed.
Hyundai Accent 6.8/10
It might be getting harder and harder to hide its age, but there is still plenty to like about Hyundai's cheapest car. Those who really love to drive need not apply, and nor should long-distance travellers, but the Accent Sport's alloy wheels, true smartphone integration and plenty of power and USB points will thrill its younger owners, while its long-range warranty and cheap servicing costs don't hurt either.
Still, if you think you can stretch to an i30, you should definitely drive one first.
Would you opt for a Hyundai Accent Sport, or step up to an i30? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
For a fairly conservative hatchback, the Focus came under fire for what some termed its derivative styling. I quite like it, and not just because the styling work was led by an Australian. The front end is very much family Ford, as long as it's the European arm of the family, fitting in with its smaller sibling, the Fiesta. The Active scores the usual black cladding, higher ride height and smaller diameter wheels, in exchange for more compliant, higher-profile tyres. All of that takes nothing away from a design that I think looks pretty good.
The cabin is well put together, with just that oddly angled touchscreen causing me a bit of a twitch. The design is a fairly steady Ford interior with a lot of switchgear shared with the Fiesta, but it's all quite nice. The materials feel mostly pleasant and the hardwearing fabric on the seats feels right for this kind of car.
Hyundai Accent 7/10
It looks good, the Accent, just not quite as good as its bigger Hyundai brothers. And that’s got to sting, if only a little bit.
Words like "subtle", "restyled” and “enhanced design” pepper the Accent’s media information, and so we’re not talking massive changes. But the exterior of the Sport looks sharp, especially in the 'Pulse Red' of our test car. Other colours include 'Chalk White', 'Lake Silver', 'Phantom Black', 'Sunflower' (yellow), and 'Blue Lagoon', but there’s no green, orange or grey paint available.
First, though, don’t let the whole 'sport' thing fool you. You’ll find no Fast and Furious body kit, nor is there much in terms of a rear spoiler, side skirts or a rear diffuser. Instead, a silver-framed mesh grille (a smaller version of the one that adorns the i30) blends into the headlights that then sweep back into the body, while subtle power lines create a little dome in the bonnet, starting at the edges of the Hyundai badge and getting wider as they sweep back across the bonnet.
Side on, the alloys are clean and simple, and a single style crease runs the length of the body, intersecting both door handles on each side. At the rear, though, the concave body styling doesn’t quite work so well, ending up looking busier than the rest of the car, and leaving it with too much body and not enough rear window.
Inside, as you can see from our interior photos, there is plenty of hard plastic, but there have been some design flourishes that give them a nicer texture and go some way to disguising the fact they’re hard enough to be used as a weapon in a roadside road rage dispute.
But it’s a simple and clean design, with patterned cloth (what, you were expecting leather seats at this price point?) seats, an uncluttered centre cluster and a sparing use of silver highlights that break up the black of the dash and doors.
You can also option everything from tailored floor mats to interior lighting, forming a kind of personalised premium package for the Accent Sport.
The Focus is quite roomy compared to other cars in its class. The rear seat has good leg and headroom, with the feeling of space accentuated by large windows. Annoyingly, though, all that work put into making the rear a nice place to be is ruined by a lack of amenities like cupholders, USB ports or an armrest.
Front-seat passengers fare better with two cupholders, a roomy space at the base of the console for a phone and a wireless-charging pad. The front seats are very comfortable, too.
The boot starts at a fairly average 375 litres - clearly sacrificed for rear-seat space - and maxes out at 1320 litres with the seats down. While you have to lift things over the loading lip and down into the boot, it's one of the more sensibly shaped load areas, with straight up and down sides. Ironically, the smaller Puma has a noticeably larger boot.
Hyundai Accent 7/10
It’s every bit as practical as you might expect, the Accent Sport, given that you’re unlikely to be using something this size as a pseudo moving van anytime soon.
The 4155mm long, 1700mm wide and 1450mm high (the sedan is 4370mm long) Accent Sport's interior dimensions feel spacious up front, and while the front seats are a little too flat, the cabin feels airy and light. There are two cupholders up front, too, and there’s room in the front doors for extra bottles.
Like all Hyundais, the little Accent boasts most of the technology options favoured by younger buyers, like a USB point, an aux connection and two 12-volt power outlets all housed in a tiny storage bin underneath the centre console. There’s a sunglass holder, too, integrated into the roof.
The backseat is sparse but spacious enough, with enough room for adults to sit behind adults in comfort - at least in the two window seats. That’s about it back there, though, with no technology options, vents or air-con controls.
Boot space is a useable 370 litres in hatch guise, but luggage capacity grows to 465 litres should you opt for the sedan, with both of those figures measured in VDA. Optional roof racks and rails (and other offical accessories like a rubber cargo liner, mud flaps or dedicated bike, snowboard and surfboard carriers) help increase the pint-size Accent’s load-lugging ability.
As does a handy (and optional) cargo liner that helps separate your groceries, sitting neatly under the cargo cover that shields you luggage from prying eyes outside. Perhaps unsurprisingly, you can’t get a factory-offered bull bar.
There are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat, as well as three top-tether points across the back row.
Price and features
The Focus Active wears a $30,990 sticker but the several people I know who bought one haven't paid that much, so Ford dealers are obviously keen to do deals. Even at that price, it's got a fair bit of stuff. The Active has 17-inch wheels, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto LED headlights, LED fog lights, sat nav, auto wipers, wireless hotspot, powered and heated folding door mirrors, wireless phone charging, a big safety package and a space-saver spare.
Ford's SYNC3 comes up on the 8.0-inch screen perched on the dashboard, which weirdly feels like it's facing away from you slightly. It has wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, DAB+ and also looks after various functions in the car.
The panoramic sunroof is a stiff $2000 and includes an annoying perforated cover rather than a solid one.
Hyundai Accent 7/10
The price list for the Hyundai Accent range - available only in single, Sport trim - starts at $15,490 for the six-speed manual version, and will cost $2k more ($17,490) for the six-speed auto version, with those prices identical for hatch and sedan versions. So, not much of a walk through a valley of trim levels, then.
Yes, you could be forgiven for asking “how much!?”, given that’s a little more than we’ve grown accustomed to paying for the cheapest - and on perennial runout - Hyundai model, but there are enough standard features on offer to sweeten the deal. Besides, the inevitable drive-away pricing deals will almost certainly improve the value equation, too.
Outside, expect 16-inch alloy wheels and LED indicators integrated into the side mirrors - though there aren't projector headlights, daytime running lights or any of the other, more high-end appointments.
Inside, you’ll find cloth seats, cruise control, air-conditioning, a power window for everyone, powered mirrors, steering wheel controls and a digital clock.
Finally, the tech stuff is covered by an Apple CarPlay-equipped (meaning you can use your iPhone’s GPS as your navigation system) 5.0-inch touchscreen that pairs with a stereo with four speakers. Android Auto is also available, via a 15-minute software upgrade done through the dealer. The screen is too small to use for in-depth stuff, like searching for a phone number, but it mostly does the job just fine.
It also means that, as well as a CD player, you’ll get radio, Bluetooth, MP3, podcast and Spotify access, all played through the car’s sound system. You can forget a subwoofer or DVD player, though, unless you opt for an aftermarket multimedia system.
Sure, that’s not the most comprehensive list of goodies - there aren’t deeply tinted windows, no sunroof and the touchscreen is rather small, and while there’s central locking that allows keyless entry, there's no push-button start.
But then, $15,490 isn’t much in the world of new cars, and so to score alloy rims, powered everything and genuine phone integration (all things that will attract your future buyers - and protect your resale value - should you sell it second hand) is not to be sneezed at.
Engine & trans
Ford does an excellent range of small turbo engines. The "normal" Focus range (such as it is, now the wagon has disappeared from the market) comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Bucking the SUV-this-size trend (yes, I know it's not really an SUV), this punchy little unit delivers an impressive 134kW and 240Nm. They're both very decent numbers for such a small engine.
The big numbers continue with the transmission boasting eight gears, a number you don't often find in a hatchback. It's a traditional torque-converter auto, too, so those of you who have bad memories of Ford's old PowerShift twin clutches should worry no more.
Power goes to the front wheels only and you'll get from 0 to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds.
Hyundai Accent 6/10
The one Accent on offer is powered by a single engine; a petrol-sipping (there’s no diesel, LPG or turbo), 1.6-litre motor that will produce a solid-sounding 103kW (138 horsepower) at 6300rpm and 167Nm of torque at 4850rpm. They are good specs, and it stands up to most competitors in an engine vs engine models comparison. It pairs with a choice of six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic transmission.
There used to be a fairly underwhelming 1.4-litre engine size paired with a CVT auto in the now-axed Accent variant, but this bigger engine is much, much better, and makes for much happier reading on the specifications sheet.
The Accent is front-wheel drive only, with no 4x4, AWD or rear-wheel drive options available. It will serve up a 900kg braked and 450kg unbraked towing capacity, with an optional tow bar/ball fitted. Kerb weight is listed as between 1070kg and 1170kg.
Ford's official testing for the big window sticker delivered a 6.4L/100km result on the combined cycle. In my time with the Focus, I got 7.2L/100km indicated on the dashboard, which is a pretty solid result given the Focus spent a good deal of the time on suburban or urban roads.
With its 52-litre tank, you'll cover around 800km if you manage the official figure, or just over 700km on my figures.
Hyundai Accent 7/10
For fuel consumption, Hyundai claims 6.3 litres (6.6 litres for the sedan) per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle. But as with all of these manufacturer-supplied figures, there’s always a some sort of variation in the real world km/l fuel economy.
Just how much variation is dependent on how heavy your right foot is, but after my (admittedly city-based) week with the car, the trip computer had my mileage at 11.0L/100km. If you were to adopt an eco mode driving style, that would surely improve, though.
The Accent’s fuel tank size is fairly small, with a fuel capacity of just 43 litres - perfect for the city, less so for long-distance cruising. Emissions are a claimed 146g (154g in the hatch) per kilometre of C02.
Despite the very mild off-road pretensions, if it's a comfortable city ride you're after, the Active is the Focus to have. While the ST-Line isn't uncomfortable - not by a long way - the Active's more compliant tyres and higher ride height (30mm at the front and 34mm at the rear) iron out the bigger bumps without sacrificing much of the sportier car's impressive dynamic prowess, even with the low-rolling-resistance tyres.
The cracking 1.5-litre turbo is responsive and well-matched to the eight-speed auto. The big torque number pushes you along the road and makes overtaking much less dramatic than a 1.5-litre three-cylinder has any right to.
Ford's trademark Euro-tuned quick steering is also along for the ride, making darting in and out of gaps a quick roll of the wrist, which has the added benefit of meaning you rarely have to take your hands off the wheel for twirling. That darting is aided and abetted by the engine and gearbox, with the turbo seemingly keeping the boost flowing with little lag. It's almost like they planned it that way.
You have good vision in all directions, which almost renders the fact that the blind-spot monitoring is optional acceptable. Almost. It's very easy to get around in, easy to park and, just as importantly, easy to get in and out of. Compared to, say, a Toyota Corolla, the rear doors are very accommodating.
Hyundai Accent 6/10
With its sharp design and gleaming alloys, the Accent Sport doesn’t look like an entry-level model, and nor is it immediately obvious that it’s the cheapest way into the Hyundai family. The downside, though, is it does feel that way from behind the wheel.
A little harsher, a little more road noise and a little more gruff than Hyundai’s more expensive models (including the very good i30), it’s the unfair victim of the brand’s staggering success, which has left the Accent feeling a bit old-school by comparison.
That said, it's perfectly suited to inner-city life, and if you’re cruising around using minimal inputs, it does it all smoothly and quietly. The steering feels a little slack at slow speeds, with plenty of dead air when you first start turning the wheel, but none of that bothers you much in the city.
The grunt from that engine is refreshingly ample for a small car, and provides plenty of punch to get you moving from traffic lights, while the seating position is high enough that vision is great out of every window (except the rear - you’ll be using the reversing camera for that one).
Take it out of town, though, and the refinement begins to vanish. The engine sounds harsh under heavy acceleration, the transmission can be confused - especially around 80km/h, where moving your foot a fraction can force continual changes up or down, like it's wrestling with a big life decision.
The only other question mark is over the suspension set-up, which for some reason favours sporty firmness in a car unlikely to be asked to achieve anything more dynamic than sitting at 50km/h. The result is a ride that can feel noticeably firm over bad road surfaces.
The Accent’s 140mm ground clearance (not to mention the fact it’s a front-wheel drive city car) should be enough to persuade you not to test its off-road performance. And its turning radius is 10.4m.
The Active has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (low speed with pedestrian avoidance and highway speeds), forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition and active lane-keep assist.
Annoyingly - and I can't for the life of me work out why this is a thing - despite some advanced safety features in the base package, you have to pay $1250 extra for blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert and reverse AEB, which are part of the Driver Assistance Pack. No, Ford is not the only company to do this.
The back seat has two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.
The Focus scored five ANCAP stars in August 2019.
Hyundai Accent 6/10
It’s a pretty straightforward offering here, with six airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain), a reverse camera and the usual suite of driving, traction and braking aids, like power steering, ESP and EBD, headlining a pretty short list of safety stuff.
The Accent was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but the organisation’s demands for safety rating features were less comprehensive when it was crash tested back in 2011.
If you're one who cares about where cars are manufactured, and were wondering where is Hyundai's Accent built, the answer is Ulsan, South Korea. And that’s no bad thing.
The first five services cost $299 each and also include a free loan car and a 12-month extension to your roadside assist membership for up to seven years.
Hyundai Accent 8/10
It’s a very strong ownership picture, with the Accent Sport covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, and requiring a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 15,000km.
A capped-price servicing plan helps take the guesswork out of your service cost, too, with guide prices at between $245 and $345 per year for the first five years.
For known Hyundai Accent issues and common problems, complaints and faults - including any known clutch, suspension, gearbox, engine, battery or automatic transmission problems - head to CarsGuide's dedicated Hyundai Problems page.
One of the most common mechanical questions asked is whether the Accent uses a timing belt or chain, and the Sport uses a timing belt. Check your owners manual for recommended durations between changing it.
Hyundais traditionally score very well in international reliability rating surveys, which helps protect its second-hand ratings.