Honda City VS Hyundai Accent
- Roomy enough to fit four adults
- Huge boot
- Handsome looks
- Underdone engine
- Average CVT performance
- Multimedia system is a disaster
- 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
Honda built its four-wheeled automotive empire on the back of small cars, flying in the face of 1970s convention that bigger was better. As the ubiquitous Civic grew larger and larger, a niche for a smaller car appeared, and that niche was subsequently filled by the City in sedan guise, and the Jazz hatch that sits alongside it.
The buying public, however, is simply not as interested as it once was in small hatches and sedans, and Honda, along with other importers, is feeling the pinch when it comes to slumping sales for its smaller models.
We’re trying the range-topping, $21,590 VTi-L to see what we may have been missing.
|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|
Small sedan sales are on the wane, and as a result, the cars that remain in the market often aren’t the best in a brand’s lineup.
The underdone steering, too, makes the car uncomfortable for passengers more often than not, while the buggy, hard-to-use multimedia system is unforgivable in an almost-$22,000 car.
Are small sedans off your shopping list, or does the Honda City still hold appeal?
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.
The City does a good job of disguising the fact that it’s a micro-sized sedan; at first glance, the revised front bar and grille that’s meant to mimic the one on the new Civic does such a good job that some people will need to look at the bootlid badge to find out it’s not a Civic.
A high waistline and a solid yet stylish sweep over the roof keep the City from looking overly twee, and even though the 16-inch wheels look a bit narrow, the overall impression is one of a larger car.
The interior, too, is spacious and airy, while the controls and steering wheel give the City an upmarket feel. There’s a little too much grey plastic inside, and hard plastics aren’t difficult to spot, but the City presents well, on the whole.
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.
Up front, the City is a great fit even for taller drivers, and its height-adjustable seat also means that the, err, less vertically inclined pilot can find a comfortable position behind the tilt-and-reach adjustable wheel.
A regular gear shifter and manual handbrake means the two cupholders are squashed under the centre console, but there are bottle holders in all four doors, as well as two more cupholders in the rear centre armrest in the VTi-L.
The VTi-L also gains two extra 12-volt accessory power points in the rear to complement the USB and a third 12V point up front, while the keyless entry system is not something you’d usually find on a car at this price point.
Sadly, the City’s multimedia system lets the side down - big time. Try as we might, we couldn’t connect a phone to our tester, no matter what we did, and it’s just utterly unintuitive to use in most situations.
It’s a bit of a rude shock, actually; most manufacturers have media systems sorted, but there’s simply not a even a half-decent one in any Honda that’s currently on sale. And there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though you can find those mirroring systems in the larger Civic.
Rear seating has adequate headroom – just – for taller teens, and there isn’t a lot of compromise required from front seaters to comfortably accommodate four people. Five? That’s getting crowded, but it can be done.
Two ISOFIX baby seat fixtures are present, along with three top-tether mounts. Boot space measures 536 litres - which is actually 12 litres bigger than that of the new Camry - while both rear seats fold flat(ish) to increase load capacity further.
A good point; the seats can be unlatched via boot-mounted buttons. A bad point; you still have to reach in and push the seats down by hand. A space saver spare nestles under the boot floor, as well.
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 top shelf VTi-L is the best of a two-model lineup, and costs $21,590 plus on-road costs. It comes with an 88kW 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a continuously variable transmission driving the front wheels, as well as LED daytime lamps, a part-leather interior, push-button start and smart key, climate control air conditioning, 16-inch alloys and a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with sat nav and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
It also has a leather-bound steering wheel and gear shifter, and map pockets on both seat backs.
It does miss out on a lot of other stuff, though, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, automatic lights (remember when a car last beeped at you to turn off the lights? Me neither...) and automatic wipers, and it also misses out on driver aids like auto emergency braking (AEB).
It starts to look a bit dear when you look at similarly priced cars - even from the next size sector up - that do offer inclusions like AEB and automatic headlights, though the small sedan is a bit of a rarity in the Aussie market now.
Its only like-for-like rivals in the space are the Mazda2 sedan and the Hyundai Accent sedan. Other potential competitors like the Ford Fiesta sedan and, more recently, the Toyota Yaris sedan have been deleted from local line-ups after years of declining sales, while the subsequent rise of the compact SUV will continue to have an impact on the so-called 'light car' market.
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
The i-VTEC four-cylinder 1.5-litre single cam engine is naturally aspirated, and it makes its 88kW at a high 6600rpm, while its modest 145Nm of torque peaks at 4600rpm.
It means the CVT gearbox needs to work pretty hard to get the best from the engine, which has been superseded by a twin-cam version in other markets.
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.
A 320km test loop netted us a dash-indicated figure of 6.3 litres per 100km, which is impressively close.
The 40-litre fuel tank is happy to accept standard unleaded petrol, too.
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.
Weighing just 1100kg, you’d expect the 1.5-litre powered City to have a bit of get up and go… but unfortunately it’s already gotten up and left by the time you drive off.
The 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine is a carryover unit from the previous generation, and it feels like it, too. It’s also teamed with a CVT gearbox that isn’t a patch on more up-to-date trannies from the likes of Subaru and Toyota.
On any sort of incline, the CVT ups the revs of the engine to a point between bloody annoying and mildly painful, too. The VTi can be ordered with a manual gearbox, which has to be better than the CVT in this example.
The underdamped suspension tune is adequate for light duties around town, but the electric steering feel very odd underhand, especially at the very beginning of a turn.
There’s a big initial motion at the front wheels when you start to turn which then quickly tapers off, meaning that you have to be ultra precise with your steering to prevent the City from lurching into the corner and falling over its soft suspension.
On light throttle, with no hills and few corners, though, the City is just fine…
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.
Full-length curtain airbags are offered along with dual front and front side 'bags, and there's a reversing camera. The City holds a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, which it has had since it was tested back in 2014.
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.
Honda sells the City with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, while a no-catch seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is occasionally offered with its cars, along with premium roadside assistance for the life of the longer warranty.
Both warranties are also transferable to the next owner, should you sell your car before the warranty expires.
A fixed-price servicing regime is in place for the City, too, starting at $259 and peaking at $297. But Honda asks for the City to be serviced every six months or 10,000km, which does add to the cost of running the car.
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.