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Mazda3


Hyundai Accent

Summary

Mazda3

We all know that X means buried treasure in the world of children’s book pirates, but it’s looking like it could hold similar relevance for what lies under the bonnet of future Mazdas.

We first officially heard about Mazda’s industry-leading Skyactiv-X technology at the brand’s Global Tech Forum in Germany two years ago, but now we’ve ventured back to Germany to drive it in production form ahead of its Australian arrival aboard a new flagship version of the Mazda3 early next year. 

No other manufacturer has managed to productionise compression ignition for a petrol engine, and with an underlying intention to make the combustion engine work better for everyday driving, in the face of the electric-focus of all other global brands, this could be the most exciting technological development of my career.

Why invest so much in combustion engines if every other major brand is beginning to treat them like yesterday’s news? While the Japanese government predicts that 52 per cent of new cars sold in 2030 will use some form of electrification in their drivetrain, the same data suggests 90 per cent will still use an internal combustion engine as at least an element of their drivetrain. That’s 90 per cent of the market, more than a decade from now.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Hyundai Accent

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?

Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mazda38.4/10

Unlike most big technological advancements, this isn’t about extra performance or reinventing the wheel, it’s about Mazda’s bigger picture approach to deliver the best mobility solutions for right now, while still planning for electric and fuel cell vehicles in the future.

That may sound like a line straight out of the Skyactiv-X press release, but Mazda’s realistic approach to our continued dependence on combustion engines is commendable. 

My final judgement will have to wait until we know how much more it will cost over a regular Mazda3, but I can say the technology works really well and should really suit Australian conditions.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.


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.

Design

Mazda3

Aside from the stunning good looks of the new Mazda3, the only visual distinctions the Skyactiv-X version scores over a regular high-sec model are bigger exhaust tips like those seen on the latest version of the Mazda6, and a Skyactiv-X badge in place of the regular models’ Skyactiv-G. 


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.

Practicality

Mazda3

It’s a similar story for practicality, except it’s completely identical to the regular Mazda3 this time. So expect the same decent interior packaging and convenience for four adults, with a 295L VDA boot and a space saver spare tyre under the boot floor. 


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

Mazda3

This is probably the biggest question mark above the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X’s head for now, with all we know being Mazda Australia’s plan to launch it as a new top-spec version, so sit above the existing $36,990 G25 Astina flagship. 

How far above will be the clincher, and given it’s not likely to quite match the performance of the G25, it will depend on what value you place on outright driveability and a marginal fuel saving over the base 2.0-litre engine. 

Like the rest of the Mazda3 line-up, we also expect to see the Skyactiv-X with a choice of hatch or sedan bodystyles with either manual or automatic transmissions.


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

Mazda3

What’s compression ignition again? It’s basically how a diesel engine works, by using extreme pressure instead of spark plugs to burn fuel. Skyactiv-X still uses spark plugs, but only to kick off the ignition process and act as a safety net for cold starts and other edge cases, while extreme compression makes for much more effective combustion, which means improved efficiency. 

This combustion efficiency means the engine can use a much leaner fuel-to-air mixture, and make more power and torque with less fuel and even less wasted fuel out the exhaust. Mazda describes it as delivering diesel-like torque and fuel consumption, with the power, responsiveness and refinement of a petrol. Or in other words, one step away from turning water into wine... 

Mazda is calling the process Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI), and the extreme pressures required to make it all happen are created by higher static compression ratio (but less than a typical diesel), much higher fuel pressure and boosted air pressure entering the combustion chamber. 

Key to managing all these heightened parameters (and the very technological advancement that makes it all possible) is an ultra sensitive in-cylinder pressure sensor that has been developed specifically for this task. 

Delivering the boosted air pressure is a Roots-type supercharger - or what Mazda describes as a high-response air supply - which was chosen over other air pump designs like a turbocharger or the Miller-cycle supercharger previously used in Eunos models because of its instantaneous boost delivery and breadth of efficiency.

Speaking of breadth of efficiency, perhaps the biggest plus for average motorists is that the engine’s efficiency zone has multiplied, meaning the difference between city and highway consumption, leadfoot drivers and my Dad, heavy and empty loads etc will be far less than a typical petrol engine.

This all represents a continuation of core principles we’ve seen from the start of Mazda’s Skyactiv era. That is, to make an existing engine type work better under everyday driving conditions rather than targeting outright performance.

The Skyactiv-X era starts with a 2.0-litre based on the regular Skyactiv-G engine, with the same 1998cc capacity. Other capacities are planned, with the eventual reborn rotary looking increasingly Skyactiv-X along with a straight-six version for a new CX-9 in a couple of years. Smaller versions are unlikely due to the economies of scale involved with such technology in a smaller and therefore cheaper car. 

Mazda is making two versions of the Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre for now, one with 16.3:1 compression designed for Europe that favours Premium unleaded petrol, and one 15:1 version aimed at the US with their abundance of lower grade unleaded. 

Unlike conventional engines, it’s the lower compression version that will deliver the biggest benefits, because Skyactiv-X relies on the usually “bad thing” pinging to do its best. 

We’re set to get the Euro-spec one in Australia, which unfortunately means we won’t quite be getting the very best Skyactiv tech again.

The Euro-spec engine puts out 132kW at 6000rpm and 224Nm from just 3000rpm, which on paper sounds about halfway between the existing Skyactiv-G 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre and 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol engines.

The engine also incorporates a mild hybrid system, but don't be confused by the H-word, there's no electric drive element. It simply means its got a cleaver alternator that only engages when needed and on deceleration to reduce efficiency-sapping drivetrain friction,

Pop the bonnet and you’re confronted by the biggest engine cover you’ve ever seen, but unlike most, this one is equipped with labeled latches that encourage you to have a look underneath. This encouragement continues with a clever little retention hook to hold the cover up against the bonnet while you’re poking around.

Unless you’re a Mazda engineer you’re likely to be baffled by the array of hoses, ducts and wiring, but you might get a kick out of spotting the supercharger.

There’s less to be said for the transmissions though, with versions of the existing six speed manual and torque converter automatics deemed up to the task, with the new engine’s increased efficiency zone negating any increase to the ratio count. The ratios have been adjusted to suit the new output characteristics, and while the ratios are yet to be published, there’s a narrower spread across the six with what feels to be taller first and sixth gears.


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.

The Accent Sport uses MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension (no sophisticated air systems on offer), and Hyundai doesn’t quote any 0-100km/h, acceleration or speed figures.

Fuel consumption

Mazda3

All this hooha about fuel savings, and Mazda is yet to confirm an actual figure for Australia. We do know the hatch is rated at 4.5L/100km in manual and 5.3L/100km in auto according to the NEDC, which is historically close to the figures generated by the ADR 81/02 test we go by in Australia. 

If it comes close to matching the NEDC figure it will be a win, sitting comfortably under the 6.4L/100km (manual) and 6.2L/100km (auto) figures currently applied to the Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre Mazda3 hatch

While the Australian-spec Skyactiv-X engine is expected to align with Europe rather than the US, and therefore be tuned to deal with Premium 95 RON unleaded, it’s still unclear if it will accept the cheaper Regular 91 RON unleaded.


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. 

Driving

Mazda3

What’s probably most amazing about Skyactiv-X is that you can’t really tell there’s anything special going on under the bonnet. 

Push the start button and it gets going like any other petrol Mazda, although perhaps quieter. 

Move off from rest and there’s no significant difference to the way it feels. 

When I drove the prototype version of this drivetrain, there was a slight pinging under light throttle as it transitioned from spark to compression ignition, but I’m pleased to confirm that the extra two years of calibration has tuned this down to the tiniest occasional diesel sound, and it all feels a bit like a smooth diesel that’s more responsive than you expect.

The European-spec Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre’s outputs suggest it should be closer to the existing 2.5-litre in terms of performance, but in reality it feels closer to the 2.0 litre.

My perception is likely to be clouded by the Skyactiv-X’s specific transmission gearing, but it could also be because it’s able to do the same job with less revs and therefore not sound like it’s working so hard. 

First gear feels quite tall with either transmission, and we also found the auto and manual were only sitting on 3500rpm in sixth at 160km/h on the Autobahn. 

Mazda doesn’t specify performance figures, so it would be handy to put all three alongside each other from a standing start. But then, that’s not what Skyactiv-X is all about, it’s more about performing better under light throttle and incidental bursts of acceleration. 

We can’t wait to put it to the test over some hilly terrain and familiar territory when it hits Australia early next year.


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.

Safety

Mazda3

The existing Mazda3’s maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating will almost certainly be carried over, and the high level of safety gear fitted to the existing G25 Astina is also likely to be matched. 

This means front and rear airbag coverage, front and rear AEB, front and rear cross-traffic alerts, lane keeping assistance and blind-spot monitoring


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.

There are no parking sensors as standard, though, nor will you find AEB, lane departure warning or any other, more advanced features.

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.

Ownership

Mazda3

Service pricing is also yet to be confirmed, but Mazda engine development boss Eiji Nakai assures CarsGuide that the new engine will not need servicing more frequently or cost any more to service than existing Skyactiv-G engines.  

So expect the same 12month/10,000km intervals, with five year/50,000km capped servicing plan totalling just under $2000 over that period.  

Like all new Mazdas, the recently upgraded five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty will apply to the 3 Skyactiv-X. 


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.