Car Reviews

Rental Review: 2014 Hyundai Accent


Renting a subcompact car is usually a good way to get a free upgrade to a “Toyota Corolla or Similar”, but in this case, it was the last car left on the lot. I had no other choice.

On the way home from a trip to Indianapolis (where my ear drums were variously stimulated and assaulted by the Tudor Sports Car entrants, especially the new Camaro Z/28R), I was stuck in a regional airport nearly 125 miles from home. I had to be back the next day, and a quick evaluation of my options panned out like this

  1. I could stay overnight in a hotel, catch a cab to and from the airport and fly home on a puddle-jumper the next day. Estimated cost: $175.
  2. Take the train. Estimated cost: $110 and 3 hours of my time.
  3. Rent a car, one way. Write about it for TTAC. Estimated cost: $160 and just under 2 hours of my time, assuming weather and traffic are favorable (as it turned out, they weren’t).

Option 3 was the easy choice.

With the mass cancellation of numerous flights, everyone rushed the rental desk, and all that was left was a lonely Accent GL 5-door. Once upon a time, you could get a three-door Accent GL in Canada for under $10,000 – of course, it offered no A/C, a 5-speed manual transmission and all the refined NVH characteristics of a minecart.

What a difference a generation makes. The latest Accent has transformed itself from a nasty penalty box into a subcompact that can be recommended on merit, as well as price.

Unlike a number of too-tall competitors, the Accent has proper 5-door hatchback proportions, similar to its big brother, the Elantra GT. For a subcompact car, it feels as if it’s an entire size class larger. The rear cargo area easily swallowed my large suitcase and backpack, while the rest of the cabin feels airy and spacious.

Feature content was similarly generous. In addition to the usual suite of power operated accessories, the Accent had Bluetooth, USB ports abound, an easy to operate media system (I was able to navigate it on the first try while driving – no easy feat in any modern car) and heated seats (which I didn’t use, but are a godsend in colder climates).

With a 138 horsepower 1.6L engine, the Accent won’t win be setting the ET board alight at your local drag strip, but the engine is far gutsier than the Fiesta’s wheezy base 1.6L engine or the similarly sized mill in the Nissan Micra (the Accent’s chief competition in Canada). Hyundai’s 6-speed automatic isn’t the most refined, but it keeps the revs down on the highway – an all important characteristic in a world where em pee gees and muffled NVH are high on buyer’s list of wants. Unlike some of its competitors, the Accent gets disc brakes all-around, and even on this rental example, they felt strong without being overly grabby.

On the few highway ramps available, I was similarly impressed with the car’s driving dynamics. The steering gives ample feedback and avoids the “tie-rods through a Cool Whip container” feel that many have come to expect from Korean cars. The chassis feels fairly planted, but the worn all-season tires didn’t let me push the car terribly hard. Not that it matters, since few pensioners or first time drivers are going to be pushing this thing to the 11/10th on their local road course. The whole driving experience reminded me of a Honda Civic from the double wishbone era, albeit with the rough edges filed off – hardly a black mark against a car that is intended to be affordable, basic transportation.

By the time I was starting to get a feel for the Accent, my journey with it was over. I ended up using $10 in gas (roughly 3 gallons) to drive 125 miles, and at no time did I ever feel as if I was burdened with some unsafe, miserable leftover rental car. At this point, the Accent is one of the older cars in its class, but in no way does it feel outdated or behind the curve. In Canada, it’s possible to pick them up far below this example’s $17,522 MSRP – small wonder it’s the #1 selling subcompact in this country.

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