Rental Review: 2019 Hyundai Accent SE – A Car

In the parlance of rental-car companies, cars are classified using the alphabet, from least to most expensive. Therefore, the least expensive class of car you can reserve is the A Car. And that’s exactly what the 2019 Hyundai Accent is: A Car.

For a recent weekend trip to Austin, TX for the purposes of sampling local barbecue, I broke even on my reservation and got this Accent in a color best described as “pavement gray”. I will never understand why people want cars that blend into the background, but that’s neither here nor there.

So what is the Accent? As described above, it’s a car. The ride sits reasonably well on the balance between handling and comfort. It feels solid and well put together. All told, the car feels competent for the task.

The controls fall easily to hand. However, the buttons are mushy with little tactile feedback. The column stalks do feel cheap, both in operation and touch. Seriously, Hyundai, how much more would it cost to make the back of the stalks smooth and not full of mold lines? The HVAC controls are absolutely perfect – three knobs and a couple of buttons do everything, exactly the way HVAC controls were meant to be. There’s a radio with Bluetooth for phone calls and audio streaming, and pairing was simple. No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though.

The Accent is certainly not fast, but has all the oomph you need to keep up with traffic. Big compliments to the transmission programmers. Unlike most modern geared automatics, the Hyundai is not in a hurry to upshift, nor recalcitrant to downshift when the pedal is mashed. The transmission also downshifts smoothly through the gears when coasting to a stop light.

Fuel economy is pretty good, too. The onboard trip computer (which is pretty good for this price class) told me I got 41.1 MPG in my mostly highway and back road driving, which is well above the EPA’s figures of 32/38.

In short, the Accent SE would qualify as the least expensive car I could heartily recommend for someone who just wants an inexpensive new car. Want something cheaper? They do exist, but neither the Chevrolet Spark, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Vera, nor Fiat 500 is anywhere near as adequate as the Accent. There’s the  Kia Rio, which I’m sure is equally as good, yet retails for a few hundred dollars more. It would just come down to personal preference and what sort of haggle room each dealer would give a buyer.

But… “for only $25 a month more”, as car salesmen are fond of saying, there’s the Elantra SE. It’s bigger and roomier. It has a larger and more powerful engine, yet better EPA numbers than the Accent. Rebates are fatter on the Elantra as well, making the price difference around $1600. Judging from online dealer pricing, there’s more negotiating room on the Elantra, potentially making the price difference even smaller. My local dealer’s website shows the Accent SE (with auto) for $14,555, while the Elantra automatic is priced at $15,715, a difference of only $1,160. “For a few dollars more per month” there’s almost no reason to choose the Accent over the Elantra.

Shame. It’s a decent car.