The 2020 Hyundai Accent represents the entry point to the Hyundai line, and as you’ll see, it’s a pleasant little sedan. An affordable one, too, with a base model starting at just $16,250 with a manual transmission. Under the hood is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine making 120 horsepower and 113 pound-feet of torque, which is down 10 horsepower and 6 pound-feet of torque from last year. Yet, that reduction comes with improved efficiency by way of both the updated engine and a new transmission: last year’s 6-speed automatic transmission has been replaced by a CVT. With it, the Accent breaks 40 mpg on the highway.
Our test car was a top trim Limited model. It only had a set of optional floormats, which brought the total price to $20,365. Included as standard are automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, fog lights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, automatic climate control, automatic headlights, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, a six-speaker sound system, and a 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Associate Editor Byron Hurd: The Accent feels huge inside for a subcompact, and it’s not just my imagination. The EPA rates it a size up in terms of interior volume, which is pretty impressive for a sedan with a footprint this small. The low seating position makes it even more pronounced, and it feels more like a full-blown compact or even a smaller midsize.
I recently drove the new Nissan Versa, and although it doesn’t feel anywhere near as big inside as the Accent (the Versa shrunk a bit for its all-new generation), I can’t help but think that it’s just a little bit better inside in most of the ways that count. The Versa has a larger trunk, so maybe that’s where Nissan decided to splurge on volume?
Of the two, I think I’d ultimately pick the Hyundai, but considering how marginalized subcompact sedans have become in the modern market, the fact that there are multiple competitive, appealing options floating around is good news for buyers who just need a new-car warranty for the least possible cash outlay.
Assistant Editor Zac Palmer: Small, cheap cars like the Hyundai Accent consistently get passed over in favor of slightly taller, faux-rugged crossovers these days. It’s a shame, because at $20,365, this Accent is remarkably well equipped and is also pleasant to drive. The big change for 2020 is the change from a six-speed automatic transmission to a CVT. Most of the time, we’d lament the loss of a slightly more engaging automatic transmission for a soul-sucking CVT. However, this CVT ain’t that bad. Just like other new Hyundais and Kias equipped with the company’s new CVT, it tries to replicate “shifts” during acceleration. The engine gets rather buzzy at full throttle, but in most conditions the transmission and engine are no more noticeable than before. Acceleration needs patience, but keeping up with rush hour traffic was never a maximum foot-through-the-firewall panic event.
I think the switch to a CVT was totally worthwhile and beneficial. The significant boost in fuel economy is worth any extra nagging from the engine, and it’s not as though the Accent was a sporty car before, either. Grabbing an extra 3 mpg on the highway is huge, and I found the minor CVT penalty to be one worth living with. Byron’s comparison to the Versa is a good one, and I’m going to agree with the verdict. The Versa is way better now that it’s been redesigned, but the Accent is still my top pick in this shrinking segment.
Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: I’ve had a soft spot for this generation of the Accent ever since I first drove one in base spec with a manual. Though low on power and buzzy, the engine is eager and feels more potent than it is. The Accent is very roomy, comes with a good selection of basic features such as cruise control and an Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible infotainment. It’s even a handsome little thing in higher trims. I also agree that, although not the best CVT I’ve experienced, it was a good choice for fuel economy. On a highway drive, I was getting right around the 40 mpg it’s rated for.
All this means is that I would still highly recommend an Accent for someone looking for a cheap new car. But I would also tell them to take a look at the 2020 Hyundai Venue. It’s a bit more expensive, and it’s not as frugal, but it’s much more stylish with a chiseled body and funky interior. Plus it’s a hatchback, so it has more cargo versatility. It also drives almost identically to the Accent, except with a slightly better ride. Just something to keep in mind.