2014 Hyundai Accent. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
We auto writers are a spoiled lot. Driving different cars every week, never having to worry about oil changes, maintenance and repair costs, and putting minimal mileage on our personal vehicles. Have a track day? Book a sports car. Going camping? Book an SUV, as rugged as you can find (even if you could manage just as well with a FWD wagon). Taking a road trip? Book a diesel or hybrid luxury cruiser.
Well, we here at Autos.ca like to do things a little differently. When Hyundai invited us down to attend the reveal of the new 2015 Sonata at the New York auto show, I said, “Great! I think I’ll drive… whatcha’ got?”
The response, “Umm, an Accent.”
Patrick: “Are you sure? It doesn’t even have nav…”
Would I rather drive a nav-guided ground-missile Porsche Panamera S E-hybrid or silky, all-powerful A7 TDI and get the same efficiency as this little subcompact? (Okay, that’s a lie, but probably close to it.) Well, yeah, who wouldn’t? And that’s what a pampered, self-entitled auto writer like myself would usually do, but I’m also incredibly lazy, so I just ran with it. Truth is, there is a lot more value to a story about a car people actually buy than a car people just fantasize about (or more likely, that just gets promoted by deeply funded marketing agencies), so I was excited to get behind the wheel and put massive kilometres on the clock.
Curiously this car had one feature that you will rarely find on any efficient luxury destroyer (not to mention an increasing number of hardcore sports cars): a manual transmission! That six-speed manual transmission was the saving grace when navigating the erratic traffic in New York City itself, making the most of the 1.6L inline-four. This little I-4 doesn’t offer any turbocharging to boost power, but it does come equipped with direct injection and variable valve timing with two-stage variable intake, though its peak power is still delivered at a high 6,300 rpm, 138 hp in total, and 123 lb-ft of torque at 4,850 rpm. You may not use it often, but if you stay on the throttle long enough – as you will find yourself doing when racing the lunging traffic on the Henry Hudson Parkway (or whatever they’re calling it these days) – it packs quite a punch, pulling the Accent’s 1,155 kg up by the bootstraps and hauling a bit of hatch.
The ride is also something worth applauding. For such a light, cheap car, Hyundai has found a surprising amount of comfort and smoothness without ever feeling sloppy. It is a small car, though, so it is not immune to jarring bumps, where the whole car is essentially launched, but it recovers deftly and carries on its way. It does still exhibit a bit of back-end skittishness over uneven surface or when hitting dips on one side of the vehicle only – we love that in a Mustang, but we’d be perfectly happy without it here.
2014 Hyundai Accent in NYC & 2014 Hyundai Accent dashboard. Click image to enlarge
The clutch itself is super light, not necessarily a work of art in its engagement, but definitely competent and easy to operate, and the shifter throws were light but fairly accurate for an application like this. We had no complaints managing this gearbox commuting to work or stuck in some of the heavier traffic around Times Square, and while it’s not a thrill-a-minute rowing gears, it’s a heck of a lot more entertaining than plodding along in a fun-sapping automatic.
And I don’t know if the automatic would have improved upon the consumption achieved with the manual. In highway driving, the Accent regularly displayed fuel consumption between 6.5 and 6.9 L/100 km on multiple stints between gas stations, and on our one extensive (and somewhat aggressive) drive around the city, it showed 9.2 by the time we finally cleared the George Washington Bridge. Pretty good considering the EPA rates it at 8.7 L/100 km for city cycles and 6.2 for highway, with the automatic rated almost the same.
2014 Hyundai Accent fuel economy & 2014 Hyundai Accent gauges. Click image to enlarge
However, with a 43 L gas tank, we had to make a couple refuelling stops on the way down and a couple on the way back (though one was to top up before crossing the border). Another annoying aspect related to fuel economy was the trip computer, which resets after every fill-up, so we do not have an entire trip average. I’ll go out on a limb and peg it right around the low 7s since 98 percent of our driving was on the New York State Thruway (and QEW in Ontario) – no Adirondack adventures for us.