2014 Hyundai Accent Sedan
|Topics: Hyundai Accent
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.
July 5, 2014
An old joke goes, "you have to hand it to short people. Literally, because they can't reach it." Yeah, I get a lot of mileage out of short people jokes with my wife's family, being much taller than the women of the group.
I've often said that being tall can be a curse of its own, though, as multiple head wounds (I have two on my forehead right now from a Cub Scout day camp) have been incurred over the years from having a bit too much height when less would have been preferred.
Hyundai really handed short people a car they can claim as an advantage over being tall. This budget "Elantra Jr." styled subcompact is a heck of a good car for the price, provided you don't intend to ever put a full-size adult in the back seat.
I borrowed a new Accent sedan from one of my aforementioned short relatives and, after setting the seat as far back as it would go, attempted to get in. I proceeded to bonk my head against the top of the door frame. The second time I attempted entry, I had to bend my neck in an uncomfortable way to clear it without hitting it again.
The second time I hit my head on the Accent's door frames was in trying to get into the back seat. I tried hopping in the passenger side, behind a front seat that was adjusted for a ten year old, and found that I couldn't sit upright. I had to lean across the back seat, or so far forward I had to wedge my head between the roof and the headrest of the seat in front of me.
I'm not exactly Shaquille O'Neal here, I'm 6'2", with a bit more torso and less leg than others at my height. I had no problems with my 1997 Hyundai Accent GT, which I loved, and that made me interested in trying this new version a decade and a half removed from my old GT.
Once I wedged myself back in the front and got settled in, I did have enough room to sit comfortably, even if my head was a little close to the roof. Now, I was finally impressed with the car. The materials are much improved, even if they still give off that distinctly Hyundai new car smell (why is that so different than other manufacturers?). It wasn't colorful, but there were enough different shades and textures to make it far from the monotonous wave of black & dark gray plastic of other low-end compact cars.
The instruments were simple, easy to read, and had basic helpful features. The stereo was much improved over the old 1997, and sounded pretty good for the type of car, except at the higher volume levels. It includes a USB interface, which is a feature I wish either of my cars had.
Driving dynamics were good for a basic car of the price. You're not going to get isolation from the roadway at this price point but Hyundai has a way of letting the road feel through without being harsh, and with light & quick steering felt a bit like a go-kart with a roof. Power is also decent for a car this size at low speeds, meaning it's great for zipping around in city traffic.
The shifter was quite low to the floor, however, and with my shoulders set so high above made me have to lean over to use the manual shift mode. I really enjoy that feature in my wife's CX-7, where the shifter is just above and to the right of my knee. But the Accent's is not only low, engaging the manual mode involves moving the shifter to the right, creating further distance from the driver.
I'm not sure if it's just my preference, but I prefer yanking back on the shifter to go up a gear. It reminds me of the 1-2 shift on a true manual. Hyundai opted to switch this in the Accent, with a push forward for an up shift. This may match rally car sequential gearboxes, but since the placement doesn't it just feels awkward.
Under the hood everything important is right up top and accessible, and there's plenty of room between the engine front and the body's wheel well to change a belt, when it becomes necessary.
The rear seats fold down, but with the car's thicker structure built around the top of the opening it's more like a pass through than combining the trunk and back seat area into one continuous storage space. The trunk opening isn't huge, but the trunk space is good for a car this size. The other letdown in the trunk regards the keyhole, without an electronic lock or latch handle, the trunk is a simple "insert the key and turn to open" style. That's perfectly acceptable, and part of the reason Hyundai's Accent has been a value leader for generations, but their placement of the key hole in the middle of a wide open space to the right of the license plate seems like it'd result in a lot of key scratches just below it on the back of the car.
Oh, and the plastic bag that the owner's manual came in was so cheap that they might have been better off just leaving the books in the glove box unprotected. It felt like it was cut out of a cheap camp poncho.
But then a Hyundai Accent is never really about anything more than basic transportation, and you have to accept that not every car can do all things. So accepting the limitations of overall size and scant back seat headroom, for the subcompact class that's really made for one driver of average height to go to and fro and possibly on a date with one other person of average height (and later to bring along a small child in a booster seat if the dating goes well) in a city of decent size and lower speed limits, this is still the class leader.
And while I can still reach the top shelf in the pantry, I'm a little sad to know that one of my first and favorite cars is no longer a possibility for me again.
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