The subcompact field has taken a leap upward with the introduction of an Ultimate trim level in the 2019 Hyundai Accent line.
Subcompacts have always been entry-level vehicles — the ones with the lowest prices and the best bang for the buck to attract first-time new car buyers.
True to its past, the Accent does offer a base model that starts at $14,599.
But buyers have changed over the years. The subcompact field now not only attracts shoppers looking for the lowest prices. More frequently, consumers are choosing smaller vehicles because of lifestyle.
Older buyers no longer needing to transport children and their gear are downsizing to smaller vehicles to save on fuel.
But they are still insisting on upscale and luxury features they have become accustomed to.
Enter the Ultimate trim model in the Hyundai Accent.
The Accent is available as either a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback. I drove a hatchback equipped with an automatic transmission, with a list price of $21,299 (the manual transmission is only $20,049).
The Accent comes with only one powerplant — a 1.6-litre four-cylinder direct-injection engine that produces 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque.
Fans of manual transmissions will be happy to hear that a manual transmission is still available in most models, including the Ultimate trim.
Fuel economy — a main reason for purchase — is excellent, with consumption figures of 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 6.2 litres on the highway for the automatic and 6.3 for the manual-transmission-equipped car.
The powerplant — quiet and sedate under normal driving — is buzzy when pushed hard. While hardly the vehicle to take canyon carving, the Accent is nevertheless entertaining and predictable in corners. The steering is light, but impresses with its good road feel.
The Ultimate rides on 17-inch alloy wheels, easily dwarfing some competitors’ 15-inch setups.
But in the end, people looking for comfort in a small package won’t be disappointed with a suspension that adequately smoothes out everyday road imperfections.
The six-speed automatic shifts up quickly to maximize economy, but is otherwise unobtrusive.
The main reason buyers will be attracted to the Ultimate trim package is for its generous equipment package.
Unlike some of its competition, the Accent eschews trendy styles and funky trends designed to appeal to the younger set. Instead, the Ultimate displays a more muted, more mature demeanour.
While it is hard to ignore the hard plastic in the interior, Hyundai has taken great pains to soften the blow, with soft-touch panels in strategic locations. If it is any consolation, even the look of the hard plastic has improved, fooling the eye at first glance.
Hyundai has instead focused its energy to delivering a superior vehicle interface, with a large, seven-inch touchscreen display that features Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. It also comes with SiriusXM satellite radio.
It comes equipped with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, a frill not commonly found in this segment.
The cruise control, as well as controls for the audio volume and telephone, can all be found on the steering wheel. Passenger comfort is addressed by the automatic climate control.
The Ultimate comes with a proximity key and push-button ignition. The rear hatch can also be unlocked remotely with the key.
The cabin feels more spacious thanks to light let in via a tilt-and-slide glass sunroof.
On the safety side, the Ultimate features Forward Collision Avoidance Assist. When detecting an imminent collision, the radar-based system will initially give a visual warning sound and an audible alarm. If the driver does not act immediately, the system will provide autonomous braking to mitigate the effects of a collision. If the speed involved is low enough, it might be possible to bring the vehicle to a complete stop and prevent a crash.
Forward Collision Avoidance Assist is the jewel in the crown of a suite of safety features that includes six airbags and a frame built with high-stength steel.
Visibility at night and inclement weather is enhanced by an LED lighting system and standard fog lights.
Despite its size, the Accent hatchback manages to carry an impressive amount of cargo, swallowing 616 litres with the back seats up and 1,361 litres with the 60/40 split seatbacks folded.
To top it off, all Hyundais are covered by a five-year, 100,000-kilometre limited warranty and five years/unlimited kilometres of roadside assistance.
The Hyundai Accent Ultimate is the result of a marriage between entry level and luxury. After driving the new car, I eagerly look forward to more in the future.
The spec sheet
Type: Subcompact five-door hatchback, front engine, front-wheel-drive
Engine: Direct-injection 1.6-litre four cylinder, 130 hp at 6,300 r.p.m., 119 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,850
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,185; width, 1,729; height, 1,450; wheelbase, 2,580
Curb weight (kg): 1,182
Price (base/as tested): $21,299/ $23,004 (includes $1,605 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)
Tires: 205/45 R17 on alloy wheels
Fuel type: Regular
Fuel economy (L/100km): 8.2 city/ 6.2 highway
Warranty: Five years/100,000 km new car, five years/unlimited km roadside assistance