The subcompact Accent has been a mainstay of Hyundai’s lineup since 1995, but its popularity has been in steep decline since 2016 — the model’s best year ever, at 79,766 units sold. Last year, Accent sales totaled just 29,090, and the numbers look to be about the same in 2019. Most likely, the Kona, a subcompact crossover, and the fuel-sipping Ioniq hybrid hatchback have taken a bite out of Accent sales.

Yet Hyundai soldiers on with the Accent — a model that’s too big to qualify as a true urban runabout, and too small to dent a market dominated by crossovers and sport-utility vehicles. Hyundai’s approach has been to make the Accent increasingly smooth, quiet, nimble and fuel-efficient, while offering near-luxury trim levels like the Limited.

Indeed, our test car — a 2019 Accent Limited — was a far cry from its tinny, underpowered predecessors. Priced at $20,090, it contained such features as a rear-view camera, forward collision avoidance assist, shiftable 6-speed automatic transmission, 17-inch wheels, power sunroof, satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, automatic climate control, heated front seats, and even a hands-free “smart trunk.”

The base Accent SE starts at $13,995. While it, too, has taken quantum strides since the 1990s, it’s pretty basic. Standard features include rear-view camera, 15-inch wheels, 6-speed manual transmission, cruise control, air conditioning, AM-FM radio and Bluetooth hands-free phone system.

There’s less competition in the subcompact-sedan and hatchback sector than there once was. Among the stalwarts in this diminishing market are the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Yaris iA, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Mitsubishi Mirage and Kia Rio. Fiat Chrysler skips over the subcompact category, offering the 500 minicar, and the beefier 500X and 500L crossovers.

Using the Accent mainly as a commuter car, we had no complaints. It was quiet and comfortable enough to bring us to our workplace and back unperturbed by the experience, and its fuel economy was a more than acceptable 38 mpg on the highway. The few times we used the trunk, we found it to be bigger than we expected, with a sizable opening for large items. Our favorable reaction to the car might have been different if it had been necessary to cram anyone into the back seat, however. People who expect to transport adults or older children might find the compact Hyundai Elantra, typically priced $2,000 to $3,000 more than the Accent, more to their liking.

One thing that hasn’t changed since Hyundai’s bad old days is the quality of interior materials. They’re durable enough for the long haul, but the molded plastics and trunk fabrics, in particular, felt cheap. It seemed a car with the Accent’s commendable riding and handling qualities, to go along with its long standard-features list and meticulous build quality, deserved better.

More Information

2019 Hyundai Accent Limited

Price: $20,090

Engine: 1.6-liter inline Four, 130 horsepower, 119 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Weight: 2,679 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion axle rear

Wheels: 17-in. alloy

Tires: P205/45R17 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 13.7 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 11.9 gallons

Fuel economy: 28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

The Accent has been rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Government crash-test results are not yet available.

Steven Macoy ( is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.