(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch)

Think punitive places.

And think small and boxy:

The classroom corner

The broom closet

The hockey rink penalty box

The entry level small sedan

The latter placed on any rental car lot typically existed to scare renters into springing for something less punitive.

But the image of the entry level small sedan is about to change. The redesigned 2018 Hyundai Accent sedan, the brand’s North American entry model, is no longer a penalty box. In fact the 2018 Accent is poised to steal the limelight from some mid-size family sedans.

Must Haves:

Low M.S.R.P:

from $15,880 for base trim w/ 6-speed manual to $19,780 for the loaded Limited ilk.

Low transaction price:

Hyundai and local Hyundai dealers offer plenty of purchase, finance incentives. Participating Hyundai dealers offer Shopper Assurance which includes 3-day money back returns, at home test drives, and transparent online pricing and transacting.

Sufficient capacity, Versatile use of space:

Front buckets provide good torso and lumbar support but seat cushions are on the short side; As with other Hyundai sedans the 2018 Accent dash cowls is low, offering expansive forward view; Side and rear blind spots are acceptable; Crisp white on black dial gauges include a TFT trip data display, Switches are meaningfully sized, while serrated rotary dials twist with unexpected refinement: All of the above is easy to reach; Door pocket storage = accommodating;

For Comparison’s Sake: 2018 Accent vs. 2010 Accent = +4″ longer, +3″ wheelbase, and has +1.4 cubic feet cargo space. 2018 Accent vs. 2017 Hyundai Elantra length, rear legroom & trunk space = -7.5″, -2.0″, -0.7 cu.ft. respectively.

Better than average fuel economy, without resorting to costlier hybrids or diesels:

34 miles per gallon in combined driving, decent 450 mile highway range from 12 gallons of 87 octane unleaded fuel.

Adequate highway on-ramp merge acceleration

Accelerator has slow tip-in; Fortunately “Sport Mode” delays upshifts until the meat of the power bandwith for brisker mid-speed movement.

Acceptable ride/ handling

The new Accent can be that unflustered cruiser and it can also be that pesky traffic dodger which begs to be pushed a bit harder than expected, without unwanted surprises;  It offers a level of point straight ahead stability that is more common on larger sedans; Damping prevents dive but can’t eliminate seat impact penetration over rougher pavement; Steering assist weight and speed feels right; Brake pedal feel is acceptable but bite hampered by tire grip.

Reliability & durability:

Assembled in Korea; Mostly hard panels including door arm rests are cost conscious; However fit is on par with more upscale Hyundai models; Doors close with muted thud; Slight tire roar heard but well insulated against engine; No cabin creaks or panel buzzing detected;

Low maintenance costs and good warranty

10 year / 100,000 miles powertrain (diminishing to 5 yr. / 60k on resale); 5 year / 60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranties

Styling that isn’t too radical

Clean new canvas with elegant creases, tweezed wrap-around light assemblies, the corporate “cascading molten metal” grille, expressive lower fascia with faux lower corner vents, bits of tasteful chrome, high beltline, and dapper trunk lid, derived from full size Sonata.

Power windows (driver’s auto up: SEL and up), door locks, automatically shifting transmission, air conditioning;

Also standard: Dual vanity sun-visors; Tilt (SE) + telescoping steering wheel (SEL and up); Cruise control

Good safety feature set & ratings:

9 airbags (incl. driver’s & front pax knee), Rear view camera w/ park guidance grid; 2018 IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus

 

Prefer to Have & Make Life Easier Behind the Wheel:

Bluetooth handsfree phone & audio connectivity

Touch infotainment display: 5″-inch touch LCD display FM/AM Audio with CD/ Aux (SE) – 7″ 3-pane touch LCD screen, 6-speaker audio, Android Auto / Apple Car Play with voice recognition Bluetooth (SEL and up)

USB x 2 ports, 12V x 2 power ports

 

Nice To Have But Can Live Without:

Rear disc brakes (SEL and up)

Cabin comfort: Heated Seats, Auto climate control (Limited)

Power extras: Keyless entry, push button ignition; Proximity trunk release (Limited)

HID Lights, LED taillights (Limited)

Driver assist technology:

(SEL and up): Blind Spot, Rear cross traffic, Collision Avoidance pre-braking

 

Which to Skip, Which to Pick:

If fully integrated infotainment isn’t a priority go ahead and pick the price leading Accent SE. De-contented features aren’t real deal-breakers. The powertrain and cabin materials are the same as on the pricey Limited. Accent SEL trim is the amenity sweet spot, and the likely pick of the litter: it includes the tech pleasing 7″ tri-pane Android Auto / Apple Car Play infotainment overlays. Accent Limited’s HIDs, heated seats and nominal driver assist technology might not merit the $19k + asking price.

 

Buying Tips:

1) When possible, locate an outgoing model year vehicle. They come with greater manufacturer sale and lease incentives.

2) Do Your Homework.” Scour manufacturer websites for “Rebates“, “Incentives” or “Special Offers.”

3) Be flexible on options and colors. Be willing to consider what other consumers might readily pass on.