Hyundai owes much of its early success in the West to its sedans. In America, the compact Hyundai Elantra and midsize Hyundai Sonata are the company’s best-selling sedans, but the subcompact Accent is another familiar sight on American roads.
The Accent was first released in 1994, and was a huge success In the Asian, European, and North American markets. The current fifth generation Accent was released in 2017, but is seeing declining sales as Hyundai buyers instead look toward the Hyundai Venue and Kona SUVs.
The Hyundai Elantra has an even richer history, dating all the way back to 1990. It has undergone many changes over its 30-year time span and entered its seventh generation beginning with the 2021 models. For 2021, the Elantra also gets a hybrid option, which wasn’t the case in earlier models.
The Hyundai Accent is a subcompact sedan, whereas the Hyundai Elantra is a compact sedan. Besides being bigger, the Hyundai Elantra gets a makeover and a hybrid variant for 2021. The Hyundai Accent is on its last legs, but comes with an especially tempting price tag.
While both Accent and Elantra models are Hyundai sedans, each has their own flavor when it comes to design.
The Hyundai Accent is showing its age, though it is by no means an ugly car. If your sole aim is to draw as little attention as possible on the road, you’d be hard pressed to find a better alternative.
By contrast, the much more recent Elantra is an objectively handsome car. Its striking headlights and large, patterned front-grille make for a sporty and modern front-end. For the rear-end, Hyundai went with a single taillight that spans the breadth of the car – a trend that’s becoming popular with the likes of the Porsche Taycan, or more comparable Lexus IS sedan.
Besides looking more fresh, the compact Elantra is also noticeably bigger than the subcompact Accent. It’s over 10 inches longer and 3 inches wider, so obviously commands more presence on the road.
As you would expect, the Hyundai Elantra is also the clear winner once you step inside. With its bold update, the Elantra’s interior is far more exciting to look at, with much of it coming down to the styled air vent which spans the three-quarters of the dashboard. If you really want to take your Elantra into the future, you can opt for the digital gauge display instead of the standard analog instrument cluster.
The Accent’s old interior lacks character but is perfectly functional, and for 2021, Hyundai offers a lot of previously optional interior features as standard to entice buyers. However, the upgraded 7-inch infotainment you get on SEL and Limited trims is small by today’s standard. By comparison, the Hyundai Elantra gets an 8-inch infotainment as standard, with the option to get a bigger 10.3-inch one.
The Hyundai Accent sports a 1.6-Liter four-cylinder “Smartstream” engine which produces 120 horsepower. The car isn’t fast by any measure of performance, but does feel relatively nimble thanks to its small body and can easily throw itself into sharper corners.
The non-hybrid Hybrid Elantra features a 2.0-Liter four-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower that has been carried over from the previous generation. As a result, the performance is similar to the Hyundai Accent.
Both cars come with continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and are only available with front-wheel drive.
The hybrid Hyundai Elantra model pairs a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor which together make 139 horsepower. Changing gears is done through a six-speed automatic transmission which results in a slightly more engaging drive experience, but besides that there’s not much improvement in performance over the gas Elantra.
Finally, the Hyundai Elantra is also offered in a tuned N Line performance model which boasts a 201 hp turbocharged engine. This replaces the discontinued Elantra GT.
Space and Practicality
Both models have a maximum seating capacity of 5 people and are ideal for small errands. The Hyundai Elantra offers around 5 inches more legroom in the back seats, making it much more suitable for families who will regularly carry passengers in the back.
Despite the discrepancy in passenger space, both models have trunks that have remarkably similar capacities, as the Elantra only offers 0.5 cubic feet more cargo volume than the Hyundai Accent.
Technology and Features
Hyundai makes sure that every model of their lineup has some of the most innovative features for comfort, safely and convenience. Both models come with: BlueLink connectivity, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and Proximity Keys with Hands-Free Smart Trunk Release that automatically sense when your hands are full. If they are, the proximity key will sense it and automatically open the trunk for your convenience.
There are heated front seats on the Accent’s SE trim, which isn’t available with the Elantra.
The Elantra’s SEL trim comes with 16-inch alloy wheels. The Limited trim has a Dynamic Voice Recognition feature for your convenience, along with leather-trimmed seats and GPS navigation on the front panel. The Elantra allows the use of Hyundai Digital Key that allows unlocking via an allowed user’s cellular device. The Accent doesn’t provide these features.
Both models feature similar fuel economies. The Accent SEL and Limited models have a combined economy of 36 mpg (33 city, 41 highway). Because it has a manual transmission, the base SE trim Hyundai Accent gets a slightly lower 33 combined mpg.
By comparison, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder on the gasoline Hyundai Elantra earns a combined 37 mpg (33 city, 43 highway), making it the more fuel efficient car.
Of course, best of all is the hybrid Elantra, which has an EPA estimated fuel economy of over 50 miles to the gallon.
Within the subcompact car segment, the Hyundai Accent is one of the cheapest offerings. That, and the fact it matches the features in the more expensive competition, makes it one of the most highly recommended subcompact sedans on the market.
The Accent’s base SE trim starts from just $15,395, while the SEL trim starts at $17,750. The Limited trim is the most expensive, starting at $19,500 and comes with heated front seats and hands-free Smart Trunk release.
The bigger Hyundai Elantra is pricier than the Accent over all available trim levels. The SE trim starts at $19,650, just a little higher than the most expensive Accent Limited trim. The SEL starts at $20,900, and the Limited trim starts at $25,450 and comes with a handy GPS navigation feature on the front panel.
The Hyundai Accent earned a four-star rating from crash testing conducted by the NHTSA and a top safety pick from the IIHS. Because it’s only just been released, the new 2021 Hyundai Elantra is still awaiting safety test results.
The newer Hyundai Elantra offers additional safety features such as FCA with an added Pedestrian Detection component that will sound an alarm if someone is strolling in front of the car while it’s moving forward. There is also Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist available. Both come as standard on the base trim level.
Key rivals to the Accent include the Honda Fit and Mazda 3. The Hyundai Elantra competes with bigger cars like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.
Choosing between the Hyundai Accent and Elantra should prove an easy affair, as they are remarkably different cars.
The Hyundai Accent is a smaller subcompact car that lacks any standout features but offers excellent value for money. If you’re looking for a new Hyundai (which gives you the industry-leading 10 year/100,000 mile warranty coverage) and want to save money along the way, the battle-tested Accent is a good choice.
The Hyundai Elantra is a bigger sedan that features an all-new design for 2021. For around $5,000 more, you get a better looking car which has significantly more room for passengers in the back.
Of course, before making any purchase it’s always best to check into your local dealership and see and test drive the cars in person.
Related: Hyundai Elantra vs Sonata