Give a 2018 Hyundai Accent SE the Old College Try

2018 Hyundai Accent SE photos by Matt Coker

So as not to age me, I will not divulge the year of the used Hondamatic I drove off to college in, except to note that Keith Moon departed The Who forever about the same time I applied the band’s KLOS sticker to my back window. (Yes, smart ass, they did have cars back then.)

The two-door was an economical starter car until the day I was driving my then-girlfriend around the Pacific Coast Highway curve near Bolsa Chica in the direction of Sunset Beach, where a loud clicking noise was followed by all power shutting off and a river of black oil fouling PCH. The engine? DEAD!

From that point on I attended college without wheels, which may not sound remarkable until you learn I somehow managed to keep showing up for work at Disneyland, which was more than 20 miles away from my apartment.

How I wish the Hondamatic was never invented and that Hyundai time traveled back to offer me instead a 2018 Accent SE, which may be the best car out there for a starving college kid’s money.

Room in the back for a mutt, her blanket and wipes.

Now, back when I was running coed underwear up the flag pole, $14,995 would have seemed like a fortune. It’s a steal when applied nowadays to my tester, an Urban Gray 2018 Hyundai Accent SE. Why? Because all the features, including some truly impressive ones, are included standard.

It’s got a peppy little 1.6-liter, four-cylinder, Gasoline Direct Injection engine that pushes out 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque.

You can feel the pull while gripping the six-speed manual’s stick, which I found easy to upshift and downshift. (Yep, another ride outfitted with a Millennial Anti-Theft Device.)

In these social media maddening days, young drivers can suffer attention deficiencies. Fortunately, the Accent has anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, which varies the amount of force on each wheel based on the driving condition, and Brake Assist, which helps drivers in emergency stopping situations.

Instruments, stick shift and closer view of touchscreen while backing up.

I suspect both came into play as I downshifted to second gear and the truck in front of me came to a dead stop sooner than I expected, causing me to slam on the brakes and brace for the worst. Instead, the Accent calmly went into a reduced-speed glide before safely halting with room to spare behind the truck.

Government 5-Star Safety Ratings were not yet available for my test ride, but the 2018 Accent SE includes as standard Electronic Stability Control with Traction Control, Hillstart Assist Control, a tire pressure monitoring system and front, front side impact and side curtain airbags.

The rearview camera, whose images are flashed on a five-inch color touchscreen, includes Dynamic Guidelines, which means you can look at multiple angles while backing up.

With the One Touch Triple Turn Signal, a single touch makes the turn indicators blink a certain number of times, so no more having to move the indicator up and down manually while making lane changes.

Audio and cruise controls are mounted on the steering wheel.

I was surprised that standard on the Accent were a keyless remote with panic alert; audio and cruise controls mounted on the tilt steering wheel; dual vanity mirrors with sliding sun visors; a hood insulator to reduce noise and help the car warm up quicker; smartphone/USB and auxiliary input jacks; and map, dome and cargo lights.

Standard features you would expect include: cruise control; air conditioner; body color outside mirrors and door handles; AM/FM audio system with four speakers; 15-inch wheel covers; and a compact temporary spare tire. Actually, the spare may belong in the previous paragraph because it is amazing how many new cars come without them these days.

The driver seat adjusts six ways, with height adjustments included, and there is a 60/40 split-folding rear seat to create more cargo space.

Something a college student or other young drivers will appreciate is the Accent SE gets an EPA-rated 31 miles to the gallon combined (37 mpg highway, 28 mpg city). The annual fuel cost is pegged at $1,150, and Uncle Sam says you’ll save a grand in fuel costs over five years compared to the average 2018 vehicle.

The Urban Gray ghost is filled up and ready to roll!

The EPA gives the 2018 Accent SE manual transmission an impressive score of seven on a 1-10 scale (10 being best) for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions, and a not-as-swell three for smog.

By the way, the $14,995 manufacturer’s suggested retail price quoted earlier does not include an $885 inland freight and handling charge, which pushed the total of my test sedan up to $15,880. But here is something a college student would really appreciate: another standard feature is a full tank of gas.

Hyundai includes some of the most generous warranties out there: five years or 60,000 miles (whichever comes first) new vehicle; 10 years or 100,000 miles powertrain; seven years or unlimited miles anti-perforation; and five years or unlimited miles roadside assistance.

If only I had roadside assistance from Honda back in the day.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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