Light car winner: Hyundai Accent - 2015 Australia's Best Cars

By NRMA Motoring on 25 February 2016
2015 Hyundai Accent Active

Winner: Hyundai Accent Active
Second: Kia Rio Si
Third: Renault Clio Expression

Winner: Hyundai Accent Active

Hyundai's update to the Accent 5-door hatch in August 2015 has given it the boost required to take victory in the competitive light car category. The entry-level Active model now has a 1.4L engine (down from a 1.6L unit) and a new CVT automatic transmission.

Along with a change of engine, Accent has also had a significant $2000 price cut. With an indicated drive-away price of $20,066, it is one of the cheapest cars in this category. This has helped to put it right up there as an outstanding value-for-money option in a class where cost of ownership is critical to buyers.

Hyundai's Lifetime Service Plan ensures owners know what they'll pay for servicing over the whole ownership period. Not only does this provide peace of mind, it is also helps to give Accent best-in-class running and repair costs. Hyundai's five-year/unlimited-km warranty is a further incentive for owners.

The 1.4L 4cyl petrol engine produces 74kW at 6000rpm and 133Nm at 3500rpm, which is adequate for around town use but struggles to keep up with the other finalists. The new CVT transmission is a step up on the dated 4spd automatic fitted to the previous Accent. This combination of a smaller engine with a more flexible transmission has helped to reduce fuel consumption to a respectable 6.2L/100km.

Accent is a great city car with good around-town behaviour and drivability. However, when the speed picks up and the road gets windy, it starts to fall behind our other finalists in handling ability.

While not impacting durability, the low-cost entry-level aspect of Accent is noticeable. The build and finish quality is not as good as the other finalists. The interior is clearly laid out but isn't as sophisticated as its competitors. Cost savings are evident in less critical areas, for example the Accent has steel wheels where most cars even in this class now have alloys.


However, it's in the areas that appeal to younger first-time car buyers where Accent really shows its mettle. A five-inch touch-screen multimedia system has all of the connectivity features that modern buyers expect. The inclusion of Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and steering wheel controls is effectively a requirement in this field, and so while Accent's standard features score overall isn't high, it has the critical things.

Many people buy light cars because that's all they can afford, and any contender that has better-than-average space will do well. Accent is the biggest of our finalists, with a large luggage area and good rear leg room. It is not as big or practical as the class-leading Honda Jazz, but nevertheless its size adds to Accent's usability as a shopping hauler.

Despite a somewhat minimalist approach in some areas, Accent comes with a five-star ANCAP safety rating with mandatory ABS and ESC backed up by six airbags, and as a result it ticks the box for the minimum level of safety we would expect to see in this category.

Hyundai has streamlined its light car line-up by removing the i20, leaving the competent Accent as the entry point to the brand.

Second: Kia Rio Si


It has been three years since KIA Rio won this class with the impressive Si model. However, in recent years the top-selling variant has been the lower-specified S which pushed it down the Australia's Best Cars rankings.

A facelift for the range at the start of 2015 has seen the mid-level Si variant come back as a favourite among private buyers and this spec change has shifted Rio up our scoresheets. Along with this step up in variant is an increased price, making Rio one of the more expensive cars in the class.

The 1.6L, 4cyl petrol engine, backed with a 6-speed automatic transmission, provides a good level of performance. This higher-spec drivetrain combined with a polished ride and handling package that has been developed in Australia makes for a convincing driver experience.

Rio's updated interior presentation and layout as well as the quality of the materials are of a higher level than its fellow Korean-built light car, the class-winning Hyundai Accent.

With the now-common set-up of six airbags, Rio gets a five-star ANCAP safety rating. It is backed by KIA's impressive seven-year warranty and capped-price servicing program to give owners additional peace of mind.

Third: Renault Clio Expression


The reigning champion from the past two years was not able to defend against the updated Korean light cars and has slipped back to third place. Despite moving down in the rankings, it still remains as one of the top driver's cars in this class.

On the road Renault Clio is an outstanding leader with a strong focus on dynamics. It has best-in-class handling while Renault has accomplished the usually conflicting task of also maintaining good ride quality. The performance on offer from the turbo-charged 1.2L engine backs up the well-sorted suspension system.

Clio is smaller than the other finalists, with not a great deal of leg room in the rear. The front seats are comfortable and the interior has a quality feel. The smoothness and quietness is class-leading and highlights the Renault's position as a more premium car in this category.

Clio has a five-star ANCAP safety rating with features including electronic stability control, dual front airbags and side airbags that protect the head and chest for front-seat passengers. But the lack of head-protecting airbags for rear passengers is disappointing.

Capped-price servicing for the first three years and a five-year/unlimited km warranty improve the ownership proposition of this pretty much all-round good car.

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