Toyota Yaris vs Hyundai Accent: Which Subcompact Is Best for You?


Let’s look at a Toyota Yaris vs Hyundai Accent comparison. These are two subcompact cars that offer two very different approaches to affordable transportation.

One aims at safety, the other at features and value. When you’re looking at some of the lowest cost cars on the market, is the subcompact box a penalty, or just a smaller version of what their bigger siblings offer? This is the 2018 Toyota Yaris vs Hyundai Accent, head to head.

Toyota Yaris

For 2018, Toyota refreshed the hatchback Yaris. It wasn’t a big redesign, but it did add some needed updates. On the outside, a new front fascia dropped the chrome strip from last year for a sleeker look. Inside, there is a new instrument cluster and an updated infotainment system.

The Last Four-Speed Automatic in America

Under the short hood of the Toyota Yaris hatch is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque. The car is offered with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. That’s right, a four-speed. It’s the last new car in America to come with a four-speed automatic.

That lack of gears doesn’t make for a bad powertrain. The 1.5-liter four pulls the car more quickly than you would expect from such a small displacement. Credit that to a car with a curb weight well under 2,400 lbs. With little weight, little power is needed.

It’s not fast, but it’s adequate. The engine revs happily, even under control of the automatic. It’s not quiet at higher revs, but it’s not a harsh noise. It wouldn’t pass muster in an Avalon, but it’s more than acceptable here. The four-speed isn’t a liability either. While it serves as a reminder of cars of the 1990s, it’s a breath of fresh air when compared to many current nine and 10-speed autos and it’s preferable to a CVT.

The Yaris is a tall hatch, but it doesn’t feel tippy. The suspension isn’t going to be confused with sporty, but the light weight and small 15 and 16-inch tires offer plenty of sidewall to absorb bumps and imperfections.

Toyota has loaded up the Yaris with active safety features. It doesn’t get the brand’s full suite, but it does have Safety Sense C. That means pre-collision emergency braking, lane departure alerts, and automatic high beams. Standard on all trims.

Inside the Toyota Yaris

Inside, the tall Yaris has a tall driver’s seat and a low dash. It gives great visibility, but comes with some issues. The steering wheel does tilt, but it doesn’t tilt very high. Similarly, the seat doesn’t go down close to the floor. For drivers who are big or tall, the gap between the bottom of the wheel and the seat cushion is small. The wheel was hard against my thighs when driving, not overly comfortable.

The Yaris has a very practical interior, with good space for its size, but it looks like the interior of a low-cost car. Hard plastics on the dash and steering wheel were acceptable when this car launched in 2013, but the state of the small car has moved on.

Hyundai Accent

Enter the Hyundai Accent. Also redesigned for 2018, but this time it’s all new. The bodywork makes it look like a scaled-down version of the Elantra, which is no bad target.

The Accent offers a 1.6-liter four that makes 130 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard on the base SE trim, with six-speed automatics for the rest of the line.

The extra power isn’t as noticeable as you might expect, as the Accent tips the scales 344 lbs heavier than the Yaris with the automatic and nearly 170 heavier with the manual.

It still feels quick, in the way that only small cars can. The quick-shifting automatic lets you dart in and out of traffic, and offers plenty of power for highway merging. The engine is smoother and quieter than the Yaris. Quiet enough that it would sound at home in a larger, more expensive car.

The Accent’s ride and handling make it feel like a small car that happens to be cheap, not a cheap car that is small. The light weight and tall height make it susceptible to wind gusts, but that is the biggest clue you’re in a car of this class.

Inside the Hyundai Accent

The Accent’s extra weight comes from extra size. It rides on a 1.8-inch longer wheelbase and is 1.4-inches wider. That translates to slightly more rear legroom, but noticeably more hip room. 1.7-inches up front and an inch in the back. More importantly, it feels much wider. I was fighting with my passenger for elbow room in the Yaris, but not in the Accent.

The rest of the interior looks and feels like the larger and more expensive Elantra. This doesn’t feel like a subcompact inside.

The SE model’s 5.0-inch touchscreen audio system doesn’t match up to the 6.1-inch system in the Yaris, but the 7.0-inch screen with Android Auto and Apple Carplay that is standard on SEL and Limited offers looks and connectivity that Toyota doesn’t.


Hyundai doesn’t spread the active safety features as widely as Toyota. Only the Limited gets forward collision avoidance, and lane keeping and automatic high beams aren’t offered.

Toyota Yaris vs Hyundai Accent: The Verdict

At the pumps, the lower power, lower weight Yaris wins. It scores an EPA-rated 30 mpg city, 35 highway. The Accent is close at 28/38. Both come with small gas tanks, in the 11-gallon range, which means that even those figures lead to frequent highway fuel stops.

If you’re looking for the most safety features for your dollar, the Toyota Yaris takes the prize. The same for max cargo space, since Hyundai has dropped the Accent hatch in the US. Behind the seats, though, the Accent’s trunk beats the Yaris’s small storage area.

Strangely, the Yaris doesn’t offer heated seats in the US. Hyundai offers heated seats on the Limited, but doesn’t offer the heated wheel that other markets get.

On the road, the Hyundai Accent looks and feels like it’s a class above in interior materials, comfort and refinement. Hyundai has been playing catch-up for years, but the new Accent shows that they’re starting to pull ahead.