Fuel cell vehicles have been around a while. The first one I drove was Ford’s Focus FCV way back in 2005, which was developed as part of a joint initiative between the blue-oval brand along with Daimler-Benz…

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Road Test

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
It’s easy to see how the Nexo’s grille design inspired the new Tucson’s front fascia. Of course, the Nexo is about as advanced as SUVs get, so other than width and height, that’s where similarities to the 2022 Tucson end.

Fuel cell vehicles have been around a while. The first one I drove was Ford’s Focus FCV way back in 2005, which was developed as part of a joint initiative between the blue-oval brand along with Daimler-Benz and Ballard Engineering, the latter bringing the hydrogen fuel-cell tech to the table. After driving that car, and realizing it felt totally normal other than its relatively silent electric propulsion (electrics weren’t very common back then), I believed hydrogen was the way of the future. How wrong was I? At least for the short-term.

It took a decade and a half for me to experience another hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, mostly because of the incredible challenges of installing any sort of hydrogen infrastructure to facilitate refuelling. That car was the outgoing Toyota Mirai, which was followed soon after by a week in this Hyundai Nexo. Fortunately, Vancouver’s Lower Mainland has three new H2-capable public stations where owners of these vehicles can fill up. This now allows for sales, leases and rentals (Greater Vancouver Lyft drivers can now rent a Mirai for weeks at a time) of Toyota’s mid-size sedan and Hyundai’s slightly larger than compact crossover SUV.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The Nexo is significantly longer than the compact Tucson.

So, what happened to Ford and Mercedes? Considering they were two of the first manufacturers to dabble in hydrogen-powered vehicles, it seems strange they’ve mostly left the technology behind. Other producers have come and gone too, while some are still developing hydrogen fuel-cell cars, but haven’t brought them to market (or at least, our market). Honda, for instance, offers an H2 version of its Clarity sedan in the US (we just got the plug-in hybrid), and it’s only $379 USD per month (about $475 CAD at the time of writing) after a small down-payment.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Offering up a clean, attractive design, no one should be offended by Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered SUV.

If the Clarity was a pure EV it would be a steal, considering how much you can save by not having to fill the tank (recharging off peak hours is significantly less than pumping gas or H2), but hydrogen doesn’t come cheap, so (without attempting any calculations, which would be near impossible with the information available) buying into the technology is not going to save you any money at the pump.

Living with a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered vehicle is more about the convenience of not having to wait for hours to recharge its electric drive motor (it took me about five minutes to refill), plus the environmental benefits of the just-noted (local) zero-emissions powertrain. Only water vapour leaves the tailpipe, so it’s no more polluting during its use than an electric vehicle.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The slender LED headlamps are enhanced by a thin strip of connecting light, plus powerful lamps below.

Just for some fun history, I should point out that Mazda was actually the first major player to take part in the hydrogen game. Not afraid of investing in alternative powertrains, the Japanese brand’s 1991 HR-X Hydrogen Wankel Rotary didn’t use a fuel-cell, but certainly burned H2. Others on the H2 history list include boutique (Morgan) as well as household name brands, from both mainstream and luxury carmakers all across the world, with Hyundai’s initial hydrogen foray being the 2001 Santa Fe FCEV, which was quickly followed up with the 2004 Tucson FCEV. The two SUVs received generational updates, which makes Hyundai one of only a small assortment of brands keeping the hydrogen dream alive.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
All in all, the Nexo’s 19-inch five-spoke alloys are quite normal for a dedicated hydrogen-fuelled vehicle.

The majority of early adapters turned to gasoline-electric hybrids and full plug-in EVs instead, with Hyundai also producing its Ioniq Electric compact hatchback, Kona Electric subcompact crossover, and soon, its Ionic 5 compact crossover, plus a number of hybrids as well.

Respect needs to go out to Hyundai for shaping most of its alternative fuel vehicles in the more popular SUV body style, making them much more likely to find buyers than Toyota and Honda, which have also invested millions into H2 tech, yet house such advancements in a waning automotive commodity. No doubt it made sense for Toyota and Honda to stuff their H2 powerplants in four-door, three-box bodies, especially when considering the popularity of their mid-size Camry and Accord sedans when the respective Mirai and Clarity were in their development stages, but doubling down on this for the second-gen Mirai, arriving this year, seems odd, while alternatively Hyundai’s market insight to have stuck with SUVs appears very forward thinking.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The door handles power out when needing to get inside, after which they lock away flush into the door panels to aid aerodynamics.

Hyundai went further by targeting compact buyers, which are more plentiful globally, plus extending the Nexo’s wheelbase to mid-size lengths in order to make sure its second-row legroom and cargo capacity allowed for optimal space. To that end, the Nexo is 190 mm (7.5 in) longer than the outgoing Tucson, albeit the same width and height. It’s not only more practical, but the extra length provides a better ride, improves high-speed tracking, and looks leaner and therefore arguably better than it would have if shorter.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The Nexo’s clear taillight lenses and matte grey paint scheme make this photo look as if it was taken in black and white.

I’m not going to say it looks better than the much more sharply angled 2022 Tucson that was recently introduced, mind you, which is a particularly eye-catching crossover SUV, but I like the Nexo’s flowing grille and LED headlamp combination, plus its extremely smooth lines front to back, and cool matte grey paint. Some interesting details include Land Rover-inspired pop-out door handles that help keep the body lines flush to improve its coefficient of drag, as well as a thin accent strip between grille and hood that lights up at night. The 19-inch five-spoke alloys look pretty good too, maybe because they aren’t as aerodynamically-flush as some grotesquely wind-cheating wheels of the past.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Hyundai’s Nexo offers up a roomy, comfortable, well-made cabin.

Inside, the Nexo lives up to its (partial) name, by transitioning Hyundai’s SUV lineup into the future, or at least it did when this model debuted two years ago. It features a similar dual-display instrument cluster/infotainment system as Mercedes’ MBUX (which it has just left behind with the introduction of its new S- and C-Class models). It includes a digital gauge package to the left and touchscreen on the right, the former monitor’s multi-information display controllable via steering wheel-mounted switchgear. Comparison to Merc’s MBUX is difficult to avoid, and while I’m not going to say Hyundai’s is better, I can’t help but laud the South Korean brand for integrating left and right rear-facing cameras within, these projecting live images onto the cluster when applying the turn signals (now becoming common in Hyundai and Kia vehicles).

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Ahead of the driver is an advanced dual-display gauge cluster/infotainment touchscreen, plus myriad buttons on the sloped lower console.

Unexpectedly, the pewter-coloured centre stack is as much of a look back to yesteryear as all the digital screens are modernistic, albeit in a quaint, busy for the sake of being busy kind of way, as if Hyundai was attempting to fill my mind with memories of the mid-1980s, when I made mixed tapes on my old Nakamichi tape deck from LPs on my B&O Beogram 4000 turntable. Those that appreciate quick access to functions will like the Nexo console setup, while the SUV’s audio system sound quality wasn’t as potent as my old home system, which was powered by a ‘70s-era Luxman L-504 amp and finished off with a set of Boston Acoustics A400 speakers, but it easily overcame Hyundai’s quiet electric powertrain.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Anyone who’s driving a modern-day Mercedes-Benz will appreciate where Hyundai was going with this dual-display setup.

Selecting P, N, D or R is as easy as pushing a button, which engages the Nexo’s 120-kW (161 hp) electric motor, complemented by 291 lb-ft of ever-willing torque. The motive motor pulls power from a 40-kWh battery, but only twists the front wheels, as no all-wheel drive option is available despite its SUV profile.

As noted earlier, the 95-kW fuel-cell stack allows electricity production on the fly, resulting in mobile electrical powerplant, of sorts. Recharging is therefore continuous, as long as there’s hydrogen in the tank, and the EPA claims you’ll be able to extract about 570 to 610 km (355 to 380 miles) after refilling, depending on conditions.

Other than the quick refuelling process, the rest of the Nexo driving experience is just like an electric vehicle, although the usual silence is interrupted by a slight vacuum sucking sound when pressing hard on the go-pedal. I only did this for testing purposes, however, so most of the time it was blissfully quiet, aforementioned tunes aside.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The gauge cluster is purely digital, and filled with functions.

Still, when I needed a fast getaway the Nexo delivered, and likewise when passing laggards on the highway. Even better, it was ultra-smooth doing so, Hyundai’s engineers obviously prizing refinement ahead of excitement. By my own completely unscientific Seiko quartz chronograph calculations, I managed to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in a wee bit over eight and a half seconds, which is about half a second quicker than Hyundai achieved, although I imagine the difference has more to do with my unscientific methods combined with their usual conservative estimates. This won’t impress any Tesla owners either way (or Chevy Bolt owners for that matter), but it certainly doesn’t hold up traffic when merging onto the highway.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Hyundai uses a convenient tile layout for sorting through infotainment features, one of which provides fuel-cell drive system info.

A more pleasant surprise occurred when veering off of a local four-lane freeway onto a curving two-lane backroad that snakes along a winding river near my home. This is where Hyundai’s engineering team appears to have taken advantage of the Nexo’s low centre of gravity, this provided by installing all the heavy equipment (battery included) under the floorboards. It feels truly hooked up around fast-paced corners, and its electrically assisted rack and pinion steering setup was surprisingly responsive for this class of vehicle.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
This overhead parking camera certainly improved visibility.

Better yet was the Nexo’s ride quality, much thanks to a traditional Macpherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension design, along with good tuning. Despite its ability to hustle around corners at a brisk rate, potholes, frost-heaves, bridge expansion joints and other intrusive road imperfections did little to impact driver or occupants, resulting in one of the best ride/handling compromises in the compact crossover SUV segment, and this while rolling on sizeable 245/45HR19 all-season tires.

The Nexo comes across as solid and well-made too, with zero body groans despite having a glass sunroof overhead, and nominal wind or road noise to mar the peaceful experience within. Once again, it was surprisingly refined for its compact SUV segment.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The lower console is a busy affair, but once acclimatized you should have no problem finding what you need.

This focus on refinement is probably why Hyundai didn’t provide a sport selection amongst its driving modes. Alternatively, the Normal setting becomes the default for performance, while Eco mode smooths out the edges even more, and by doing so maximizes all the tiny droplets of compressed hydrogen from its trio of 52-litre H2 tanks. The Nexo’s drive mode selector can be found on the lower console next to the infotainment system’s quick access switchgear, by the way, all of which butt up against the previously noted quad of transmission buttons, so finding it should be easy enough after getting acclimatized.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The driver’s seat provides good comfort and support, plus an excellent view out all windows.

This said, the steering wheel paddles aren’t for shifting gears. Instead, the left one is for simultaneously applying the brakes and sending regenerative kinetic braking energy to the battery. You can bring the Nexo to a full stop just by applying this paddle, as long as the SUV isn’t rolling too quickly, plus the strongest of its three settings needs to be chosen first. That’s the job of the paddle on the right, plus eliminating any rolling resistance by easing off the regenerative brakes. Similar systems are included in most electric cars, so anyone familiar with this EV technology will feel right at home in the hydrogen-powered Hyundai.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Rear seat occupants get outboard seat heaters and a folding centre armrest.

Something else similar to EVs is the impressive load of features found in each Nexo, these helping to offset the rather high prices EV and H2 buyers need to pay in order go green. Along with the excellent digital gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen mentioned a while ago, my Nexo tester included a 360-surround overhead camera system, accurate navigation with detailed mapping, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, wireless charging, and more.

What about luxury finishings? Now that Hyundai has expanded to include its premium Genesis brand, we shouldn’t expect cloth-wrapped roof pillars and soft-touch synthetics below the belt-line, but the entire dash top is made from a nice pliable plastic, as are the front and even the rear door uppers, along with the door inserts and armrests.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Dedicated cargo space is good considering all the hydrogen technology housed below.

I appreciated the heated steering wheel rim as well, while the inherently comfortable power-adjustable driver’s seat was not only three-way heatable, but provided three-way cooling too, not to mention two-way lumbar support that managed to press against my lower spine in just the right spot to alleviate stress.

Additionally, those in back should be comfortable thanks to generous legroom and reasonable width for the class. I think three could sit across the rear bench in a pinch, but I’d rather be back there with just one more passenger so I could enjoy an outboard seat heater and the folding centre armrest with dual integrated cupholders. There’s only one three-prong household-style power outlet on the backside of the front console, however (not that I’ve ever seen more), and no USB ports in the rear, so it’s possible that aft passengers will end up squabbling about device charging.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
A shallow compartment is good for stowing valuables.

Fortunately, the Nexo’s dedicated cargo volume is pretty good at 850 litres (30 cu ft), while it’s expandable to 1,600 litres (56.5 cu ft) via 60/40-split rear seatbacks. This said, a 40/20/40 division would’ve been better, as owners could lay longer items like skis down the middle, while rear passengers enjoy the aforementioned heatable window seats. A mostly level load floor aids usefulness, plus Hyundai includes a bit more storage underneath a carpeted lid.

If you’re used to the high prices of EVs, you’d better sit down and buckle up before I mention the Nexo’s sticker shocker. This mainstream brand-badged compact SUV starts at a whopping $71,000 plus freight and fees, which will certainly be a deal-killer for anyone that hasn’t already priced out a $52,000 Tesla Model Y, or for that matter Hyundai’s own $41,599 Ioniq Electric. Truly, the Nexo is purely for early adopters who want to own something completely unique, and are willing to put up with very few places to fill up.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
The Nexo’s 60/40-split rear seatback provides additional cargo space when needed.

You may already be aware that Vancouver is an anomaly when it comes to retail hydrogen refuelling stations. It’s been a hotbed of H2 development for decades (more specifically the suburb of Burnaby), so having an unfair share of H2 stations per capita makes sense. One is in North Vancouver, close to where Toyota houses its local press fleet. I’m quite sure this is just a coincidence, the real reason for the location more likely being its relative proximity to Whistler, BC, a popular destination spot that’s well within the Nexo or Mirai’s round-trip range. It’s also found in the same city as the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Corporation, HTEC being the developer, manufacturer and installer of hydrogen refuelling pump/station hardware, and responsible for setting up the H2 islands around the city, including a Shell station in Vancouver, close to the airport (YVR) and my home.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Under the hood, Hyundai’s fuel-cell stack looks a lot like a regular combustion engine thanks to a conventional shroud overtop.

As for the rest of Canada, a fourth station is currently being built on Vancouver Island, with a fifth set to open in Kelowna, BC. After that you’ll need to put your H2-powered vehicle on a train if you want to fill up in Quebec City (about 4,800 km away). More are planned, but for the time being it appears that hydrogen is more of a west coast thing.

Speaking of the left, there are 43 hydrogen refuelling stations in California, with the only other two available in the US found in Connecticut and Hawaii (forget the train trip for that final location). Again, there are plans to expand the H2 network in the US, with a supposed “hydrogen highway” eventually connecting California and BC’s H2 infrastructure along the US I-5. Being that this has been bantered about for decades, its ETA is anyone’s guess, but with powerhouses like Hyundai and Toyota behind the technology, some form of a hydrogen-powered future is probable.

2021 Hyundai Nexo Hydrogen Fuel-Cell
Ready to be the first on your block (or your city) to own a hydrogen-powered SUV?

To find out about Nexo trim levels, including the $73,500 Ultimate version tested, plus all the standard and optional features, check out the 2021 Hyundai NEXO Canada Prices page on CarCostCanada, while you can compare this one to the 2020 version that didn’t offer a base Preferred trim line (strange name as I’d prefer to have the Ultimate), and was priced $500 lower. Also, you can research the other models mentioned in this story by following the links connected to their names. Learn more about how a CarCostCanada membership can save you money when purchasing your next new vehicle, by keeping you up to date on manufacturer rebates, factory leasing and financing deals, and most importantly, by providing dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating. Also, remember to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you’ll have all this vital info when you need it most.

Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Just as the glitter and confetti from all our New Year celebrations is being swept up, Ford and Hyundai have been sweeping up 2021’s North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards.…

Hyundai and Ford clean up at 2021 North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year awards

2021 Hyundai Elantra Car of the Year
Hyundai’s 2021 Elantra (also shown above) just won the North American Car of the Year.

Just as the glitter and confetti from all our New Year celebrations is being swept up, Ford and Hyundai have been sweeping up 2021’s North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards.

Yes, it appears as if 2021 is the blue-oval brand’s year to shine as two of its vehicles drove away with class wins, the always best-selling F-150 earning 2021 Truck of the Year honours, and the controversially named Mustang Mach-E silently accepting 2021’s Utility of the Year.

Car of the Year went to Hyundai with its new 2021 Elantra, the reality of which might cause some in Dearborn to wonder what might have happened if the much-lauded (in Europe and other markets) new Focus had been made available in our market.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E
Ford’s 2021 Mustang Mach-E took top honours as this year’s North American Utility of the Year.

Runner up in the Car sector is Genesis’ redesigned G80 mid-size luxury sedan (FYI: Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury division), while Nissan’s revised Sentra took a respectable third place in the annual awards program. Of note, the Chevrolet Corvette won the Car of the Year Class in 2020, but no GM products earned awards this year.

Just behind the Mustang Mach-E crossover EV, Genesis once again placed well in the Utility of the Year category with its new GV80 mid-size luxury crossover SUV, while Land Rover’s rugged new Defender 4×4 earned third. Last year it was Kia’s turn to impress, incidentally, with its stellar Telluride three-row, mid-size crossover SUV.

2021 Ford F-150
Ford’s 2021 F-150, the only fully redesigned model entered in the North American Truck of the Year contest, earned top spot.

Lastly, but hardly least when it comes to sales, NACTOY judges chose the “Desert Rated” Jeep Gladiator Mojave for second place in the Truck of the Year category (the entire Gladiator line won this class last year), while the off-road “race replica” Ram 1500 TRX showed up in third.

Notably, the just-noted Truck of the Year finalists are merely significantly upgraded trims of models already available in 2020, leaving the winning F-150 as the only entirely redesigned model entered into this year’s North American Truck of the Year class. How this may have impacted the Truck of the Year results is not known.

If you’re interested in purchasing one of the above-mentioned vehicles, make sure to click on the associated link to find out about available manufacturer leasing and financing rates, possible manufacturer rebates, and best of all, dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. CarCostCanada is our nation’s top source for money-saving automotive info, so be sure to download their free app on the Apple Store or Google Play Store and save money now.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Ford, Hyundai

Hyundai’s popular Accent hasn’t changed all that much since generation-five was introduced for the 2018 model year. Still, the adoption of a new brand-wide trim level naming convention for the 2019…

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate Road Test

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The Accent’s big, bold grille gives it a lot of presence, while this model’s top-line Ultimate trim adds chrome detailing, fog lights and 17-inch alloys.

Hyundai’s popular Accent hasn’t changed all that much since generation-five was introduced for the 2018 model year. Still, the adoption of a new brand-wide trim level naming convention for the 2019 version probably threw a few diehard Hyundai buyers for a loop, with the previous L, LE, GL and GLS lines being creatively redubbed Essential, Preferred and Ultimate.

The car before you would’ve been named the Accent GLS 5-Door Manual back in 2017 when the 2018 model debuted, but for 2019 was renamed the Accent Ultimate 5-Door Manual. The manual in this top-line trim won’t exist for 2020, incidentally, so being that this exact model in 2019 form was still available at the time of writing, I thought I’d tell you about it along with changes made to the new 2020 Accent, plus let you know about any potential savings on either car.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
That’s a very aggressive rear bumper design for the subcompact commuter class.

For starters, the Accent Sedan is gone. Yes, those who love subcompact four-door sedans can no longer look to Hyundai to satiate their desires. Hyundai isn’t alone, with Toyota dropping its Mazda-built Yaris Sedan for 2020 as well, Nissan saying goodbye to its Versa Note and not bringing its redesigned Versa sedan north of the 49th, Ford killing off its entire Fiesta line that included a sedan and hatchback last year, and Chevy having done likewise with its Sonic the year before, leaving Kia’s Rio as the sole option for three-box city car buyers.

Also new, the Accent gets a fully redesigned engine for 2020, plus a new optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). Gone is this car’s very reliable 1.6-litre four-cylinder that’s good for a commendable 132 horsepower and 119 lb-ft of torque, replaced by the South Korean brand’s all-new 1.6-litre Smartstream four-cylinder engine making 120 horsepower and 113 lb-ft of torque.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Along with these larger 17-inch alloy wheels, the extra chrome trim, fog lamps and LED headlights are classy additions exclusive to Ultimate trim.

The new powertrain is obviously more about fuel economy than performance, having said goodbye to 12 horsepower plus 6 lb-ft of torque, and to this end it achieves an impressive 7.8 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.0 combined with its base six-speed manual, or an even better 7.3 city, 6.0 highway and 6.7 combined with its most fuel-efficient CVT. It really shines when compared to the outgoing model shown here, which could only achieve a claimed rating of 8.2 city, 6.3 highway and 7.3 combined no matter whether using its six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

Of course, the 2019 example before you really shines when taking off from a standing start or passing on the highway. True, I haven’t driven the new 2020 model yet, so Hyundai may have made up for its engine output disadvantage with shortened initial gear ratios, but I’m guessing those trading up from old to new will still find it difficult not to notice a sizeable difference in performance. Hyundai is no doubt hoping the car’s fuel economy improvements will more than make up for any accelerative shortcomings.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The Accent’s finer details are very nice.

This said, fewer and fewer new vehicle buyers are trading up from subcompact cars to the same type of vehicle, but instead are opting for a small SUV. Hyundai has the subcompact SUV category fully covered with its new city car-sized 2020 Venue and slightly larger Kona, the latter model introduced for 2018. The sales of these two have grown exponentially, whereas the Accent’s numbers are dropping at a relatively rapid rate. From a high of 29,751 units in 2018, and still strong Canadian sales of 23,173 in 2014, the Accent’s deliveries have steadily slumped downward from 19,371 in 2015, 19,198 in 2016, 13,073 in 2017, 9,021 in 2018 and just 5,989 in 2019.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Here’s a closer look at the sporty rear bumper.

As noted, small SUV sales have been the benefactors, with the Kona finding 14,497 new buyers in its first partial year (it arrived in March) of 2018 and a whopping 25,817 units throughout 2019, making it number one in its class last year, and the same over the first three months of 2020 too. The Venue is too new and the 2020 calendar year too wonky to make any sense of how it will do overall when things normalize, but if it sells anywhere near as well as the similarly sized Nissan Kicks it should rank somewhere amongst the subcompact SUV segment’s top three or four (the Venue outsold the Kicks in March and had its best sales in May, but Nissan Canada only reports its sales quarterly so we’ll need to wait a little longer to find out—I’ll tell you in my upcoming 2020 Venue and Kicks reviews). Of more importance to this review, in Q1 of 2020 the Venue outsold the Accent by about 1.6 to 1, making it easier to appreciate why Hyundai dropped the slower selling sedan variant.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Check out the sharp looking two-tone red and black interior.

This said there are a lot of reasons to choose the Accent over one of its taller more SUV-like brethren. I say SUV-like because most modern SUVs are little more than raised hatchbacks or wagons with chunkier, beefier styling. Some, like the Venue, don’t even offer all-wheel drive, so their buyers are opting for a more rugged go-anywhere design and a taller ride-height for better outward visibility. They give up some handing chops and oftentimes fuel economy too, but that’s ok in today’s oh-so image conscious society.

The Accent’s 2018 redesign was a major improvement over its more sheepish predecessor, its much bolder wide mouth grille adding a little Audi-like presence to this entry-level commuter. In Ultimate trim there’s more chrome bits to brighten the exterior, particularly on the front fascia that incorporates a set of fog lamps with metal brightwork bezels on each corner, while the side window belt mouldings and each of its four door handles are chromed as well. The LED headlamps with LED signature accents help spiff up this top-line trim too, as do the LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, while a sporty set of 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels round out the look nicely, these framing a set of four-wheel disc brakes in Ultimate trim (lesser versions use rear drums).

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The Accent’s driver cockpit is nicely organized and filled with high-quality controls.

I have to say, the Accent’s exterior styling never left me feeling as if I was living at the entry level of the market. Along with the big, bold grille is a wonderfully detailed front fascia worthy of hot hatch respect, albeit the car’s dramatically sculpted rear valance is even more eye-catching thanks to a large, body-wide black mesh grille insert resulting in a particularly aggressive look. A rear roof top spoiler gives the Accent’s profile a longer, leaner appearance, although it’s not as if they need to visually stretch this car in order to make it look longer than it actually is.

This is the largest Accent in its 18-year tenure, or at least it’s been on the Canadian market for 18 years. The Accent nameplate has been in existence longer, but here in Canada it was previously dubbed Excel, and before that Pony. I’ve driven every generation since the mid-‘80s rear-wheel drive Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed original took our market by storm, and believe me it’s come a long way (as has everything else).

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The primary gauge cluster is nothing special, but it’s clear and easily legible.

The current 4,190-mm long Accent hatchback is 90 mm lengthier than its 18-year-old predecessor, with a 2,580-mm long wheelbase that now spans 180 mm more, while the new car’s 1,729-mm width shows its greatest growth at 109 mm from side-to-side, its 1,450 mm in height only 55 mm taller. Of course, this makes today’s subcompact more like the compacts of yesteryear, which actually means they’re better value than ever when factoring in that the Accent’s price hasn’t really gone up when compared to inflation.

The base Essential starts at just $14,949 plus freight and fees for 2020, by the way, which is quite a bit cheaper than last year’s $17,349 base price. Unusual I know, especially when factoring in the thrifty new engine, but the 2019 model came standard with a Comfort Package that’s extra with the 2020 model, the new 2020 Essential with Comfort Package now starting at $17,699. The price for the Accent’s second-rung Preferred trim has increased too, from $17,549 last year to $17,899 this year, while the as-tested Ultimate has added $1,250 from $20,049 to $21,649, but take note the new CVT auto is now standard whereas last year’s six-speed automatic was an extra (what do ya know?) $1,250 across the line.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The centre stack is well laid out with all the essentials, even including automatic climate control.

Another interesting point about small car value that most Canadians don’t realize is the great deal we’re getting here compared to the U.S. The base 2020 Accent south of the 49th (that just happens to be a sedan as no hatchback is offered there) is $15,295 USD, which was $20,735 CAD after calculating the exchange rate at the time of writing. Likewise, their top-line 2020 Accent Limited is $19,400 USD or $26,300 CAD, while our full-load Ultimate is once again just $21,649. We’re getting a stellar deal.

On top of this, Hyundai Canada is offering factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent on 2019 models or up to $750 in additional incentives for 2020 models according to CarCostCanada, where you can find out about available rebates, financing rates and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next new car purchase. They’ve even got a free mobile app to make your car shopping experience easier, so make sure to find out how their smart system can save you big time before you purchase your next car.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The backup camera is large, providing a good view to the back, plus it includes active guidelines.

The Accent’s larger exterior dimensions translate into a much roomier subcompact hatchback than you might have been expecting, especially when it comes to width. The seats offer plenty of adjustability as long as you’re not looking to modulate the driver’s lumbar area, which is static as is usually the case in this class. I could’ve used a more pronounced lower backrest and better side bolstering, but I can understand this is a one-seat-fits-all compromise and therefore it’s not going to match everyone’s body type ideally. The rest of its adjustments are more than adequate, however, while the tilt and telescopic steering column’s reach was particularly good, enough so that my long-legged, short-torso frame was able to feel right at home with excellent control of the wheel and pedals, not always the case in this category.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
The six-speed manual really adds driving enjoyment, but take note that it’s gone in Ultimate trim for 2020.

Rear seat spaciousness was very good too, but take note that even in this top-line trim there’s no folding centre armrest in back. Instead, the seatbacks fold 60/40 to expand the already generous dedicated cargo area when the need to load in longer items arises. When folded the seatbacks are about four inches above the load floor, which therefore isn’t flat, but most will probably prefer that Hyundai chose to maximize available volume instead of creating a level load area when the rear seats are lowered. A spare-saver tire and some tools can be found below the load floor, while a hard-shell cargo cover hovers above, all par for the course in this segment.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
These sport seats are really attractive and quite comfortable.

More out of the norm for this subcompact segment is the Accent 5-Door Ultimate’s tastefully sporty interior design, plus its impressive load of features. The fact you can leave its key fob in your pocket or purse when opening the door via proximity-sensing access before starting the engine with a button just goes to show how far Hyundai has gone to lift up this lower class into a more sophisticated crowd. The cabin is further enhanced with a sharp-looking two-tone red and black motif. Hyundai doesn’t go so far as to finish any surfaces with soft-touch synthetics, other than the padded leatherette armrests and of course the nicely upholstered seats, these complete with red leatherette side bolsters, red stitching and a stack of six hexagonal shapes embroidered onto their cloth backrests, all of which match the door panel inserts, the red stitching on the shifter boot, and the red baseball stitching on the inside rim of the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Once again everything mentioned impresses more than most shopping in this category will expect.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
A powered moonroof comes standard in Ultimate trim.

The steering wheel spokes include very high-quality switchgear left and right, the toggles on the former for the audio system and surrounding buttons for audio mode control, voice activation, and connecting to the phone, whereas the latter spoke’s switches are for scrolling through the monochromatic multi-information display and cruise controls.

The gauges ahead of the driver are a simple fare, with backlit dials surrounding the just-noted multi-info display, so if you want to be impressed by a digital interface as you’ll need to look to the right at the centre stack which gets a large touchscreen infotainment display complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, regular audio functions, the latter including satellite radio, plus more.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Rear seat roominess and comfort is impressive.

Just below is a single-zone automatic climate control interface that’s made easy to use thanks to large dials that accept winter gloves, while below that is a row of buttons for three-way heated front seats and even a heatable steering wheel rim. At the base of the centre stack is a large bin for storing your smartphone, with connections for a USB-A charge port and an auxiliary plug.

Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking is included in the top-line Accent, as is a powered glass sunroof, while features pulled up from lesser trims include the tilt-and-telescopic steering (an improvement over the tilt steering wheel in base trim), cruise control, front seat warmers and the 7.0-inch infotainment display noted earlier (the base model gets a 5.0-inch colour touchscreen), plus automatic on/off headlights, six-speaker audio (up from four speakers in base trim), keyless entry, and a rear seating area USB-A charging port from Preferred trim, the automatic transmission and Bluetooth mentioned before, plus power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, air conditioning and power windows from the Essential Comfort package, and lastly variable intermittent front wipers, six-way driver and four-way front passenger manually adjustable seats, plus power door locks from base Essential trim.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
There’s plenty of cargo space, making the Accent very practical.

As noted earlier my test car came with a six-speed manual gearbox that’s no longer available in top-line Ultimate trim, this a shame to those of us who appreciate the sportier nature of a DIY transmission. The little car really comes alive with the manual, which makes the most of its aforementioned 138 horsepower. Takeoff from standstill is quick, the shifts are smooth and clutch take-up good, while braking is strong too. High-speed handling is more than adequate for the class, the Accent’s previously noted width and lower ride height (than an SUV) allowing for less body roll than you might expect. Likewise, it feels nice and stable at highway speeds, making this a car I could cruise in all day. Truly, it’s a comfortable and confidence inspiring little ride, which is no doubt a key reason it remains such a strong seller in this class.

2019 Hyundai Accent 5-Door Ultimate
Hyundai has replaced this sporty little engine with a more fuel-efficient one for 2020.

Yes, the Accent’s entry-level car category might seem like a dying breed, but all it would take to reignite interest in small, cheap commuters like this is an extended downturn in the economy, and that could very well be just around the next corner. Combined with rising fuel prices (we’re once again experiencing that too), the Accent makes a good case for itself, with the icing on its cake being a five-year, 100,000 km comprehensive warranty. I recommend you check this little car out, and remember to opt for the 2019 if your prime focus is performance, or 2020 if you’re looking to save a bit more at the pump.

 

 

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

Now that the entirely new 2020 Palisade is garnering positive reviews and gaining plenty of new owners, the time was right for Hyundai to give its top-selling Santa Fe a bold new face as well. This said…

Hyundai updates the Santa Fe with a bold new look for 2021

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The 2021 Santa Fe shows a bold new face for this popular model, and a possible styling risk for Hyundai.

Now that the entirely new 2020 Palisade is garnering positive reviews and gaining plenty of new owners, the time was right for Hyundai to give its top-selling Santa Fe a bold new face as well.

This said not all onlookers are pleased with the design direction the South Korean brand is taking its popular mid-size five-passenger crossover SUV, with a quick CarCostCanada poll showing 100-percent of respondents preferring the outgoing model to the new one. Still, playing it safe can often result in more criticism while sticking your neck out with something daring might only cause initial pushback, so time will tell how buyers respond to the new model when it arrives later this year.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The current 2019-2020 Santa Fe offers a more conservative styling approach, yet still provides a distinctive design.

One thing is for sure. There won’t be many mistaking the 2021 Santa Fe from its competitors, thanks to a distinctive new widened grille that looks one part Hyundai and another part Fisker thanks to extending right out to each corner of the frontal fascia. It’s nevertheless mostly unique, and according to Hyundai’s press release accentuates the SUV’s “wide and well-balanced stance.”

“We modernized the New Santa Fe with premium features and appealing aesthetics that are sure to add value,” said SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President and head of Global Design Centre. “The bold lines that extend from one side to the other and from front to back give Santa Fe a rugged yet refined look that SUV customers want. Besides, we’ve added numerous features and functions to create a truly family-focused SUV that is a pleasure to drive.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
This version of the 2021 Santa Fe shows a different grille design with octagonal insert openings, plus medium grey lower bodywork.

Hyundai didn’t explain why the new grille’s “signature geometric patterned inlay” is different depending on which photo is shown, however, the model with body-colour painted lower trim (most likely the new top-line Santa Fe Ultimate) receiving seven rows of isosceles trapezoids, and the model with dark grey lower bumpers and rocker panels getting better aeration via larger octagonal vent openings similar to those currently in use, resulting a sportier appearance. Are these actually different grilles or the result of active grille shutters? We’ll learn more as additional info gets introduced closer to launch.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Flat-planed wheel arches provide a solid looking stance.

As it is, not a lot has been revealed in Hyundai’s 2021 Santa Fe release, other than nine exterior photos of white-painted examples in the two trims just noted. Both receive all-new T-shaped signature LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), however, which distinctly flow from the lower grille extensions up to the headlamp clusters, where each T’s stem gets capped off by its glowing cross-member. The outer tip of each T visually continues rearward along the new Santa Fe’s beltline before meeting up with a crease in the model’s redesigned wraparound LED taillights, while thicker flat-planed wheel arches “accentuate the SUV’s rugged and powerful character,” adds Hyundai, which house large 20-inch alloy wheels featuring a seven-spoke geometric pattern in the two Santa Fe trim-line examples shown.

From the rear, the new 2021 Santa Fe receives more horizontal styling elements to bring attention to its wide stance, including a thin light bar connecting the new taillights just mentioned, and lower down on the bumper a narrow reflector strip spanning most of the model’s width, plus a wider, larger rear vent cutout and metallic skid plate below that, which Hyundai dubs “a unique three-layer look.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Unique 20-inch wheels provide a seven-spoke geometric design.

Although Hyundai provides no photos of the updated 2021 Santa Fe interior, it shares some info in the press release that sheds some light on what we can expect. Keep in mind the current 2019-2020 fourth-generation Santa Fe (read our road test review of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate here) is already one of the more luxuriously equipped two-row crossover SUVs available in the mainstream volume-branded auto sector, but according to Hyundai the new updated model provides “more space, comfort, and convenience,” and adds “a new level of luxury with every component finished in premium soft-touch materials.”

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The new Santa Fe’s rear design includes a new light bar between the taillights and a horizontal reflector strip spanning most of the bumper.

Hyundai continues by saying the new Santa Fe’s centre console “sits high, giving the driver and front passenger the feeling of sitting in an armchair,” while all switchgear is “centered for intuitive and ergonomic use.” What’s more, like with the new three-row Palisade, the new Santa Fe’s reworked lower centre console receives a quad of buttons for gear selection, replacing the conventional shift lever. This is possible due to the new Santa Fe’s shift-by-wire transmission, and while no photo was provided for publication, we noticed one on the 2021 model’s press site page that’s most likely the real deal. It looks identical to the Palisade’s centre stack and lower console, so therefore, while we can’t be certain which model it comes from, it’s safe to say we’ll see something similar if not exactly the same in the updated Santa Fe. Either way, we’ve included it in our photo gallery above, so make sure to check it out. 

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
The current 2019-2020 Santa Fe gets a more upright design and an arguably more rugged looking rear bumper.

The new button-type gear selector receives a right-side extension housing a new Terrain Mode dial selector with stylish knurled metal edges that optimizes the performance of Hyundai’s HTRAC All-Wheel-Drive system, including Sand, Snow and Mud settings, plus Eco, Sport, Comfort and Smart modes (the latter intuitively recognizing and automatically responding to personal driving style). Additionally, five more buttons provide quick adjustment to various driving and parking camera controls.

The new drive controls sit below two redesigned rows of centre stack switchgear, the top silver-painted row mostly for adjusting the larger, wider 10.25-inch AVN (audio, video, navigation) high-definition infotainment touchscreen atop the dash, this interface featuring power/volume and tuning/scrolling/enter knobs with the same knurled metal-look grips as the Terrain Mode selector, and the middle row also including LCD readouts for the dual-zone automatic climate control system, plus the same knurled metal edging on its “Auto” and “Sync” dials. The upscale detailing most likely continues into other areas of the cabin, but we’ll need to wait for more interior photos to know how far Hyundai has gone with such improvements.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Despite photos of the 2021 Santa Fe interior not being provided yet, a single photo of its centre stack and lower console appears on the automaker’s website.

The Santa Fe is Hyundai Canada’s longest running SUV nameplate, having originally arrived for the 2001 model year as a larger than average compact car-based crossover SUV. Now, four generations later it was the second best-selling five-passenger SUV in Canada during 2019 behind the Ford Edge, with 18,929 sales compared to the blue oval brand’s 19,965. This said, it was number one in the entire mid-size segment in 2018 with 24,040 units sold compared to 19,156 for the Edge, and that was after nearly a decade of class dominance with a peak of 28,402 deliveries in calendar year 2017.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
The new design feature T-shaped signature DRLs that strike upwards through the extended grille and into the LED headlamp clusters.

While Canadians clearly like the Santa Fe, Hyundai’s more recently introduced models are gaining traction in their various SUV segments too. The aforementioned Palisade was only introduced last year as a 2020 model yet 3,845 units were sold before the close of 2019. Sales were down for the first part of 2020 for obvious reasons, but from January through April the Palisade’s 1,285 units were nearly half of the Santa Fe’s 2,665 deliveries (the latter representing a 56-percent plunge), boding well for the larger utility when stronger sales resume, whereas the Kona (also available as an electric-powered EV) leads its subcompact SUV segment with 4,858 sales, the Tucson is close behind and third after the mighty Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V in the larger compact SUV class with 4,733 units, and the all-new Venue has been selling strongly amongst city car-sized utilities with 1,577 down the road.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai promises the 2021 Santa Fe will provide a roomier, more accommodating cabin.

Once again we’ll need to see how Hyundai’s faithful respond to the new 2021 Santa Fe’s unorthodox styling before we predict a return to the top of the mid-size SUV sales charts, but improvements to its already impressive interior won’t hurt. This said, those that prefer the outgoing 2020 model’s styling may want to purchase one now and by doing so take advantage of up to $3,000 in additional incentives. To learn more go to CarCostCanada’s 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Canada Prices page, and just in case you can find a 2019 version still available, CarCostCanada’s 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Canada Prices page shows factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
If you like the look of the 2019-2020 Santa Fe more, check CarCostCanada for up to $3,000 in additional incentives.

Hyundai Canada is also offering zero-percent leasing and financing rates for the 2020 Venue, 2020 Kona Electric, the 2019 Kona Electric and the conventionally powered 2019 Kona, the 2019 Tucson, and 2019 Nexo (a hydrogen-powered EV), while you can access up to $1,000 in additional incentives when opting for a 2020 Kona or Palisade, and like the 2020 Santa Fe up to $3,000 in additional incentives when choosing a 2020 Tucson. Find out more about a CarCostCanada membership that provides all of this info and more, including available manufacturer rebates and otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands on your next purchase, by linking to their “How It Works” page, plus download the new CarCostCanada mobile app in the iTunes or Google Play stores.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Hyundai

Interestingly, as cars become little more than rolling computers with seats they’re actually becoming less complex, at least from a driving application and design perspective. The new autonomously driven…

Hyundai reveals gorgeous new Prophecy Concept EV

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
The new Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV certainly isn’t short on style, its new Optimistic Futurism design language said to show the South Korean brand’s styling direction. (Photo: Hyundai)

Interestingly, as cars become little more than rolling computers with seats they’re actually becoming less complex, at least from a driving application and design perspective.

The new autonomously driven Prophecy Concept EV from Hyundai is about as minimalist as four-wheeled conveyances come, that is until inspecting the details. The brand’s upcoming Optimistic Futurism design language has been designed to connect people more fully with their cars, or so said the head of Hyundai’s global design centre SangYup Lee in the vehicle’s press release.

“We have brought to life yet another icon that establishes a new standard for the EV segment as well as pushing Hyundai’s design vision to even broader horizons,” said Lee. “A part of that expansion is what we call Optimistic Futurism, a design concept embodied by ‘Prophecy’. With Optimistic Futurism, our aim is to forge an emotional connection between humans and automobiles.”

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
The Prophecy’s transparent acrylic rear spoiler sits above a unique 3D rear panel with integrated LED taillights. (Photo: Hyundai)

Of course, creating emotional ties between consumers and their products should be a key priority of all brands, and to that end Hyundai has a pretty good chance of doing so with the Prophecy. The South Korean company, which sometimes seems to be playing a game of design tug of war between the overly conservative and overtly dramatic, the various generations of its Sonata mid-size sedan making this abundantly clear (seen at CarCostCanada in its stunning new 2020 design, somewhat less emotive 2019 version, even more sedate 2015 variant, and swoopy 2014 design), has pulled off a design with the Prophecy that’s at once minimalist in its retrospective shape and simultaneously a wonder of unique intricacies.

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
These propellor-style wheels help push air down each side of the vehicle. (Photo: Hyundai)

Its curvaceous styling could’ve easily been conjured up by Porsche for its next-generation Panamera or the new Taycan, not that it looks like either, but few brands dare attempt to shape a car with as many rounded edges, let alone a grille-less front end, not dissimilar to Tesla’s Model 3. Then again its seemingly vented rear quarters, which pull eyeballs away from the otherwise large transparent acrylic whale tail-like rear wing, appear to pay homage to Preston Tucker’s ultra-aerodynamic (for its era) post-war 48, although protruding from this otherwise pixelated 3D panel are LEDs for the taillights. Hyundai has done something similar up front, but as part of a more traditional set of headlamp clusters that utilize the same transparent acrylic as the rear spoiler and in the camera monitoring system.

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
A pixelated 3D rear panel incorporates LED taillights. (Photo: Hyundai)

Of course, all of the above aid aerodynamics, which is why others have chosen variations on the Prophecy’s theme, Hyundai even going so far to create propeller-inspired wheels that direct air down each body side.

No exterior or interior dimensions have been released, but it appears to sit in the mid-size sweet spot, while technical specifications aren’t available either, but of course with “EV” in the name it’s obviously 100-percent electric. Hyundai has told us the Prophecy’s battery is located below the passenger compartment, so expect it to ride on a completely new “skateboard” architecture that would allow for multiple body styles to reside on top.

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
Clamshell doors open up to a large four-door coupe interior. (Photo: Hyundai)

The Prophecy’s cabin is easy to see through its four clamshell doors, its four seating positions separated into deeply sculpted buckets providing what appears to be just enough legroom in back. A unique tartan upholstery design is another nod to Porsche’s 911, 924 and 928 models from 1975 through 1980, blue-green a popular colour combo in the day, but nothing the German performance brand ever did back then achieved the built-in wow factor that Hyundai’s new creation does, and not just because the Koreans use the Scottish pattern for the bolsters as well as the centre inserts.

2020 Hyundai Prophecy Concept EV
Two digital panels (the driver’s powering into place as needed) are joined by joystick-like driving controls. (Photo: Hyundai)

Even the Prophecy’s massive wraparound digital display that frames the windshield’s base isn’t all that radical these days, although the pop-up driver’s instruments are pretty slick, but even still these can’t steal the thunder from the car’s driving controls. You may have noticed its lack of steering wheel, this seemingly irreplaceable tool having been swapped out for a pair of pivoting joysticks. Why not, especially in a car that’s designed to be capable of full self-driving.

Will we ever see a Prophecy on the road? Unless it’s this single example being transported to the next auto show, when that ever happens (the Geneva auto show it would’ve been unveiled at cancelled due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19), this new concept exists to show prospective Hyundai buyers its future styling direction, and to that end it looks like the brand’s design department has things well in hand.

 

Hyundai | “Prophecy” Concept EV Unveiling (16:04):