Entering text into the input field will update the search result below

The Two Best Sedans In The U.S. Car Market: An Analysis

Anton Wahlman profile picture
Anton Wahlman's Blog
Please Note: Blog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors.


  • Hyundai Accent and Nissan Versa are two of the least expensive sedans in the U.S. market at approximately $17,500 before discounts.
  • They both declined materially in sales in the U.S. market for the first three quarters of 2020. Both of them have a crossover (high-riding hatchback) sister vehicle.
  • I drove each car for a few days back-to-back and was equally impressed at the overall drive quality and comfort, of both of them.
  • Sedans as a whole are out of favor, but if you are still in the market for one, these two are now simply so good that you have to question the rationale for buying something more expensive.
  • Hyundai Accent and Nissan Versa are testaments to how much comfort and drive quality can be packed into a minimum of dollars spent.

NOTE: A version of this article was first published on or about December 14, 2020, on my Seeking Alpha Marketplace site.

I recently spent close to a week each, back to back, in the two best sedans for sale in the U.S. market. What were these superb cars?

Were they the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series? The Rolls Royce Phantom and Bentley Mulsanne?

No, they were not sedans that cost $100,000 to $450,000. Rather, these sedans I tested had MSRPs right around $17,500 before discounts. They are the two of the least expensive sedans on sale in the U.S. market right now:

  • Hyundai Accent - $17,490 (with automatic transmission)

  • Nissan Versa - $17,525 (with automatic transmission)

Those are the U.S. mainland starting prices for the automatic transmission versions of those nameplates, including the destination charge -- before any discounts. At these trim levels, the Accent and Versa are stripped to the bone, except for the automatic transmission (manual transmission versions are even more affordable). They don’t even have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

In order to get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, here is how the prices move, as you also get a few other things along with those features:

  • Hyundai Accent - $18,745 (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay)

  • Nissan Versa - $18,665 (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay)

In other words, to get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay -- plus some other things that come along -- you end up paying a little over $1,000 extra. I think that is money well spent -- but more about that below.

However, the versions I drove did not have that extra equipment step-up. They were the bare minimum, with automatic transmission. The rental car favorites, basically.

Hyundai Accent

I had not driven this latest generation of the Hyundai Accent before. My expectations were generally on the lower side, for the obvious reason.

It did not take more than a few minutes behind the wheel before I realized that this is a superb car. The automatic transmission is a marvel of efficiency and precision -- it truly makes the best out of the modest engine.

The steering and handling of the Accent make it feel very nimble and precise. It makes it very relaxing to drive at any speed, including flogging it hard on curvy freeways.

At least in the cheapest car, the driver’s seat has to be very poor and not hold up to a day’s worth of driving, right? Not at all. I can easily get a sore back after a day behind the wheel in almost any car -- many costing multiples of the Hyundai Accent. However, in the actual 2020 base version Hyundai Accent I had not the slightest discomfort after most of 15 hours behind the wheel one day. Truly amazing.

The interior of the Hyundai Accent is obviously nothing special to look at -- but so what? It is so simple to operate, with zero room for confusion. I prefer the simplicity of this cockpit to those of most cars that are significantly more expensive. Automakers tend to believe that touch-operated surfaces -- screens or not -- are the way to go. It is not. Stick to old-fashioned knobs and buttons, please. The Hyundai Accent does.

Was there something I was missing in the Hyundai Accent? Really only one thing -- Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. As I mentioned above, those features would add barely $1,000 more, and it is very much worth it.

How well did the Hyundai Accent sell in for the first three quarters of 2020? I am also comparing the Accent with its “crossover” (higher-riding hatchback / station wagon) variant, the Hyundai Venue, which commenced sales in early 2020.

US sales

2020 1-9

2019 1-9


Hyundai Accent




Hyundai Venue








Data source: Monthly and quarterly company reports

What we are seeing here is a clear case of crossover cannibalization. The sedan version -- Accent -- was down 38%. However, when you add the crossover variant -- Venue -- the total combined U.S. unit sales rose 21% for the first three quarters of 2020. Not too shabby for the combined duo, one might say.

The U.S. as a whole, however, is not in the mood for the least expensive cars these days. Certainly whatever looks like it’s a budget offering at the bottom peg of the lineup, tends to not do so well in the U.S. market recently. Let’s look at Hyundai’s “next step up” in both sedan and crossover terms:

US sales

2020 1-9

2019 1-9


Hyundai Elantra




Hyundai Kona








Data source: Monthly and quarterly company reports

That data looks a lot different than the Accent/Venue data. The absolute level of sales in 2020 was over five times bigger, but it was down 29% compared to 2019. In percentage terms, that’s close to the mirror image of the lowest-price offerings, Accent and Venue.

Nissan Versa

Stepping into the Nissan Versa straight from a week in the Hyundai Accent, the first thing one notices before driving away is of course the interior. There is no doubt that the Nissan Versa is the more modern -- and, dare I say, somewhat “upscale” interior compared to the Hyundai Accent. It’s clearly a newer design.

From the plastics to the shape of the buttons, knobs and displays in the cockpit, it’s obvious that the timing and design goals of this interior were newer and higher. It even starts with the start button. Yes, the Nissan Versa has one. The Hyundai Accent still has the actual key hole. It may be functionally meaningless in terms of a difference, but it immediately makes the Nissan Versa feel like a more modern, unscale car. What did that detail cost to implement? $15?

Going beyond the look of the cockpit, however, the differences between the two cars almost completely fade away into minor nuances at the most. You sit higher up in the Nissan Versa, which doesn’t feel so attractive at first, but after a few hours of driving it doesn’t make much of a difference.

How has the Nissan Versa been selling in the U.S. -- and in context with its crossover version, the Kicks?

US sales

2020 1-9

2019 1-9


Nissan Versa




Nissan Kicks








Data source: Monthly and quarterly company reports

Nissan sells a lot more of these cars than Hyundai in the U.S., but the direction of those sales are very different -- down vs up. Now let’s look at Nissan’s “one size up” from the Versa/Kicks -- but that brings us to a problem: Nissan does not break out sales of the Rogue Sport in the U.S. It combines the Rogue with the very different Rogue Sport, making the combined number meaningless in this context. So we are left with the Sentra only, without the context of its crossover-equivalent sister vehicle:

US sales

2020 1-9

2019 1-9


Nissan Sentra




Data source: Monthly and quarterly company reports

The Nissan Sentra numbers are even worse than the Elantra’s. The Nissan Sentra came out right at the very end of 2019 and it is a most wonderful car. However, sales have plummeted. Clearly not what one would have expected.

But going back to the Nissan Versa: The overall feel of the Nissan Versa’s transmission, engine, steering, handling and seat comfort -- it’s all so close to the Hyundai Accent that it’s not worth it to try to point any more nuances. These two cars have the key thing in common that for “regular driving” -- they simply perform so well it’s almost scary.

I say “scary” because if one had any thought of wanting to buy a more expensive car, a week in each of these two $17,500 sedans immediately calls such an ambition into question. What, precisely, does any other sedan have for which I would want to pay more?

I can see if people need all-wheel drive (not available in these two cars) or if they need more space (duh!). More “luxury”? That’s a particular preference.

But the Accent and Versa aren’t crossovers

The one legitimate complaint against both of these two cars is that they are, per definition, not crossovers/SUVs. They are traditional sedans. They are not suitable to fit a big package from IKEA through the luggage compartment. They are simply not practical that way.

For whatever reason, America -- and much of the rest of the world -- recently decided that we’re all going to IKEA now, often enough that we can’t rely on a rental truck for that. For an Accent or Versa buyer, the package needs to fit in our everyday sedan.

And that was the death knell to the sedan. IKEA killed it. Or at least people’s real or perceived need to buy from IKEA.

As a lifelong IKEA fan, I can’t argue much with that. It’s not a totally irrational conclusion.

These are the two best sedans in the U.S. market today? I think so

All sorts of people have all sorts of legitimate reasons for wanting to buy larger and more expensive sedans. However, for many people they would be surprised to find their needs met -- and exceeded -- by sticking to these two entry-level offerings that sell for as little as $17,500 before discounts.

The Hyundai Accent and Nissan Versa are fun to drive, exceptionally comfortable, and for under $19,000 they are also even more well-equipped. Unless you need larger interior space, all-wheel drive, more horsepower or absolutely need more luxury, I would argue that these are simply the two best sedans on sale in the U.S. market right now.

Analyst's Disclosure: I am/we are short TSLA.

At the time of submitting this article for publication, the author was short TSLA. However, positions can change at any time. The author regularly attends press conferences, new vehicle launches and equivalent, hosted by most major automakers. Hyundai and Nissan hosted product intros.

Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.

Recommended For You

To ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, please enable Javascript and cookies in your browser.
Is this happening to you frequently? Please report it on our feedback forum.
If you have an ad-blocker enabled you may be blocked from proceeding. Please disable your ad-blocker and refresh.