2012 Hyundai Accent
Redesigned subcompact hatchback and sedan get new direct-injection engine, promising 40 mpg on highway
When Hyundai first entered the American market, way back in 1986, the company's sole product was a low-budget subcompact called the Excel. That largely forgettable model failed to establish the South Korean automakers' reputation, but its Accent replacement, launched for 1995, marked a notable step forward. Redesigned for 2000 and 2006, gaining stature each time, the 2012 Hyundai Accent is the fourth generation of Hyundai's subcompact.
Sedan and Hatchback Styles
With its chrome-accented, hex-shaped grille, wraparound headlights, and sculpted hood creases, the 2012 Accent exhibits what Hyundai calls its "fluidic design language." Hyundai claims the redesigned Accent is more aerodynamic than a Honda Fit or Ford Fiesta.
Two body styles are offered: a four-door sedan with a trunk, and a four-hatchback (referred to as a five-door). Visually, hatchback models are highlighted by a rising beltline, sculpted character line, roof-mounted spoiler, and vertical taillamps.
Powertrain and MPG
Under the hood, a 1.6-liter Gamma GDI four-cylinder engine replaces the former Alpha unit. Weighing 40 pounds less than the predecessor engine, the four-cylinder produces 138 horsepower (up 25 percent) at 6300 rpm and 123 pound-feet of torque at 4850 rpm.
The 2012 Hyundai Accent is claimed to be the only subcompact with a choice of six-speed transmissions: either manual or automatic. The manual gearbox includes an EcoShift indicator that suggests the most efficient shift points, while the automatic has Shiftronic manual mode, for drivers who prefer to change gears on their own. Automatic has an active Eco system that can boost gas mileage up to 7 percent. During deceleration, the system cuts the fuel supply.
Hyundai has been pushing hard on gas mileage lately, and the Accent follows that path. Whether it's equipped with a manual or automatic transmission, the 2012 Hyundai Accent gets a fuel-economy estimate of 30 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway. Weight is a significant factor. Rather than a cast-iron block, as before, the new engine switches to an aluminum block, adding a plastic intake manifold.
Size, Cargo, and Safety
Body stiffness is up 22 percent with the new design. The 2012 Hyundai Accent is 3.5 inches longer than before, on a wheelbase that's gained 2.8 inches. Front legroom has grown, and seat track (fore/aft distance) has increased. Cargo volume totals 13.7 cubic feet in the sedan's trunk, versus 21.2 cubic feet inside the hatchback.
Hillstart Assist is installed on automatic-transmission models, for the first time. Six airbags are standard, and Accent is said to be the only subcompact with standard all-disc brakes—beating each competitor for braking distance.
An 2012 Hyundai Accent SE hatchback with automatic proved to deliver a near-flawless ride, though roads in the Las Vegas area—where the media preview took place—are supremely paved. Serious urban potholes might elicit a bit more trouble. Even as the pavement roughens a bit, however, the suspension does good job of absorbing and coping with most imperfections.
Though the Hyundai Accent is very quiet ordinarily, occupants can hear some engine drone at highway speed, even when not accelerating. When pushed, that drone becomes quite noticeable.
Steering feel isn't as light as in a typical subcompact. In fact, the Hyundai Accent slightly resists turning effort at the steering wheel, which detracts a trifle from the desired confident sensation. Still, it's easy to drive and does not require much correction on the highway.
Acceleration in the 2012 Hyundai Accent is passable at low speeds, though start-up is leisurely. At highway speed, when passing or merging is called for, response is more sluggish. This Accent gets up to speed, but not exactly in a hurry. The six-speed automatic transmission is very effective at finding the best gear, but on other than level terrain, that can mean a considerable number of repeated gear changes.
Hyundai's manual gearbox is nothing special, with rather long "throws" like most subcompacts. Still, it's workable and easy to shift. The manual transmission isn't quite so easy to modulate for smooth takeoffs, however. Even so, the best way to get more enthusiastic reaction from the engine is with a manual.
Interior and Pricing
In addition to abundant headroom, the driver gets a superior forward view over the low, shapely dashboard top. Elbowroom is ample, too. The back window is rather squat, and partially blocked by headrests. Headroom in the back seat is good, and legroom is satisfactory for a subcompact. Cargo space isn't bad: either, in the relatively deep well with a full cover: 21.2 cubic feet for the hatchback, versus 13.7 for the sedan's trunk. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies Accent as a compact rather than a subcompact.
Pricing starts at $12,445 (plus $760 destination charge) for a four-door GLS, which is the high-volume model. A hatchback GS with manual shift goes for $14,595, while the sporty-styled SE hatchback stickers for $15,795 ($16,795 with automatic).
For subcompact buyers, logically enough, the most important factor is fuel economy, according to Brandon Ramirez, Hyundai's senior manager of product planning. Subcompacts are the fastest growing class, Ramirez added. Specifically, the 2012 Hyundai Accent competes against the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, and coming-soon Chevrolet Sonic. www.hyundai.com
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