Hyundai Accent is all-new for 2012, and it's a winner. The 2012 Accent is roomier, comes with a more powerful engine, and is priced lower than comparably equipped models from the competition.
The 2012 Hyundai Accent comes in two body styles, a five-door hatchback and a four-door sedan with a conventional trunk. (A three-door hatchback is not available, so don't ask.)
The Accent is a subcompact sedan that competes against the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic, Mazda 2 and Nissan Versa. Completely redesigned, the 2012 Accent offers more room than the previous-generation model. According to the government, the 2012 Accent's interior volume puts it in the larger compact class.
The 2012 Accent is longer in wheelbase and overall length than most of the competition, which means more room inside for people and cargo, and a smoother ride.
We found the Accent very easy to drive. It's responsive but not quick, smooth by subcompact standards but not luxurious. Everything in the cabin is intuitive and easy to operate. It's an attractive design and the materials look nice.
The 2012 Accent looks sportier and more modern than last year's version. The 2012 Accent features Hyundai's new design theme shared with Sonata and Elantra models.
For 2012, the body was reshaped with more flowing lines and more sculpted sheetmetal. The 2012 Accent looks like a smaller version of the new Elantra. The Accent's new body shape carries a low coefficient of drag, 0.30, which helps with wind noise and fuel mileage. The designers chose to go with body color everywhere, from bumpers to mirrors to handles, with black accents and design elements, so there is almost no chrome trim on the new car beyond the grille bar. The new grille, hood, fenders, lamps, bumper and air intakes up front complement new body-colored door handles and mirrors, new taillamps, a mechanical liftgate, and new 14- and 16-inch wheels.
A new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine powers the Accent, a twin-cam, 16-valve design with direct fuel injection, a first for the class, and variable valve timing to give it low-rpm torque, high-rpm horsepower. The engine is rated at 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. The new engine is 40 pounds lighter than the previous engine. Like the other cars in this class, the Accent uses front-wheel drive.
The 2012 Accent comes with a choice of 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed automatic. On manual-transmission models, there is an EcoShift indicator between the instrument pods to indicate the proper gear for all driving conditions. We liked the with the 6-speed manual but didn't care for the indicator as we think we know the proper gear better than the car does. The clutch pedal was light and easy to operate. The automatic features a Shiftronic manual-shifting mode, allowing the driver more control over shifting. We preferred to just put it in Drive and go.
Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 28/37 mpg City/Highway regardless of transmission choice. The manual gearbox gets a slightly better Combined rating of 32 mpg compared with the automatic's 31 mpg EPA Combined city and highway rating.
Hyundai Accent is all-new for 2012. If you see the 2011 and the 2012 versions side by side, they look like the products of two different car companies, they are so different. No longer a jelly-bean-shaped rental transport unit, the 2012 Hyundai Accent has grown up to be a real, modern car.
The 2012 Accent has been given a complete cosmetic makeover, with every panel on the car replaced by newer and flashier sheetmetal, with almost no chrome on the exterior other than the badges. There's a new upper and lower grille design, new hood, new fenders, new lamps, new bumpers and air intakes up front, with body-colored door handles all around, new taillamps, liftgate, and wheels. The front and rear lamp treatments on the new Accent are particularly adventurous and modern.
We like the sedan, especially when compared to the nerdy outgoing car, but we like the hatchback a whole lot better when it comes to pure eye appeal. Hyundai claims a respectable 0.30 coefficient of drag for the sedan version, slightly higher for the five-door with the longer roof.
The 2012 Hyundai Accent interior has been totally redesigned. The 2012 Accent has a far more modern interior than the previous model, with brushed metal accents on the doors, steering wheel and center console, white-on-black instrumentation with red needles, and a multi-function steering wheel. The elements have been redesigned for more room, more storage spaces.
Sporty bucket seats feature superior cushions and bolsters. We found the seats comfortably supportive without being intrusive. Outward vision is excellent. The instrument panel, center stack, vents, switches and controls have all been redone for the 2012 Accent models and it's all easy to look at and operate. The instrument package contains the usual two round gauges with digital readouts and indicators between the deeply tunneled clusters and is bathed in ice blue light at night.
The three-spoke steering wheel has a thick rim and a thickly padded hub. Lower models have urethane-covered steering wheels, upper models have leather-wrapped wheels with convenient switches for the sound system on the left, cruise control system on the right, and telephone on the lower left.
As for storage, the rated cargo capacity of the Hyundai Accent is 21.2 cubic feet behind the folding second-row bench seat, and 47.5 cubic feet with the second seat folded flat. Door and console storage is generous, and the new Accent has a sliding console armrest, unusual in this class.
In the center binnacle, there is a USB port, an AUX port, and the two combine to make a port for an iPod cable, a very clever arrangement. The interior components add up to a livable, easy-to-use whole with much higher quality materials, a minimum of brightwork, plenty of storage, and high functionality.
The new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine in the Hyundai Accent provides enough power and torque to provide good acceleration with either 6-speed transmission, partly because the car's power-to-weight ratio is the best in the class, according to Hyundai figures. The new engine is smooth and quiet, and runs at about 2200 rpm at 70 mph in sixth gear, and about 4400 rpm at 100 mph. The thrifty, gutty little Gamma engine is surrounded by helpers like electric power steering, low-rolling-resistance tires, lighter elements throughout the engine bay and the rest of the vehicle.
It all adds up to Accent's 28/37 mpg EPA mileage rating City/Highway.
The 6-speed automatic transmission performed quickly and quietly.
The 6-speed manual gearbox is easy to shift and the clutch pedal was light and easy to operate. Some models include an EcoShift indicator between the instrument pods to indicate the proper gear for all driving conditions. We did not care for this and generally find shift lights distracting.
Going down the road, the Accent is far smoother and quieter than we were expecting it to be. A more-rigid chassis, stronger steel, more and better sound insulation and better door seals show in the car's quiet highway behavior.
We found the Accent responds relatively quickly, has good tracking, relatively quick response, and good feel on center. Bump, rut and pothole damping is very good. Roll control on twisty mountain and desert roads was very good, and the car stayed put pretty well in hard corners. It's one of the lightest cars in its class at less than 2500 pounds, so it responds quickly to inputs.
The all-disc anti-lock braking system (ABS) is rare in the subcompact class, and the Accent's stopping performance was excellent.
The all-new Hyundai Accent a much better car than the outgoing model. It's aggressively priced and offers a solid combination of value, utility and fuel economy. It's a complete package for an affordable price.
Jim McCraw filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report from Las Vegas; Mitch McCullough contributed to this report after his test drive of the Accent in New Jersey.