Hyundai Accent comes in two body styles, a five-door hatchback and a four-door sedan with a conventional trunk. As a subcompact, Accent competes against Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic, Mazda 2, and Nissan Versa.
According to the government, however, the Accent's interior volume puts it in the larger compact class. 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.
Accent was last redesigned as a 2012 model. 2013 brought more standard equipment and more options, including a power sunroof. For 2014, Accent gets more standard equipment: one-touch turn signals, sliding sunvisors, and a driver's blind-spot mirror. The standard audio system has been upgraded for 2014 with improved voice recognition. New projector headlamps with LED accents and a welcome/escort function have been added to the five-door SE and four-door Premium Package models for 2014, along with a tilt/telescopic steering wheel and an automatic-up power window for the driver. A B&M Racing sport shifter is newly available in the five-door SE model.
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.
With its flowing lines and highly sculpted sheetmetal, the Hyundai Accent looks like a smaller version of the Elantra. That's not a coincidence. Accent shares Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design theme with the higher-priced Sonata and Elantra models.
Accent's 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 door handles, with black accents and design elements. So, there is almost no chrome trim on the car beyond the grille bar.
A 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine powers the Accent. It's a twin-cam, 16-valve design with direct fuel injection, a first for the class, as well as variable valve timing to give it low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower. The engine is rated at 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. All-new, like the rest of the car, for 2012, the engine was 40 pounds lighter than the one it replaced. Like the other cars in this class, the Accent uses front-wheel drive.
Accent models come with a choice of 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed automatic transmission. On manual-transmission models, an EcoShift indicator between the instrument pods indicates the proper gear for all driving conditions. We liked the 6-speed manual but didn't care for the indicator, as we think we know the proper gear better than the car does. Other drivers might prefer some guidance.
With manual shift, the clutch pedal was light and easy to operate. The automatic features a Shiftronic manual-shifting mode, allowing the driver more control over gear changes. We preferred to just put it in Drive and go.
With automatic, an Active Eco system modifies engine and transmission controls. The standard six-speaker, 172-watt audio system features a CD/MP3, Sirius XM, and iPod/USB auxiliary jacks. Bluetooth is available, too.
Gas mileage, as estimated by the EPA, is just about the same, whether an Accent has an automatic transmission or the 6-speed manual gearbox. Either way, the Combined city and highway rating is 31 mpg. Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 28/37 mpg City/Highway with automatic, or 28/38 mpg with a manual gearbox. Regular gasoline is recommended for Hyundai Accents.
Hyundai Accent was all-new for 2012. Compared to 2011 and older models, however, this new-generation Accent looks like the product of a different car company. No longer a jelly-bean-shaped rental-like transport unit, the Hyundai Accent has grown up to be a real, modern car.
Making that transition required a complete cosmetic makeover, with every panel on the 2011 model replaced by newer and flashier sheetmetal. And there's almost no chrome on the exterior other than the badges.
We like the sedan, especially when compared to the nerdy previous 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, and slightly higher for the five-door with its longer roof.
Like the exterior, the Hyundai Accent interior was totally redesigned for 2012. The latest 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 promise more room and more storage spaces than was the case with earlier Accents.
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 are 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. It's 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 convenient switches for the sound system on the left, cruise control system on the right, and telephone on the lower left. Flagship SE models wrap the wheel in leather.
As for storage, the rated cargo capacity of the hatchback models is 21.2 cubic feet behind the folding second-row bench seat, and 47.5 cubic feet with the second seat folded flat. Accent sedans provide a still-generous 13.7 cubic feet, which can also be expanded by folding the rear seatbacks.
Door and console storage is generous, and upper-level models have a sliding console armrest, which is unusual in this class.
In the center binnacle, you'll find a USB port and an AUX port, and the two combine to make a port for an iPod cable. It's a very clever arrangement. The interior components add up to a livable, easy-to-use whole with high-quality materials, a minimum of brightwork, plenty of storage, and high functionality.
The 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine in the Hyundai Accent provides enough power and torque to deliver good acceleration with either 6-speed transmission, partly because the car's power-to-weight ratio is about the best in the class, according to Hyundai figures. The engine is smooth and quiet, and runs at about 2200 rpm at 70 mph in sixth gear. The thrifty, gutty little Gamma engine is surrounded by helpers like electric power steering and low-rolling-resistance tires, as well as lighter elements throughout the engine bay and the rest of the vehicle.
It all adds up to Accent's 27/37 mpg EPA mileage rating City/Highway with automatic. The 6-speed manual has a slight edge in highway fuel economy when driven well.
The 6-speed automatic transmission performed quickly and quietly. An Active Eco mode modifies engine management and transmission shift points for up to 7 percent better fuel economy, according to Hyundai, presumably at the expense of throttle response.
The 6-speed manual gearbox is easy to shift, and the clutch pedal is 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 rigid chassis, high-strength steel, generous sound insulation and effective 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 around 2500 pounds, so it responds quickly to driver inputs.
The available all-disc anti-lock braking system (ABS) is rare in the subcompact class, and the Accent's stopping performance was excellent.
The Hyundai Accent is 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.