Ronald Montoya, Senior Consumer Advice Editor
A few years ago, the Hyundai Accent was the scrappy underdog of the subcompact car class. It had the skills to compete, but it rarely placed high in the rankings. Hyundai addressed many of the Accent's shortcomings with the 2012 redesign. It now has more power, better fuel economy and looks better than ever.
As impressive as the redesign is, we feel that the 2012 Hyundai Accent GLS occupies the solid middle ground of the subcompact car class. On the high end, the Kia Rio (the Accent's corporate cousin) has better looks, a sportier suspension and more premium features like push-button start and navigation. The Nissan Versa belongs at the low end of the category, especially after the Accent handily trounced it in a comparison test. Buyers in this class might also consider the Honda Fit, which has more cargo space, or the less expensive Mazda 2.
Pricing for the 2012 Hyundai Accent GLS can quickly skyrocket when you realize that the starting MSRP of $12,545 brings you a stripped-down base model with a manual transmission, roll-up windows and no air-conditioning. Most people will opt for the automatic transmission, which adds $2,750 to the price, although the option package includes a number of other features such as power-operated windows and mirrors, air-conditioning and a CD player. And if you want your Accent to have some modern amenities, you'll probably want to get the $1,300 Premium package, which adds 16-inch wheels with 50-series tires, foglights, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, audio controls on the steering wheel and more.
This brings you to $16,625 before the destination fee. That said, the price of a well-equipped 2012 Hyundai Accent GLS is on par with its competitors and is still a relative bargain for the options you are getting. If you were to load up a slightly larger vehicle like a Honda Civic or Hyundai Elantra, you'd pay a few thousand dollars more for the same options.
The Hyundai Accent is powered by a direct-injection 1.6-liter inline-4 engine that produces 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. This is among the highest horsepower in this class, matched only by the Chevrolet Sonic and the Kia Rio.
The power is there, but you might not necessarily feel it as you accelerate away from a stoplight. Our test driver noted a delay after the initial throttle tip-in. It takes some getting used to at first, but by no means is this a deal-breaker.
During our instrumented testing, the Accent went from a standstill to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds. This is about average for this class. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts slowly, but is otherwise silky-smooth. With its 195/50R16 tires, the Accent fared well in our braking tests, where it stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, also an average rating. The Accent held its composure during heavy braking, while a firm pedal feel over a short stroke enhanced controllability. The Accent also performed well in the slalom portion of our testing, where its combination of good body control and grippy tires also delivered respectable numbers.
Nevertheless, this kind of performance is probably a low priority for consumers in this class. Instead, fuel economy often is the big selling point for subcompact vehicles, and 40 mpg on the highway is the target that every automaker seems to strive for these days. On paper, the Hyundai Accent meets this goal, but you might have a tough time trying to get that number in the real world. The best we could manage was 33.6 mpg, even while using the "Active Eco System" button, which according to Hyundai modifies engine and transmission control for a 7 percent improvement in real-world fuel economy. Overall, we averaged 28 mpg, which is still a ways off from the EPA combined fuel economy number of 33 mpg. These aren't bad numbers per se, but don't be fooled into thinking that you'll get 40 mpg on a regular basis.
We also noticed an unusual occurrence with the electronic fuel gauge on our test vehicle. The first notch would disappear within about 15 miles. With most cars in our experience, this first bar tends to hang around for much longer before going away, maybe because the car wants you to think you're getting great mpg. This didn't have an impact on our fuel economy, but if you're not used to seeing this, it may make you think the car is consuming fuel at a faster rate than it should.
We found that the Accent has a pleasant ride quality. It isn't overly harsh or too softly sprung. If you prefer a sportier suspension, you may find the Ford Fiesta or Kia Rio more to your liking.
Despite a coarse engine note, the Accent's cabin is one of the quietest in its class. Wind noise is kept to a minimum, and even with our grooved highways, the road noise isn't intrusive.
The Accent's seats elicited mixed opinions among our editors. Some felt that they didn't offer enough lateral bolstering, while others thought they were fine as is. The seat height is adjustable but there's no lumbar support. Front legroom is ample even for taller drivers. Rear legroom is among the highest in this class, but may still be a bit snug for 6-footers.
If you are a taller driver, you may have a tough time fitting a rear-facing car seat. The front seats need to be moved pretty far up for the child's seat to fit. If the car seat is facing forward, the child seat will not be as snug.
In an era of increasingly thick A- and C-pillars due to safety regulations, it was nice to see that the Accent had great visibility both in the front and rear.
The center stack has a clean and modern look to it. We're not fans of the blue lighting on the stereo display, however. We found it difficult to read at night and it reminded us too much of the "indiglo" lighting effect from a cheap wristwatch. That said, the stereo is easy to use and we had no trouble pairing our iPhone 4S via Bluetooth. And once it was set up, listening to Bluetooth audio was as easy as playing a song on the phone (or MP3 device) and switching the source to "aux." If you prefer to plug in, Hyundai has a cable that combines the USB and 3.5mm plugs into an apple connector. We found the factory cable to be too short and would sometimes lose its connection as the MP3 player moved around.
Our test model was a four-door sedan, which reduced the amount of cargo we could carry. In our real-world usability tests, we were able to fit one large roller suitcase and one golf bag. A few smaller bags might fit, but not much else. The seats can fold forward in a 60/40 split, but the trunk opening is too low and narrow for any oversized object to fit. If you need to carry more than this, the Accent is available as a five-door hatchback. You can also take a look at the aptly named Honda Fit, which can carry the most cargo in its class due to its fold-away seats.
Design/Fit and Finish
The Accent looks like a scaled-down version of the Hyundai Elantra. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as many of our editors prefer the cleaner lines on the Accent.
The Accent showed good overall build quality. An extensive use of plastics is typical for cars in this price range, but the textures were varied enough to keep the interior from feeling as if everything had been pulled out of the same mold. Our test vehicle was equipped with the Premium package, which adds a few chrome and glossy black trim pieces that helped liven up the cabin. It also includes upgraded upholstery for the seats, and they feel comfortable enough to hold up on long drives.
Who should consider this vehicle
If you're looking for an economy sedan with a long warranty, the 2012 Hyundai Accent delivers what you want. Its style sets it apart from its competition, and the must-have amenities can be acquired while still holding the line at a reasonable price. The Accent is significantly improved from its predecessor, and it has transformed itself from a bland yet competent vehicle into a serious contender for leadership in the subcompact category.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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