The 2012 Hyundai Accent is setting out to prove that more room and better gas mileage are what America really wants in a small car. The theory's the opposite of the one being worked on by the diminutive Fiat 500, or even the small and sporty Ford Fiesta, but to us it's more easily proven. The Accent nets out with more space than almost anything in its price class, and tops cars much smaller than it in fuel economy.
It's the same formula that's worked exceptionally well with the company's Sonata and Elantra sedans, and it makes the new Accent an especially formidable new price leader in a way its predecessor was not.
The Accent competes with cars ranging from the Fiesta to the Honda Fit, with the Nissan Versa, Chevy Sonic and Toyota Yaris all joining the fray with revamped versions this year. The Accent has a couple of advantages here, other than timing--and one of them is styling. The four-door is fine, but it's the five-door that nails it, mixing the usual hatchback profile with the cues and details that have become Hyundai's first real design statement. The cabin? Even better, with the plastics muted to a low gloss and the controls streamlined to give the Accent real nuance even at its very low base price.
The Accent aims for par with its four-cylinder engine's acceleration, and in ride and handling. In fuel economy, it stretches for a lofty goal and hits it. Whether you choose the light-touch clutch version or the clean-shifting, Sport-moded automatic, the Accent earns a 28/37-mpg gas mileage rating from the EPA. To get better fuel economy, you'll almost have to shop a diesel or a hybrid.
A vast interior, by subcompact standards, elevates the Accent into the compact class. The space available is just a fraction shy of that in the Fit, and even tall passengers will find enough head and leg room in the front seats (the sedan's back seat could be a little tight, if you're raising Titans). The hatchback bests the sedan by almost 8 cubic feet of storage space, but both Accents have big gloveboxes and bins and trays for everything from Acqua Panna to Apple iPods.All the airbags and electronic assists are present in the Accent, though no official safety scores are in.
The Accent earns respect with standard stability control (mandatory in all cars for 2012) and curtain airbags. We consider Bluetooth a safety feature, and it's available or standard on two of three Accent trim levels--and it's recommended. The Accent doesn't offer a rearview camera, however. The IIHS gives it good scores for front and rear impact protection, but only an acceptable grade for side impacts--and the NHTSA grades it at four stars overall, noting that the rear door met a four-star standard, but intruded more than usual.
It's also leaving leather upholstery and navigation systems to the competition, but the base Accent GLS sedan does come with that safety equipment as well as tilt steering--but no air conditioning, and no audio system. Those are available in packages, along with a USB port, satellite radio and power features. The base Accent GS hatchback has more features than the price-leading sedan, and the SE bundles most of the features in as standard equipment, while still topping out at just under $17,000, not including destination. It's no longer the least-expensive new car you can buy--the 2012 Hyundai Accent is a much bigger, better story than that.
- Punchy hatchback styling
- High-quality interior fit and finish
- Real room for four adults
- Class-best gas mileage
- Driving feel leaps a magnitude or two
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- Middling acceleration
- Sedan's rear seat can be snug on head room
- Isn't as inexpensive as it once was
- Some features just aren't available