2012 Hyundai Accent Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 11, 2011

Do Americans want small cars with more room and great gas mileage? The 2012 Hyundai Accent is betting they do--and so are we.

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.

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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.


2012 Hyundai Accent


Hatchback Accents have a smart resemblance to the Ford Fiesta; can anyone make stubby sedans truly look good?

Hyundai's turned its styling signatures on a dime. First came the Genesis, then the Sonata and Elantra--each one more daring and imaginative than the last. The Accent knits together the same themes you'll find on those cars deftly, especially in its snappy hatchback shape.

It's tough to draw good-looking four-door compacts, but the Accent nearly succeeds at being truly handsome. The stubby trunk cuts short the swoopy "fluidic sculpture" design cues a bit too soon, but the trapezoidal frame around the grille and the shoulder lines carved and honed into the Accent's flanks accumulate into an authentic Hyundai design thesis--something the prior car's marshmallowy, benign shape just couldn't muster. It gets better, even, with the five-door Accent, which draws out that shoulder line all the way to its tightly pinched hatchback. The profile does read "Fiesta" from a distance, but the Accent's longer body lets the details play out better to their flowing, graceful conclusion. The distinctive upthrusts of the taillamps are particularly strong details, wrapping around the hatchback and summing up the styling like punctuation.

The dynamic sheetmetal has an equal in the Accent's remarkably well-finished interior. Some car companies struggle to hit the right compromise between good execution and cost-effective cabins. The Accent doesn't miss a beat. The dash cap is dimpled in a matte finish that evokes the feel of carbon fiber, and that feel is amplified by big boomerang lines molded into it. The simpler center stack of controls isn't as shapely as the one in the Elantra, but then again, the Accent's fan switch feels more substantial than the one in the bigger sedan. The Accent's controls, too, are much easier to read and use than the angled banks of Chiclets on the Ford Fiesta dash. Some passages of hard, shiny black plastic live on the low reaches of the doors and the center console, but it's remarkable how finely finished this entry-level car feels--especially if you've been inside the outgoing Nissan Versa or a Chevy Aveo--and how dramatically it points out Hyundai's rapid progress.

2012 Hyundai Accent


The 2012 Hyundai Accent's econocar virtues, like fuel economy and light weight, make up for its econocar acceleration and handling.

With the company's brand-new 1.6-liter four-cylinder under its hood, and a beefed-up suspension, the 2012 Hyundai Accent hits a few benchmarks all at once. It bests the subcompact class in fuel economy, and takes out most of the compact class as well, while it dials up better straight-line performance and handling than it had before.

The Accent is Hyundai's first vehicle to use the new four-cylinder, though it's also going to find a home inside the upcoming Veloster sporty coupe. Hyundai claims a best-in-class 138 horsepower, though that's also the same output penciled in for the turbocharged version of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic. With 123 pound-feet of torque to twist out, too, the Accent still has what we consider average acceleration. It's the kind of power familiar to drivers of Honda Civic DX and HF cars, Toyota Tercels, and the like--except for the tick of direct injection, the four-cylinder winds up with the noise and grunt you'd pick out as "economy car," even blindfolded, which we don't recommend. It comes into a little more force at around 3500 rpm, feels a bit taxed when more than two people are riding along, and according to Hyundai, can hit 60 mph in less than 10 seconds.

The six-speed transmissions, manual or automatic, do a fine job of extracting all the value from the small-displacement engine. The manual transmission will probably be a rarity, because Americans vastly prefer automatics, but the stick is a good one, with very light uptake and lever feel, and an "eco" light to nag you when you're winding out the engine too much, too often to get good gas mileage. The six-speed automatic has an ActiveEco function to complement its sport-shift mode; choose the first and those upshifts come quickly, or flick the lever to the right and get more control over those gears. We've found the Accent automatic feels much better off the line around town when you put it in Sport mode--remember that when you're ferrying more passengers.

Also remember it when you don't quite hit the excellent fuel economy numbers Hyundai and the EPA promise. With either transmission, the Accent's rated at 28/37 mpg--strong figures that roll up the benefits of a light body, direct injection, and efficient transmissions. Fill up the tank and the Accent could go about 400 miles without another stop. Wring it out, or leave in Sport, and you're sure to land at the lower end of that scale.

The Accent tackles the road with more finesse than it did in the past, and some of the credit for its more capable road manners goes to its stiffer, lightweight new body. It hasn't put on much around the middle, as usually happens at model changeovers: at about 2400 pounds, it weighs about the same as the Honda Fit, and a few hundred pounds less than the smaller Ford Fiesta. That and better body rigidity allow the improved suspension design to do its work. The design includes twin-tube shocks and a stabilizer bar for the front struts, while the rear suspension sticks with the classic torsion-beam setup. Like any short-wheelbase vehicle, the Accent can come down hard on big potholes, but there's surely a more fluid ride quality here than before, even with the car's lower-rolling-resistance tires. Those tires lend a hand to gas mileage, but they don't give the Accent any help in the grip department--and despite the electric power steering's meaty feel (even more so on the SE), the Accent doesn't want or need to push much beyond its commuter duties. We'll take the upsized 16-inch wheels and tires--but we'll leave our cornering hopes and dreams for the Accent-based Veloster coupe.


2012 Hyundai Accent

Comfort & Quality

It's vast inside compared to subcompacts, and the 2012 Hyundai Accent's roofline is drawn so that even six-foot passengers will fit.

Though it competes on price in the subcompact arena, the 2012 Hyundai Accent is by all measures a compact car--strikingly close to the Honda Fit in carrying capacity.

The Accent's about 162 inches long as a five-door, and 172 inches long as a four-door, which makes it about 3.5 inches longer than the previous car. The important measurement is in wheelbase: it's almost three inches longer, which makes the cabin considerably more roomy than before.

Adults won't have any problem finding enough space in the Accent's front seats. Exceptional head room and good leg room are far above par in the class, and the knee space isn't tight, either--the center console isn't hourglass-shaped as it is in the Elantra, but the Accent still gives a smooth surface for legs to rest against. Adjustable seats on the higher trim levels let you crank up the driver-seat height, and still you'll likely have a few inches above your head, when you're behind the wheel. The steering wheel tilts, but there isn't a telescoping feature, but the Accent's overall dimensions make that a non-issue. The seat themselves are a bit thin and flat, but on SE versions they're bolstered at the sides for a bit more lateral support.

The back seat's also fine for adults. The low cushions leave adult knees without much direct contact with the seat, but for medium-sized adults and everyone smaller, the back seat will be great. The tallest passengers will find rear head room a little short. The doors on both versions have been cut fairly widely, so loading in car seats shouldn't be an issue.

On both the sedan and hatchback, the Accent has standard split-folding back seats--not a given in the class--and that helps make the most of the available space. We'd opt for the hatchback, not just because of its extra 0.6 inches of back-seat headroom, but because of the flexibility of the hatchback's 21.2 cubic feet of cargo space, compared to the sedan's 13.7 cubic feet of trunk room. In all, the Accent sedan outspans the Ford Fiesta by 15 cubic feet; the Accent five-door is within a fraction here and there of the spacey Honda Fit.

Inside the Accent, Hyundai provides ample storage for small items. The doors have molded-in bins for water bottles, and so does the center console. The glovebox is huge for the class. The center console on some versions has a sliding lid and enough covered storage for a small purse--and there's a tray in front of the transmission lever right in front of the USB port, the perfect spot for music players and phones.


2012 Hyundai Accent


The Accent has the usual safety equipment, but the IIHS gives it only an acceptable side-impact score.

Crash-test scores weren't a strong point for the outgoing Accent. However, the 2012 model has much more in the way of standard safety equipment--and it also has Hyundai's strong track record of turning in top safety results with its most recent products, the Elantra, Sonata and Equus.

We're giving the Accent a safety score of 7 based on scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS gives the Accent mostly "good" scores, but calls its side-impact protection only "acceptable." The NHTSA gives it four stars overall and specifically for side impact protection, but notes that the rear side door intruded in its test more than usual.

Six airbags in all are standard on the new Accent including side and side-curtain bags; so are anti-lock brakes and stability control. Active headrests are also included, and they're not offered on the Ford Fiesta or Mazda2.

Visibility is an issue in the Accent hatchback, much more so than in the four-door sedan. Much of the sliver of rear glass is blocked by big D-pillars and the rear seat headrests. The Accent doesn't offer a rearview camera or blind-spot monitors, which would mitigate the issue, but its side rearview mirrors are fairly large.


2012 Hyundai Accent


Power features, a USB port and Bluetooth are standard on the hatchback, but the 2012 Accent is no longer the cheapest car in the land.

The 2012 Accent comes in three different trim levels, though the sedan comes only as a GLS and the hatchback, in GS and SE editions.

The sedan's now the base car, a turnabout from before, when the hatchback was the under-$10,000 value leader. The four-door GLS model comes with the requisite safety gear, including stability control and six airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes. But unlike other versions, it's missing a radio, air conditioning, power windows and mirrors. For $13,205 out the door, it does offer power locks, tilt steering, and 14-inch wheels, if you're interested in absolute bargains without many frills.

That same GLS in automatic-transmission form adds on a CD player, power windows and mirrors, and air conditioning. A Premium package tops it off with steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth, a USB port, cruise control, fog lights and 16-inch wheels.

In the five-door Accent, the base version is a $15,355 GS. It's outfitted with air conditioning; an upgraded 172-watt stereo with rich sound, a CD player, XM satellite radio, and a USB port; and a rear defroster. Cruise control comes standard when the GS is ordered with the automatic transmission.

The five-door Accent SE hatchback fills out the features list with cruise control, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, a sliding armrest, and 16-inch wheels. With an automatic transmission, the Accent SE is the most expensive version you can buy, and it tops out at $17,555.

On all versions, a special iPod cable is required to connect the radio and steering-wheel controls to run the Apple device, and it's a separate charge of about $60.

Missing on the Accent entirely are options for leather upholstery, a navigation system, and a sunroof. Some or all of those features are available on the Accent's competitors, so shop carefully if your purchase hinges on one of those features--and don't forget your cell phone could be the cheapest, most portable GPS you can buy.


2012 Hyundai Accent

Fuel Economy

The Accent earns 37-mpg highway fuel economy in all trim levels.

There are a few different trim levels sold under the 2012 Hyundai Accent badge, and even a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. But still, all Accents this year are rated at the same gas mileage.

The 2012 Accent checks in at 28/37 mpg, no matter which transmission is chosen. Compared to other subcompacts and compacts, it's still impressive. The highest mileage the Ford Fiesta manages is 28/37 mpg without options; add on the SFE package and it nudges 40 mpg. The Chevrolet Cruze tops out at 40 mpg highway, if you order the special high-economy version. The Honda Fit? It's far off the mark at 33 mpg highway.

We've found that the automatic Accent's in-town performance is helped along significantly by shifting into sport mode, which seems to improve off-the-line response. That's sure to take a bite off gas mileage. The manual-transmission Accent has an "eco" shift light to help train you to use less fuel, though, while the automatic has an ActiveEco button that triggers early upshifts to improve gas mileage.

NOTE: In November 2012, the 2012-2013 Hyundai was found to have misstated fuel-economy figures for the Accent. The initial 30/40-mpg, self-certified rating was checked by the EPA and found to be 28/37 mpg instead. Owners can register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at HyundaiMPGInfo.com.  

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April 13, 2016
2012 Hyundai Accent 4-Door Sedan Automatic GLS

Good bang for your buck.

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I have the GLS Sedan w/ premium package and i love it. I've never had any mechanic problems *knock on wood* and it's been great. I am a speeder and i always floor it and speed and weave in and out of traffic... + More »
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February 28, 2016
2012 Hyundai Accent 5-Door HB Automatic SE

Great city car!

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This is a really good city car, however I wish it had a back-up camera. Also, the MPG could be a little better. Around town, mixed driving, I am averaging between 30 and 31 MPG. Thought it would be better... + More »
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