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Following a redesign in 2012, the 2013 Hyundai Accent is larger than before, equipped better than ever, and that slightly different take on small cars sets it apart from the moddish newbies like the Fiat 500 and Ford Fiesta. Size and features can be just as important as gas mileage, and that's the theory at work in the new Accent. It's more about fiscal responsibility and practicality, and in that way, it has a lot in common with the Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, and its mechanically related cousin, the Kia Rio.Versus most of its competition--including the Fiesta, the Fit, the Versa, the Chevy Sonic and the Toyota Yaris--the Accent has a styling advantage, provided we're talking about the five-door hatchback. While the four-door is fine--perhaps a little homely--the five-door nails it, mixing the usual hatchback profile with the cues and details that have become Hyundai's first real design statement. Cabin design is even better, with nice low-gloss plastics and streamlined controls that altogether give the Accent more presence than you'd expect for the price.
Acceleration, ride, and handling for the 2013 Accent are all on par for this type of car. But thanks to a fuel-stingy direct-injection engine, it reaches a lofty goal of 38 mpg highway for all models, whether you choose the light-touch clutch version or the clean-shifting, Sport-moded automatic.
In terms of actual passenger space, the Accent's interior is vast for a subcompact. The Honda Fit has more space, and much more versatility, but even tall passengers will be able to find enough head and legroom in the front seats. Hatchbacks have about 8 cubic feet of storage space, but both Accents have big gloveboxes and bins and trays smartphones, energy drinks, and toll change. 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 Hyundai Accent is a much bigger, better story than that.