Although Hyundai first pulled the wraps off the 2012 Accent at the Montreal auto show back in January, in Canadian-market form, it didn't pull the wraps off the U.S.-spec version until at the New York auto show—just a few months before the model's summer arrival at dealerships.
And while we were a little afraid that Hyundai would, um, sanitize the Accent and tamp down its design goodness, especially in hatchback form, we're glad to see it's emerged essentially the same—looking like an especially formidable rival to the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, and Chevrolet Sonic, among others.
Four-door sedan and five-door hatchback variants of the Accent will be offered this time, and the new subcompact model adopts Hyundai's "Fluidic Sculpture" design philosophy, which blends flowing, graceful sheetmetal with some more pronounced, purposeful creases. Especially noteworthy are the distinctive, upward rear taillamps, which look like a fresher take on cues we've seen in the Elantra Touring. The hatchback design especially 'pops' from the back, where that beltline crease wraps all the way around the hatch and taillamps.
At around 172 inches long for the sedan or 162 inches for the five-door, the Accent is several inches longer than the previous version; wheelbase is nearly three inches long as well, which indicates that the cabin is considerably larger. More than the typical small-car interior elements are here; the Accent includes split-folding back seats, a sliding center armrest and covered storage, a large glovebox, and various smaller storage areas. Hyundai claims the Accent has best-in-class cargo volume.
40 mpg, and lots more best-in-class boasts
The 2012 Hyundai Accent is the first vehicle to get the company's all-new 1.6-liter direct-injected (GDI) four-cylinder engine, making a claimed best-of-class 138 horsepower. It comes paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission and accomplishes what we think will be another class best: EPA fuel economy figures estimated at 30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway for both manual and automatic versions, yielding a highway driving range of up to 456 miles.
The new Gamma engine in the Accent has, in addition to direct-injection, continuously variable intake and exhaust valve timing, an Alternator Management System, variable induction, and an electronic throttle—plus a roller timing chain for reduced maintenance. An ActiveEco function further helps improve fuel economy by smoothing out throttle response and power delivery.
Handling should be a bit better than the former version, thanks to a more rigid structure along with twin-tube shocks and a front stabilizer bar for the front strut, rear torsion-axle setup.
Unlike most vehicles in this class, which have had to take on some additional safety equipment in recent years, the Accent tips the scales at around the same weight as its predecessor—around 2,400 pounds.
Safety no longer a sore point
Safety had been a weak point for the outgoing model, but in the 2012 Accent Hyundai is including six airbags in all, including side and side-curtain bags, plus active head restraints—which, the automaker points out, aren't even available in Fiesta, Yaris, Aveo, or Mazda2. Anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist are included; electronic stability control is also standard, and it works together with the electric power-steering system to help maintain control. SE models get their own steering calibration for a sportier feel.
Three trims of the new Accent will be offered: GLS, GS, and SE. GLS models come with all the safety equipment but still appear to be quite sparsely appointed, though air conditioning, a sound system with iPod and USB connectivity, and power windows and locks are all on offer. The GS adds A/C, the full sound system, power accessories, a rear defroster, and additional lights and hood insulation, and cruise control is optional. At the top of the line is the SE, which gets cruise standard, Bluetooth hands-free, steering-wheel audio controls, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, a rear spoiler, the sliding armrest and storage bin, and upgraded trims.
Technically 'holding the line on pricing,' but going upmarket, too
Hyundai hasn't yet released firm pricing for the 2012 model, but it has said that it "will hold the line on pricing from the prior generation to continue delivering unmistakable value to customers."
Hold the line on pricing it will, but there's an important point: The three-door Hyundai Accent GL, which for 2011 starts at $10,795 including destination, is no more. That less-expensive body style is being dropped altogether, and it's likely that, as with the Elantra versus Elantra Touring, Hyundai will ask more for the five-door hatch, which will only be offered in mid-level GS and sporty SE trim, not in base GLS guise.