Hyundai is trying something few carmakers have of late, offer a small entry-level car with nice styling.
No, the Accent isn’t as swoopy as the Sonata or even the Elantra, which is sandwiched between Accent and Sonata. But its lines are crisp and give the small car some flair. I drove a sparkling “marathon blue” 4-door GLS for the week and found it a great value. Here’s why.
First, it doesn’t cost you much to get into an Accent. Base price on the 4-door is $12,545 and for that you get the same 1.6-liter fuel-efficient direct-injected 4-cylinder all aluminum engine as all Accents. It delivers 138 horsepower, which is best in class, so there’s plenty of power for a light, 2,463-lb. car.
Accent will easily get onto the highway and up to speed, in fact quicker and with less grumble than several other recent small cars and SUVs I’ve driven. That base car gives you a 6-speed manual transmission, which will save you a little gas too. But the test car added a 6-speed automatic for $2,650. That’s more than you might expect, but you can bet there’s a bit of profit built into that option, considering Accent is such a steal at the base price.
This is a Shiftronic automatic, which means you can shift it manually, if you so desire. I did a few times and it’s simple to shift. But the automatic functions well and uses the car’s power efficiently. Shifts are noticeable, but barely.
The EPA says to expect 30 mpg city and 40 highway from this engine and automatic tranny combo, which is impressive. I got 31.3 mpg in about 60% highway driving. Good, but I admit to hoping the trip computer was right at 33.8 mpg.
Handling is good too. Accent feels light and easy to handle, but the sedan turns well and feels relatively well planted, even in wet weather. In normal driving it borders on fun, but the variable-assist power steering, which firms up as the car’s speed increases, doesn’t deliver a great road feel. Yet it’s better than some small cars, including other Hyundai models.
Accent rides on a 101.2 inch wheelbase, which still allows it to get a tad choppy over really rough area streets. But generally it’s well controlled and easily as comfortable a ride as some pricier small cars. There were no severe jolts even on the worst roads.
Braking comes from vented front disc brakes and solid rear discs. ABS is standard, as are traction and stability control. If you’re at least 30 or so you may remember that it wasn’t long ago that only the top-end models offered all those features, often as premium add-ons.
On the base GLS sedan only 14-inch tires are standard. But the test car added a Premium option package that ups that to 16-inchers and alloy wheels. This certainly helps improve the ride and handling.
Also in that package, which goes for just $1,300, is a keyless remote, fancier steering wheel with cruise control and radio buttons on the hub, along with Bluetooth hands-free phone system. The cloth seats are upgraded too and other interior accents are improved along with a sunglasses holder being installed overhead and a fancier storage box/armrest between the seats. Fog lights also come with the package, a good value that only pushed the test car up to $16,625, along with carpeted floor mats and an iPod cable.
All that is just enough too, coupled with the simple yet stylish layout of the dash and interior, to make Accent feel much more refined inside than you’d expect at this price. Even the interior is moderately quiet, something you also may not expect until you’re paying at least $20 grand. Several other small cars still have not added enough sound deadeners to their interiors.
Accent’s dash was a dark over light gray with matte silver accents on the dash and doors along with black accents around the center stack, with yet additional tasteful matte silver trim. Seats were gray cloth, but with a woven pattern on the seat back and bottom. None of this looks cheap.
There’s also a rubberized feel to the dash’s top and the door frame tops, right by the windows. That adds a fairly plush feel. Yet the lower dash and doors feature some hard plastic that is less classy feeling. It all looks fine, with little touches like a darker gray door pull to give the Accent additional styling.
Accent’s interior is roomy too with loads of headroom, so four adults will fit comfortably. There’s a monster (for this sized car) 14.0 cubic foot trunk, so plenty of room for cargo. The rear seats also split and fold down.
One area where you realize this is less than a mid-priced car comes when closing the trunk. It latches with a bit of a tinny sound.
Seats are firm and mildly contoured. I found them comfortable, although it’s possible that hardness level could prove tiring on a long haul. My longest ride was about 50 miles in one sitting. Seats are manual, but the driver’s seat has a pump handle to raise and lower its height.
The dash is well laid out too with the main gauges easy to see through the tilt-only steering wheel that features radio, phone and cruise control buttons.
Hyundai’s center stack is both stylish and simple to see and use with vents at the top and a small radio/clock screen that glows blue below the vents. All buttons and dials are easy to use and there are two large and one medium dial for the climate controls. Satellite radio is standard for 90 days, as with most cars now, and the Accent is MP3 and iPod ready. Again, controls were simple to figure out.
Overhead the visors are solid but don’t slide and the test car added a fold down compartment for sunglasses, along with good overhead lighting.
First, not many cars can be purchased for $12,500 to $16,000. But this one is worthy of a look if you, or another member of the family need good comfortable basic transportation. Think too if a 5-door (hatchback) might work better and allow you to haul more stuff, especially if you have young kids.
The Accent GS 5-door starts at $14,695 and the top-end SE at $15,895. The sedan is only available in the GLS trim.
2012 Hyundai Accent GLS Stats
Made in: Ulsan, So. Korea
Engine: 1.6-liter GDI 4-cyl., 138 hp
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 2,463 lbs.
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Cargo: 14.0 cu.ft.
Base Price: $12,545
Dealer’s Price: $12,244
6-speed automatic transmission/Shiftronic, $2,650
Premium Package (keyless remote, steering wheel mounted controls, cruise control, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, premium cloth seats, chrome inside door handles, high gloss accents, sunglasses holder, sliding armrest storage box 16-inch alloy wheels/tires, fog lights), $1,300
Carpeted floor mats, $95
iPod cable, $35
Test vehicle: $16,625
Sources: Hyundai, www.autos.yahoo.com
Hits: A small car with a touch of style, plus a roomy, handsome and highly functional interior. Car gets good gas mileage and has decent acceleration and handling. Will seat four adults, and has large trunk.
Misses: Trunk sounds tinny when being closed. Steering wheel is hard plastic, although textured, door pull is hard plastic too and visors don’t slide.