2012 Hyundi Accent

LAS VEGAS — What do you call a vehicle that competes head-to-head in a segment with the likes of the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2 and Chevrolet Sonic? Confident comes to mind. The real answer is the 2012 Hyundai Accent.

Driving the 2012 Accent reinforces my impression of the quality and ride that Korean vehicles have strived so hard to achieve. It loves the road and is loath to loosen its grip on it while cornering or taking curves at higher speeds. The Hyundai presenters specifically mentioned the quiet aspect of the passenger cabin and they weren’t exaggerating.

Furthermore, for being a subcompact, Accent has enough front seat leg room to comfortably seat Shaquille O’Neal and Dirk Nowitzke. Though classified as a subcompact on the outside…it’s labeled a compact on the inside. It’s 3.5-inches longer and its wheelbase is 2.8-inches longer than its predecessor.

As it did with the earlier release of its new Sonata and Elantra, the Accent takes on their familial appearance in what Hyundai refers to as a “Fluidic Sculpture” design.

I liked the layout of the instrument panel and centerstack. A combination of blue and bright are used to illuminate the dials. A handsome use of brushed aluminum highlights the front-door armrests and tend to better-outline the power window and door lock buttons. Same with the center of the three-point steering wheel, floor-mounted shifter and HVAC.

The 2012 Accent is powered by Hyundai’s new 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing Gamma GDI engine. It’s more powerful and 40 pounds lighter than the outgoing Alpha engine. It pumps out 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic w/SHIFTRONIC manual shift mode.

Truth-be-told I am NO fan of manual shift mode automatics. As I’ve often said, if you want to shift gears order your vehicle with a manual transmission and the manufacturer will give you a free clutch. I didn’t drive the manual – just the automatic…IN DRIVE MODE! The 2012 Accent is a member of the “40+ Club.” Whether automatic or manual, it achieves a highway average of 40 mpg — a phenomenal 18% increase over last year’s manual transmission model that achieved 34 mpg and 11% over its automatic-transmission predecessor. City numbers are equally impressive at 30 mpg.

The new engine performs extremely well on high-speed highways and local roads. This isn’t surprising considering the curb weight of Accent is under 2,700 pounds maximum. It comes in two body styles — a four-door sedan and a more functional five-door that offers segment-leading cargo volume (21.2 cubic feet). 

The only annoying thing I found was the active head restraints. Sure they’re adjustable but until they are it’s like having a baseball bat pushed against the nape of your neck. I’m sure they prevent head injuries during a rear-end collision but they can’t cure the pain in your rear end until they’re raised.
Both 2012 Accent models come in three trim levels — GLS, GS and SE. Pricing for the 2012 Hyundai Accent is a competitive vehicle’s nightmare. They start at $12,445 for an Accent GLS 4 Door with a manual transmission and run up to $16,795 for an Accent SE 5 Door equipped with an automatic (Freight charge is an additional $760).

— Al Vinikour