First Drive: 2012 Hyundai Accent

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Hyundai is on a roll as it continues to update their lineup and push the envelope on design and value. 2011 is shaping up to be the company’s best year as U.S. market share blows past 6%. With this backdrop I encountered very upbeat executives when I traveled out to the Hyundai America Technical Center in Michigan near Ann Arbor to drive the new 2012 Hyundai Accent.

The subcompact segment is growing rapidly as more Americans become sensitive to fuel economy, and the 2012 Accent should do very well as it hits 40 MPG on the highway. Some competitors also hit this threshold but buyers will need to select options that increase the cost of the vehicle by at least $2,000. The Accent offers 40 MPG in its standard package which should be a huge selling point for the cost-conscious consumers in this segment.

Exterior

I was introduced to Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design language when I reviewed the 2011 Elantra and those elements are also utilized in the new Accent which has been redesigned for 2012. The new design is a big leap forward from the previous model, with the wraparound headlamps and a fluid, aerodynamic body structure. The 4-door sedan also features wraparound rear taillights that fit the design nicely, while Hyundai has added a 5-door Accent hatchback to round out the lineup. The hatchback looks more sculpted and has large, distinctive rear taillights that stretch to the top of the rear end. This choice should make the vehicle appealing to even more potential buyers.

Interior

The interior is very stylish for this car which is consistent with all the other Hyundai models I’ve driven. I also liked the modern look and feel of the dash. One feature that stood out was the sliding armrest storage console, as Accent is the only subcompact with this feature. This makes a big different in comfort level. The 5-door has best-in-class cargo volume.

Performance

The performance of the Accent is very competitive with other models in this segment. I’ve been impressed with how carmakers are improving the driving experience in their small car lineup, and the Hyundai Accent is no different. Driving around the roads of Michigan was a breeze, and the Accent performed nicely. I liked the handy Eco mode button which gives drivers the option of maximizing gas mileage versus and extra performance boost. I drove both the 4-door sedan and the 5-door hatchback and found them to be equally appealing.

The 2012 Accent features a new 1.6-liter Gamma GDI engine which is more powerful and 40 pounds lighter that the previous model. It features and aluminum block and head while the previous version had a cast iron block. The engine generates 138 horsepower @ 6300 RPM and 123 lb.-ft torque @ 4850 RPM. With these improvements the Accent delivers best-in-class weight to power ratio.

Accent is also loaded with safety features. It’s the only subcompact to offer standard four-wheel disc brakes and it comes with six airbags.

Overview

The competition in the small car segment is getting fierce, and Hyundai continues to up its game with the new Accent. The value proposition is compelling, and Hyundai is now competing with aggressive styling as well. The entry level 4-door starts at $12,445 MSRP, and the fully-loaded 5-door is priced at $16,795. Buyers will get a lot for their money so I expect this new model to do very well.

  

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