Expert Review:Autoblog

Serving Notice To The Subcompact Segment

2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door

2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door - Click above for high-res image gallery

It's been a busy two years in the subcompact world. Newcomers like the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 have made it clear they intend to give models like the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and segment volume leader Nissan Versa a run for their small-displacement money. Even General Motors is getting into the fray with the upcoming 2012 Chevrolet Sonic after years of trying to pass off the Aveo as legitimate transportation. So when Hyundai announced it was taking the knife to its Accent, we knew to expect good things.

The Korean automaker hasn't been one to mess around lately, and vehicles like the all-new Elantra and redesigned Sonata have helped push the manufacturer to the highest market share in the company's history – 5.6 percent in May. With the segment's first direct-injection four-cylinder engine, the buyer's choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, an impossibly low MSRP and 40 mpg highway from every model, it's clear that the 2012 Hyundai Accent is intent on eclipsing the competition.

Hyundai has wrapped the 2012 Accent in the company's fluidic design styling, and while some feel the language can be a bit overwrought on models like the Sonata, it looks right at home on a canvas this small. Up front, designers have paired the corporate hexagonal grille with aggressive headlights and stylized fog lamps set low in the front fascia for an expressive face that flows easily into the hatchback's side. Lines pull from the headlights into the hood and up the A-pillar for a cohesive look. Similarly, an athletic crease originates at the front fog lights and runs upward all the way to the vehicle's tail lamps for a sense of motion.

2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door side view2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door front view2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door rear view

A small up-kick in the C-pillar and a sloping roof line protect the five-door from looking overly boxy or cumbersome, and our tester came with attractive 16-inch alloy wheels shod in low-rolling resistance rubber. The rear of the vehicle offers a large, attractive valance with inset reflective markers, while tall taillamps skirt a narrow-ish hatch. The back glass has been kept somewhat small for our tastes, though a roof-mounted spoiler is standard on all models. The design is clean and well-executed on the whole, though the center-mounted latch handle looks like an afterthought.

Hyundai offers the 2012 Accent with three interior colors – beige, gray and black. Our tester came in the darkest of that trio, though we'd pick the two-tone beige option if it were our name on the dotted line. Regardless of color, the upper dash is drawn with sweeping lines that flow downward toward the thin center stack and shift lever. It's a good look that strikes us as more mature (if traditional) than competitors like the upcoming Sonic or even the Fiesta. Hyundai hasn't shied away from using hard plastics on the dash and waterfall, though the pieces don't feel cheap or easily-scratched. Instead of lacing the pieces in a faux-leather grain, the automaker opted for an attractive raised check pattern. We like it.

2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door interior2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door front seats2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door rear seats2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door rear cargo area

Controls for the stereo, heating and cooling are second-nature and easy to navigate without relying on an overly complicated array of buttons. We're looking at you, Ford. Behind the rear hatch, the 2012 Accent delivers 21.2 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats up, which is more space than significantly larger and more expensive vehicles. For reference, the 2011 Subaru Impreza hatch and 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback serve up 19 and 13.8 cubic feet of cargo area, respectively, while the 2011 Toyota Matrix lands at 19.8 cubic feet. Fold the Hyundai's seats down and you'll be met with an even more impressive 47.5 cubic feet of room.

Buyers will be able to choose from three trim levels on the Accent. Four-door models are relegated to GLS spec, while the five-door hatch can only be had in slightly better equipped GS and SE guises. Our chariot came swaddled in the latter, which includes a rash of equipment. A six-speaker sound system with XM satellite radio, MP3 capability and iPod connectivity are standard as are USB and auxiliary jacks as well as Bluetooth hands-free calling. Power windows, doors and locks are part of the recipe, as is a leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel and a matching shift knob.

2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door steering wheel2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door gauges2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door instrument panel2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door shifter

Hyundai has also included the kind of safety tech we've come to expect from every automaker, including active front headrests and enough airbags to raise the Bismarck. Front, front side impact and side curtain supplemental restraints are all standard along with traction control and electronic stability control.

Under the hood, the 2012 Accent rocks a direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 138 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 123 pound-feet of torque at 4,850 rpm, while delivering 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway in every configuration. For the record, that's 18 more horsepower than the Fiesta. In fact, the Accent will be the most powerful vehicle in its class until the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic touches down later this year. (The Bowtie hatch packs the same horsepower when equipped with an optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but 25 more lb-ft of torque.)

2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door engine

Even so, the Accent holds an impressive fuel economy advantage over its rivals, besting the Honda Fit, Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris by seven, five and four mpg highway, respectively, when equipped with a manual transmission. That gap narrows somewhat when the Fiesta is optioned with its six-speed dual-clutch transmission. In that configuration, the Fiesta only falls to the Accent by two mpg highway.

Hyundai has pulled no engineering punches when it came to fuel economy on the Accent, starting with its engine. Engineers translated many of the lessons gleaned from the development of the company's turbocharged 2.0-liter and naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder powerplants. Along with direct-injection, the tiny four-pot boasts dual continuous variable valve timing, an offset crankshaft to decrease friction losses, a variable intake system and electronic throttle control.

The Accent also makes use of a slew of other fuel-saving technologies, including electric power steering, an alternator management system and low-rolling resistance tires. All told, the 2012 Accent is a whopping 18.1-percent more fuel efficient than its manual transmission-equipped predecessor.

2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door headlight2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door fog light2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door wheel2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door taillight

Given the Accent's focus on fuel economy, we expected a somewhat limp driving experience, and while this isn't the sportiest vehicle in the segment (hello, Mazda), we weren't disappointed by the hatchback's acceleration, handling or on-road manners. With a MacPherson strut suspension up front and a torsion-beam rear, the five-door delivers a comfortable ride both in city driving and on the highway. The environment behind the wheel is quiet and stable without the jitteriness of most short-wheelbase subcompacts, and the six-speed manual transmission of our tester was easy to row. The clutch is a bit light and vague, but it provides a progressive release that makes for an easy commuter.

While full power comes on fairly high in the rev range, this isn't a vehicle that enjoys a flogging. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder isn't a particularly quick-revving mill, and its mpg-minded rubber doesn't provide enough grip for any serious corner carving. On the plus side of the ledger, with a curb weight of 2,430 pounds and one of the best power-to-weight ratios in the class, the Accent made sure we never felt like we were going to be run down by traffic – jumping up to highway speed from an on-ramp takes little effort.

The Accent is also the only car in the subcompact segment to boast disc brakes at all four corners as standard equipment, and as a result, Hyundai says it only takes around 138 feet to stop from 60 miles per hour. The Ford Fiesta, meanwhile, soaks up around 159 feet of asphalt before coming to a stop. We imagine that the Hyundai would fair even better with some stickier rubber.

2012 Hyundai Accent Five-Door rear 3/4 view

The 2012 Accent five-door equipped with a six-speed manual transmission will hit your wallet for $12,445 plus a $760 freight charge when it hits dealer lots by July. That's $1,290 less than the equivalent 2012 Chevrolet Sonic and $795 less than the 2011 Ford Fiesta while offering better fuel economy and more power than both base models. Hyundai says that the most expensive buildable Accent will carry a price of $16,795, and our well-equipped tester tipped the scales at $15,830 including destination charge.

So where does the Accent fit in the increasingly crowded subcompact spectrum? Based on this first drive, the new Korean hatch has all the makings of one of the best all-around vehicles in the segment. With plenty of power, space and fuel efficiency in a low-cost package, Hyundai has hit all the right notes. Now, about a sporty version...

All-new subcompact delivers excellent value.


Hyundai Accent is all-new for 2012, and it's a winner. The 2012 Accent is roomier, comes with a more powerful engine, and is priced lower than comparably equipped models from the competition. 

The 2012 Hyundai Accent comes in two body styles, a five-door hatchback and a four-door sedan with a conventional trunk. (A three-door hatchback is not available, so don't ask.)

The Accent is a subcompact sedan that competes against the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic, Mazda 2 and Nissan Versa. Completely redesigned, the 2012 Accent offers more room than the previous-generation model. According to the government, the 2012 Accent's interior volume puts it in the larger compact class. 

The 2012 Accent is longer in wheelbase and overall length than most of the competition, which means more room inside for people and cargo, and a smoother ride. 

We found the Accent very easy to drive. It's responsive but not quick, smooth by subcompact standards but not luxurious. Everything in the cabin is intuitive and easy to operate. It's an attractive design and the materials look nice. 

The 2012 Accent looks sportier and more modern than last year's version. The 2012 Accent features Hyundai's new design theme shared with Sonata and Elantra models. 

For 2012, the body was reshaped with more flowing lines and more sculpted sheetmetal. The 2012 Accent looks like a smaller version of the new Elantra. The Accent's new body shape carries a low coefficient of drag, 0.30, which helps with wind noise and fuel mileage. The designers chose to go with body color everywhere, from bumpers to mirrors to handles, with black accents and design elements, so there is almost no chrome trim on the new car beyond the grille bar. The new grille, hood, fenders, lamps, bumper and air intakes up front complement new body-colored door handles and mirrors, new taillamps, a mechanical liftgate, and new 14- and 16-inch wheels. 

A new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine powers the Accent, a twin-cam, 16-valve design with direct fuel injection, a first for the class, and variable valve timing to give it low-rpm torque, high-rpm horsepower. The engine is rated at 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. The new engine is 40 pounds lighter than the previous engine. Like the other cars in this class, the Accent uses front-wheel drive. 

The 2012 Accent comes with a choice of 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed automatic. On manual-transmission models, there is an EcoShift indicator between the instrument pods to indicate the proper gear for all driving conditions. We liked the with the 6-speed manual but didn't care for the indicator as we think we know the proper gear better than the car does. The clutch pedal was light and easy to operate. The automatic features a Shiftronic manual-shifting mode, allowing the driver more control over shifting. We preferred to just put it in Drive and go. 

Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 28/37 mpg City/Highway regardless of transmission choice. The manual gearbox gets a slightly better Combined rating of 32 mpg compared with the automatic's 31 mpg EPA Combined city and highway rating. 


The 2012 Hyundai Accent comes in four-door sedan five-door and hatchback body styles. 

The Accent GLS sedan with 6-speed manual transmission ($12,445) comes with cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning, AM/FM/CD with four speakers, XM Satellite Radio, manually controlled mirrors, tilt steering column, power windows, power locks, steel wheels with 175/70R14 tires. The Comfort Decor package ($1750) upgrades the audio system, mirrors, door trim and air conditioning. 

Accent GLS sedan with 6-speed automatic ($15,195) adds to the above automatic air conditioning, upgraded audio with six speakers, USB port and iPod auxiliary jack and adapter, heated power mirrors, Hill-start Assist Control, upgraded door trim. The Premium Decor package ($1300) upgrades the interior and exterior trim and adds premium cloth seats, cruise control, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/50R16 tires, remote keyless entry, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth. 

Accent GS five-door hatchback ($14,595) comes with the 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission ($15,795). Accent GS comes with all the premium GLS features, the six-speaker audio system, USB port, upgraded interior lighting, power mirrors, upgraded door trim, visor vanity mirrors. A hatchback, the GS includes a power tailgate and 60-40 split-folding rear seats. The suspension tuning is different and the GS comes with 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/50HR16 tires. 

Accent SE five-door with manual transmission ($15,795) or automatic ($16,795) come standard with Bluetooth, cruise control, fog lights, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, sport-tuned power steering. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice. Destination charge is $760.)

Safety equipment on the Hyundai Accent includes front, side and roof curtain air bags, and ABS disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist, traction control, electronic stability control. 


Hyundai Accent is all-new for 2012. If you see the 2011 and the 2012 versions side by side, they look like the products of two different car companies, they are so different. No longer a jelly-bean-shaped rental transport unit, the 2012 Hyundai Accent has grown up to be a real, modern car. 

The 2012 Accent has been given a complete cosmetic makeover, with every panel on the car replaced by newer and flashier sheetmetal, with almost no chrome on the exterior other than the badges. There's a new upper and lower grille design, new hood, new fenders, new lamps, new bumpers and air intakes up front, with body-colored door handles all around, new taillamps, liftgate, and wheels. The front and rear lamp treatments on the new Accent are particularly adventurous and modern. 

We like the sedan, especially when compared to the nerdy outgoing car, but we like the hatchback a whole lot better when it comes to pure eye appeal. Hyundai claims a respectable 0.30 coefficient of drag for the sedan version, slightly higher for the five-door with the longer roof. 


The 2012 Hyundai Accent interior has been totally redesigned. The 2012 Accent has a far more modern interior than the previous model, with brushed metal accents on the doors, steering wheel and center console, white-on-black instrumentation with red needles, and a multi-function steering wheel. The elements have been redesigned for more room, more storage spaces. 

Sporty bucket seats feature superior cushions and bolsters. We found the seats comfortably supportive without being intrusive. Outward vision is excellent. The instrument panel, center stack, vents, switches and controls have all been redone for the 2012 Accent models and it's all easy to look at and operate. The instrument package contains the usual two round gauges with digital readouts and indicators between the deeply tunneled clusters and is bathed in ice blue light at night. 

The three-spoke steering wheel has a thick rim and a thickly padded hub. Lower models have urethane-covered steering wheels, upper models have leather-wrapped wheels with convenient switches for the sound system on the left, cruise control system on the right, and telephone on the lower left. 

As for storage, the rated cargo capacity of the Hyundai Accent is 21.2 cubic feet behind the folding second-row bench seat, and 47.5 cubic feet with the second seat folded flat. Door and console storage is generous, and the new Accent has a sliding console armrest, unusual in this class. 

In the center binnacle, there is a USB port, an AUX port, and the two combine to make a port for an iPod cable, a very clever arrangement. The interior components add up to a livable, easy-to-use whole with much higher quality materials, a minimum of brightwork, plenty of storage, and high functionality. 

Driving Impression

The new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine in the Hyundai Accent provides enough power and torque to provide good acceleration with either 6-speed transmission, partly because the car's power-to-weight ratio is the best in the class, according to Hyundai figures. The new engine is smooth and quiet, and runs at about 2200 rpm at 70 mph in sixth gear, and about 4400 rpm at 100 mph. The thrifty, gutty little Gamma engine is surrounded by helpers like electric power steering, low-rolling-resistance tires, lighter elements throughout the engine bay and the rest of the vehicle. 

It all adds up to Accent's 28/37 mpg EPA mileage rating City/Highway. 

The 6-speed automatic transmission performed quickly and quietly. 

The 6-speed manual gearbox is easy to shift and the clutch pedal was light and easy to operate. Some models include an EcoShift indicator between the instrument pods to indicate the proper gear for all driving conditions. We did not care for this and generally find shift lights distracting. 

Going down the road, the Accent is far smoother and quieter than we were expecting it to be. A more-rigid chassis, stronger steel, more and better sound insulation and better door seals show in the car's quiet highway behavior. 

We found the Accent responds relatively quickly, has good tracking, relatively quick response, and good feel on center. Bump, rut and pothole damping is very good. Roll control on twisty mountain and desert roads was very good, and the car stayed put pretty well in hard corners. It's one of the lightest cars in its class at less than 2500 pounds, so it responds quickly to inputs. 

The all-disc anti-lock braking system (ABS) is rare in the subcompact class, and the Accent's stopping performance was excellent. 


The all-new Hyundai Accent a much better car than the outgoing model. It's aggressively priced and offers a solid combination of value, utility and fuel economy. It's a complete package for an affordable price. 

Jim McCraw filed this report from Las Vegas; Mitch McCullough contributed to this report after his test drive of the Accent in New Jersey. 

Model Lineup

Hyundai Accent GLS sedan ($12,445), GLS automatic ($15,195); GS hatchback ($14,595), GS automatic ($15,795); SE hatchback ($15,795), SE automatic ($16,795). 

Assembled In

Ulsan, Korea. 

Options As Tested


Model Tested

Hyundai Accent SE hatchback ($16,795). 

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