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2012 Hyundai Accent Road Test Review by Martha Hindes

2012 Hyundai Accent Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 Compact Car Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks

Chevy Sonic


Fiat 500 C

Mini Cooper

Nissan Versa

Honda Civic Si

Hyundai Accent

Sometimes the unexpected really can surprise people. Like the newly redesigned sleeker, slicker and sassier 2012 Hyundai Accent compact that replaced its somewhat pedantic predecessor. Is there any relationship between this new fourth generation and the previous one familiar to American drivers on U.S. roads? Well, yes. There's the Accent name that's the same.

Beyond that, flip a page for a new perspective on economical, compact car driving. Someone at Hyundai must have decided that any small auto they offered would have to rip away any sense of blah from its appearance. So, in addition to a slight increase in wheelbase length and width for a more solid driving feel, attention was put on adding some external character in a design Hyundai calls "Fluidic Sculpture." That includes overall lines, side sculpting, a "kicked up" trunk edge for spoiler effect, sassier headlamps and wheel wells that hug the tires for a look of more oomph. Even with the bulkier midsection that plagues all downsized autos with enough room inside to breathe, it's as sleek as possible for its overall dimensions. The look translates into a handsome exterior, even in more conservative sedan mode like the model we tested, as well as in the sportier hatchback version.

Inside the 2012 Hyundai Accent there's a neat, attractive and thankfully functional interior that doesn't make one edgy with fussiness. It works without requiring a technology course, courtesy of the vehicle's information manual, before risking a change of audio input or adjusting temperature controls.

Like most autos now, even the most basic, there is a tilt steering wheel. Fabric, as expected, is the only seat cover choice. Unlike some super small cars, there actually is room to move and stretch for rear seats passengers so they feel unconfined. And a much appreciated asset is the active head rest, often relegated to much pricier autos, that eliminates that annoying pitch forward while driving. In a whiplash situation, the headrest adjusts forward to buffer the blow rather than being permanently fixed in a forward position.

Power wise, the Accent has another surprise. The 1.6-liter aluminum inline four puts out a restless 138-horsepower, surpassing most competitors. At the same time its EPA mileage rating is 30-city/40-highway or 34-MPG combined.  That's an 18-percent mileage improvement over last year's model, says Hyundai. That has to be worth a smile just as gas prices have been lurching upward. Mileage is the same for either manual or automatic transmission, both six-speed. We lagged in the mileage department on the GLS sedan model that we tested. But we can't necessarily blame that on the Accent, since we didn't succeed in racking up savings in its active "Eco" mode department, designed to encourage fuel efficient driving. Busyness and rushing can do that to one.

Our 2012 Hyundai Accent was well equipped with standard features, from improved safety systems such as electronic stability control with traction control, tire pressure monitor and 4-wheel disk brakes, to air conditioning with cabin filter, full spectrum audio, and iPod and USB input jacks. Of course, there's a bit of a catch when adding up such goodies. The Accent comes in three trim levels, including the five-door GS, SE and our GLS sedan that totaled $16,625, (noting that prices are noticeably higher than the previous year's). The only major option was the $1,300 Premium Package with remote keyless entry, steering wheel-mounted audio, Bluetooth, 16-inch alloy wheels (instead of standard 14-inch steel ones) and fog lights among features. Like most small, economically-priced autos, don't even dream about adding a navigation system. It isn't offered here.

If you opt for the Accent, don't worry about long trips. This compact is a good blend of driving comfort -- both front and rear -- while offering a good, responsive driving feel, confident steering wheel turns, solid road feel and firm kick-ups during accelerations and passing, and a segment-dominating warranty. And if you choose the hatchback instead of the sedan, Hyundai reminds us it has the best in class stowage room for all those suitcases, toys and other necessities if you have tots in tow. So drive on fearlessly. The Accent has got your back.

Visit the Hyundai website, click here.