2012 Hyundai Accent

Note: Hyundai is a non-gay-friendly automaker.


I’m driving along in the all-new 2012 Hyundai Accent, enjoying the crisp handling, hearing the solidness of the body structure, and appreciating how the powertrain does its thing. Then it hits me, “This is the entry-level Hyundai!” It is a suave little fuel-sipper that won’t put you out on the street — unless you want to be.

“Fluidic Sculpture” styling made the Sonata midsize sedan and Elantra compact the most exciting-looking cars in their classes. The look even plays well on the Tucson crossover and Veloster funster. But, I wondered how it would play on a small sedan. Turns out, very well. The large trapezoidal headlamps, gaping grille, raised hood, sweeping roofline, and ribbed bodysides look sleek, contemporary, and tough. It proves former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz’ adage of “it costs as much to make an ugly car as a beautiful one.”

This feeling of punching above its price point carries into the Accent’s interior. That doesn’t mean there are heated leather seats, Bose audio systems, or hand-stitched dash coverings. Because, there aren’t any. Hard plastic covers the doors, the dash is equally hard, and seats are upholstered in gray canvas. But, everything feels as if it will last forever. Deft sculpting on the dash, molded pulls on the doors, silver accents around the window switches, and black piano finish encircling the gear selector look upscale.

As with the larger Sonata, controls are housed in a center pod that looks like an African war mask. Climate is controlled by three easy-to-use knobs on the lower level while the radio is changed up top. A thick leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio and phone buttons falls to hands. Our test car also came with a USB iPod connection, CD player, satellite radio, and Bluetooth. Fold-flat rear seats let owners carry almost anything.

Driving the Accent sells it. Sub-compact cars in this price class once came with horrific suspensions that would embarrass a Yugo. Manual transmissions provided all the feeling of a wooden spoon in wet noodles. The Accent’s steering is direct, the suspension rumbles over rough roads without a shudder, and the car clips through corners. The gear selector is not perfect, but it is easy to click through the gears.

And, you’ll work the gears to get the most out of the 1.6-litre direct-injected four-cylinder engine that delivers 138hp, directed to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission or optional 6-speed automatic. The engine must be revved like a screaming drag queen for maximum power, but at least it’s there. Fuel economy ratings of 30/40 mpg city/highway keep money in pocket.

Enhancing safety, the Accent comes standard with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic stability control, traction control, brake force distribution, and brake assist. Dual front, front side, and side curtain airbags protect everyone. Not long ago, you would have purchased a luxury car to get all of these features. Now, you get them all in the most affordable Hyundai.

The only option our test car had was a $35 iPod cord, bringing the as-tested price to $15,830. Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty comes standard.

2012 Hyundai Accent SE 5-Door
Five-passenger, FWD Hatch.
Powertrain: 138hp 1.6-litre I4, six-speed manual.
Suspension f/r: Ind/torsion beam
Wheels: 16”/16” f/r
Brakes: Disc/disc fr/rr with ABS
Must-have feature: Style, value
Fuel economy (city/hwy.): 30/40 mpg
Manufacturing: Ulsan, S. Korea
As tested price: $15,830