2012 Hyundai Accent

Historically, subcompacts were lousy family haulers, thanks to their poor crash test scores, limited safety equipment, and impractical packaging. Car Detailing Melbourne but things are a lot different these days. Small cars are still inexpensive, but manufacturers are adding features like high-end audio systems, power windows and door locks, Bluetooth and the latest safety equipment. They even look good now.

The Hyundai Accent was once the poster child of cheap small cars with the emphasis on “cheap.” But those days are over, and the all-new 2012 Hyundai Accent redefines Hyundai’s smallest car with eye-catching style, plentiful safety equipment, and a surprising number of features while somehow still undercutting similarly equipped cars by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The question is, does all that translate into a small car that’s fit for family duty? Hyundai invited Family Car Review to Las Vegas to find out, no doubt gambling that the answer would be “yes.”

What’s New
Everything about the 2012 Hyundai Accent is new. As before, the Accent is available in sedan and hatchback bodies, but the three-door hatch of the old model is replaced with a five-door, making rear-seat access much easier. The new Accent stretches more than three inches in length over its predecessor, and gets a little wider, too. Hyundai also increased front headroom despite lowering the roofline, and increased cargo space; put it all together and it nudges the Accent from the subcompact to the compact category.

The 2012 Accent gets an all-new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, connected to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The new engine puts out 138 hp thanks to advanced fuel injection, but it also gives all Accents excellent estimated fuel economy: 30 mpg in the city, 40 mpg on the highway, and 34 mpg combined, regardless of transmission choice. However, on Accents with an automatic transmission, an Active ECO mode promises to improve on that by about 7 percent.

The 2012 Hyundai Accent hatchbacks come in either GL or SE models. The manual-transmission GL costs $15,355 (an automatic transmission will set you back an additional $1,200), and includes air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and door locks, and a USB input for your iPod. The $16,555 SE adds leather-wrapped steering wheel, nicer interior trim, Bluetooth, cruise control and bigger wheels and tires; add $1,000 if you want an automatic.

All sedans models go by GLS, and it’s available in a stripped down manual transmission-only version with no air conditioning or radio for $13,205; a $1,750 Comfort Package adds most of the standard features from the hatchback. Automatic-equipped sedans come with the same standard features as the hatchbacks, and cost $15,995. A Premium Package for automatic-transmission sedans adds keyless entry, Bluetooth, cruise control and audio controls on the steering wheel, and nicer interior trim for $1,300. Note that the above prices include a $760 destination charge.

First Impression
Inside and out, the 2012 Hyundai Accent bears a strong resemblance to the new Sonata and Elantra. This is a good thing, as the tasteful design, high-quality materials and excellent assembly quality of the Accent are especially welcome in such an inexpensive car. Even tall drivers have plenty of headroom and legroom, and the controls and gauges are all easy to use and see. A small pocket in front of the shifter is perfectly sized for a cell phone, and also houses the USB and auxiliary audio inputs. Small door pockets with bottle holders, a small glovebox, console-mounted cupholders and an available center armrest bin round out the knickknack storage. The driver has a good view out the front and to the sides, but the rear view is very disappointing, especially in the hatchback.

Like any pint-sized car, the rear seats are small. There’s good headroom, especially in the hatchback, but legroom is cramped, and a rearward-facing infant seat will rub against a tall front passenger’s seatback. Children no longer in boosters and other short passengers will be fine, and will appreciate the well-shaped cushions. All three passengers get three point seatbelts and adjustable head restraints, but three across would be pretty tight, regardless of age.

Cargo space is admirable considering the Accent’s diminutive proportions. Sedans get 13.7 cu.-ft. of trunk room, and the rear seatbacks fold forward for longer objects. In the hatchback it’s even better, with 21.2 cu.-ft. under the hatch, and 47.5 cu.-ft. with the seatbacks folded.

On the road, the Accent is surprisingly quiet at highway speeds, especially compared to competitors like the Honda Fit. The ride strikes a good compromise between composure on twisty roads and a comfortable highway ride, although it should be noted that most of the roads Hyundai picked out for the assembled journalists were smooth desert highways. The biggest complaint was with the Accent’s steering, which had an odd, rubbery feel and required constant small corrections, even though there wasn’t much in the way of crosswinds.

Family Friendliness
So how family friendly is the Accent? The hatchback has an edge over the sedan. The lower anchors for LATCH-equipped seats are easy to reach in both body styles, but the hatchback’s higher roof means you’ll have more room to maneuver when strapping in your kids. There’s good cargo space under the hatch, with enough room for a small stroller plus groceries. In the sedan’s favor, its trunk is big for the class (even bigger than the full-size Honda Accord), and the low liftover makes loading things a snap.

On the safety front, the Accent comes standard with front, side and curtain airbags, and antilock brakes, traction and stability control, and even whiplash-reducing front head restraints are standard equipment on all models. Crash tests aren’t yet available, but similarly sized cars have been doing well. Hyundai’s safety scores have been quite good lately, so expectations for the Accent are pretty high.

Still, the same drawbacks that apply to all small cars apply to the Accent as well. If you have one child, then there’s enough rear seat room, but two infant seats or high-backed boosters will be cramped. If your child still needs a stroller, it’ll have to be a small one, since car-seat-compatible strollers will take up a big chunk of cargo space.

On the other hand, if the crash test scores are good, the Accent might be a good pick for a teen’s first car. It looks cool, and has a good audio system, which teens will love. Parents will love the standard safety equipment, fuel-efficient engine, low price and Hyundai’s industry-leading 10-year warranty.

There’s no question that the Accent is an excellent small car, and it gets Family Car Review’s Recommendation as a good family hauler, as long as it fits your lifestyle. If you have one child, then the Accent might just do the trick, but get a bigger car if you’ll need to pack three in the back seat day after day. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a graduation gift for your college-bound offspring, the Accent seems ideal.