The Hyundai Accent has turned into a princess from a pumpkin. The 2012 redesign has lost the mushy lines and guppy profile of the last generation and moved into modern times with sleek styling. Overall subcompacts no longer come with the vanity plate LOS*ER.
I tested the upper crust Accent GLS Hatchback priced at $17,199. The base model Accent L rolls in at $13,199. The S adds more creature comforts including, keyless entry, heated seats, and sunroof and more styling with 16-inch alloy wheels and fog lamps.
The bingo jackpot for me comes when I like the car at Day One, at Day Seven and look forward to driving it everyday. And so it was with the Accent hatch. I never felt like I was in a cheap car. It?s fun to drive, composed and solid.
My car came with a 6-speed manual transmission, making it immediately more enjoyable and interesting. The clutch was light and the gearbox smooth enough. With 138 horsepower the 1.6 litre Accent is endowed with adequate juice for most activities, but uphill travel needs patience, and sixth gear really is in the realm of respiratory failure. In my first hour of driving the Accent, when the senses are really attuned to what is good and bad, I noticed buzzing percolating through the steering wheel at about 2,500 r.p.m. As the days wore on, I noticed it less ? either I got used to it or it went away.
Steering was better then most, not too artificial, with decent feedback in sweeping turns, but overall it just felt a titch ponderous for a little car. However, handling, braking and road feel are good and the Accent doesn?t get all jumbly over rough roads and stays flat in the curves. Electronic stability control is standard in all models. The solid feel of the car is nicely paired with a pretty quiet cabin, with only a bit of tire noise seeping in to the space. Hyundai claims best in class fuel economy with ratings of 6.7 L/100km city and 4.9 L/100km highway. I didn?t get close to such stellar figures-averaging 8.4 L/100 km in combined driving.
There are many good things to report from the driver?s seat. Visibility is fine with no alarming pillars and posts obscuring things, there?s no weird glare on the windshield and nothing shiny in the interior lasering back into the eyes while driving. The driver?s seat is well shaped, comfy for long trips, and the upholstery looked attractive and felt like a superior grade. The driver?s seat is height-adjustable. I mention that because some carmakers are not offering it, which is a crime. Hard plastics were tasteful and there was no wretched smell in the cabin from cheap materials. Really, some cars smell like you could pickle eggs in them.
On the centre console, Hyundai keeps the tricks to a minimum with perfectly good knobs ready to adjust climate and audio settings. It?s all sensible, functional and soothing to look at. Bluetooth pairing of a phone can be done in seconds and the auxiliary input for music is easy to get at on the centre stack. In front of the driver, the speedo and tachometer are clear and bright in all conditions.
Backseat passengers are on more on an austerity plan. There are no upholders and the seats are on the low side. (Your knees are higher than your hips.) There is minimal room for feet under the passenger seat and behind the driver there is more room if the seat is cranked higher. But overall it?s acceptable. Entry and exit are smooth thanks to back doors that open wide. The rear hatch is easy to open, the trunk is deep, and the 60/40 folding seats increase packing options.
Stepping outside, the Accent is a fine thing to look at. A sharp crease, like crisply folded stationery, dissects the side of the car from taillight to front wheel well. The ratio of glass to metal is pleasing and the front end leans toward the sporty with a man-sized grille framed by fog lights. Nothing is amiss.
Of course the Accent has some sharp competitors. The Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 are nicely turned out, but when I last drove them, they didn?t have the refined character of the Hyundai.
Hyundai has a strong lineup, so it?s no surprise their smallest car continues to accentuate the positive.
Kathy Renwald is a freelance writer who reviews automobiles for Wheels. Reach her at www.kathyrenwald.com
2012 HYUNDAI ACCENT GLS
PRICE: (base/as tested) $13,199/ $17,199
ENGINE: 4-cylinder 1.6 L
POWER/TORQUE: 138hp/ 123 lb.-ft.
FUEL CONSUMPTION: City 6.7 L/100km, highway 4.9 L/100km
COMPETITION: Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa, Chevrolet Aveo, Honda Fit, Suzuki Swift+, Toyota Yaris
WHAT?S BEST: Sharp styling, logical layout inside, quality build
WHAT?S WORST: Don?t check to see if the doors are locked because the horn is loud enough to open lift bridges on the Welland Canal
WHAT?S INTERESTING: Hyundai has some great design happening but aren?t all their cars starting to look similar?