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2012 Hyundai Accent: Wow, they did it

Posted by Bill Griffith  November 30, 2011 04:54 PM

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(All photos: Bill Griffith for The Boston Globe). Click photo for larger version.

There was no Miss Daisy riding in the back seat. Instead, there was Master Jack, my four-year-old grandson. Like Miss Daisy, he was a passenger with a wide range of demands and emotions.

As my sidekick, he helped color the review of today’s test car, a 2012 Hyundai Accent GLS. This is the four-door sedan version of the totally redesigned Accent subcompact lineup. The other two variants are five-door hatchbacks.

The car arrived on Halloween. So did Jack, a refugee from Connecticut, where his hometown was 99 percent without power.

Jack’s booster seat not only was an easy fit but gave us instant awareness that there was a lot of space inside the cabin. This four-year-old is at a point where he can fight off a daily nap unless he’s in a car at midday and nods off. So, any time he’d doze, we wound up taking the “long way” to the park, beach, restaurant, store, etc. The extra seat time and silence made it easy to appreciate how much of a quantum leap the Accent has taken in its fourth generation.

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Here are half-dozen reasons to like the new Accent.

Price. The base price for the GLS sedan is $15,955 (including destination charges). Our test car had the $1,300 Premium Package, which added larger (16-inch) alloy wheels, remote keyless entry, cruise control, Bluetooth, upgraded cloth seats and black “piano” interior trim, a sliding armrest, and fog lights. A few other incidentals such as iPod cable, cargo tray, and carpeted mats brought the bottom line to $17,465, well under the $20,000 ceiling of many buyers.

Fuel economy. The Accent is one of four Hyundai vehicles—along with the Elantra, Sonata hybrid, and manual transmission version of the new Veloster—to achieve a 40-mile-per-gallon EPA rating for highway mileage. In this economic downturn, “40 is the new 30” when it comes to mpg. We had the onboard computer telling us that we were averaging a bit over 41 mpg for a good part of the week, but a flurry of local trips and cold-weather starts dropped that to 39.3, and leaving the Accent idling while setting up a photo shoot dropped it to 39.0 mpg. That was impressive, though mostly achieved under as close to ideal conditions as you’ll find in normal living.

Styling.
Hyundai calls its design approach “fluidic sculpture.” Mrs. G says, “It has nice lines.” She also noted that the seats were comfortable on longer (one hour-plus) trips and rear visibility was good.

Ride and handling. Normally, we find this the weakest link in the Hyundai lineup, but our Accent was stable and predictable on the highway and competent over the worst quarter mile of local paved roadway.

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Trunk space. A cargo space statistic of 13.7 cubic feet doesn’t tell the tale. There’s room for a lot of luggage or several sets of golf clubs or a month’s worth of groceries back there.

The powertrain. The Accent is powered by a new 1.6-liter direct injection engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The 138 horsepower doesn’t sound impressive in an age of supercars, but it’s class-leading, while offering an 11 percent improvement in fuel economy over the engine it replaces.

2012-Hyundai-Accent-GLS-interior.jpg

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Generally, we poke a little fun when a mid-sized (or larger) vehicle is introduced as both larger and more powerful than its predecessor. In the subcompact realm, that’s a good thing. The Accent has good interior space and trunk room, though rear legroom wasn’t as accommodating as in the 2012 Nissan Versa.

We split the week between the Accent’s “Eco” mode and normal. This was one vehicle where driving in “Eco” didn’t leave you feeling underpowered in merging or passing situations.

Simplifying option packages as Hyundai has done is a two-edged sword. It helps cut manufacturing costs and keeps the price lower while reducing the number of variants dealers must stock. However, get the packaging wrong and buyers will look elsewhere.

Hyundai seems to have gotten it right with the Accent. There was no moonroof option, but the base model is adequate and the premium package adds just enough for a subcompact buyer.

Bill Griffith can be reached at WGriffith@globe.com.



2012 Hyundai Accent GLS Sedan

THE BASICS
Price, base/as tested (with destination): $15,955/$17,465.
Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway.
Fuel economy, Globe observed: 39.0.
Drivetrain: 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel-drive.
Body: Four-door subcompact sedan.

THE SPECIFICS
Horsepower: 138. Torque: 123 lb.-ft. Overall length: 162 in. Wheelbase: 101.2 in. Height: 57.1 in. Width: 66.9 in. Curb weight: 2,496 pounds.

THE GOOD

Simple-but-adequate buying packages

THE BAD
No moonroof option and no outside temperature display

THE BOTTOM LINE
The new Accent takes a big step forward and can hold its own with its competitors in this class

ALSO CONSIDER
Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Mazda2, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
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