Hyundai Accent, 2012: More powerful, better gas mileage, best subcompact economy

James Raia

The new Hyundai Accent promises to make this automaker even more popular. The Accent has been Hyundai's lowest-cost model and always has been cheap to buy and run. The revamped, longer fourth-generation 2012 model remains inexpensive and cheap to run, but it's sleeker with its “Fluidic Sculpture” design and more powerful with improved fuel economy.

You can say one thing for Hyundai — it never stands still.

The new front-wheel-drive Accent comes as a sedan or four-door hatchback. It has best-in-class fuel economy of an estimated 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on highways with either its six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Compared to its predecessor, fuel efficiency is up 18 percent for the manual-transmission version and 11 percent for the automatic-transmission model.

This is the first car to use gasoline direct injection for the subcompact category. It results in better fuel economy, more power and lower emissions. Although small, the sophisticated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine also has dual continuously variable valve timing.

The Accent generates best-in-class 138 horsepower, except for the new identical-horsepower Chevrolet Sonic. Acceleration is good, but 65-75 mph passing times on highways are average. And the manual transmission must be downshifted to third gear for the quickest passing. The engine needs lots of revs for the best performance, which is par for the course with this class of car.

Accent list prices range from $12,545 to $16,895.

Hyundai Accent, 2012: More powerful, better gas mileage, best subcompact economy 1

The sedan’s length has been increased to 172 inches. The hatchback rides on the same 101.2-inch wheelbase but is 10 inches shorter, although it has a larger cargo area, with best-in-class hatchback cargo volume.

Models are the base GLS, mid-range GS and top-line SE. The sedan is now the cheaper of the two body styles, but all come with either the manual or extra-cost automatic.

The base GLS has a fair number of features, such as a tilt wheel, power door locks, an AM/FM satellite radio with a CD/MP3 audio system, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and height adjustable driver’s seat  But you  must order the automatic transmission to add air conditioning and power windows and mirrors. .

Safety features include front, side and head curtain air bags.

GLS options with the automatic include remote keyless entry, cruise control and larger 16-inch (versus standard 14-inch) wheels with wider tires.

The GS has such items as standard air conditioning, even with the manual  transmission, cruise control, remote keyless entry, body color mirrors and door handles.

The top-line SE has “sport-tuned” steering, premium cloth seats, chrome inside door handles, piano black accents, the larger 16-inch alloy wheels with wider tires, fog lights and a rear spoiler.

The automatic transmission is a $1,000 option.   

I tested a $15,895 Accent SE hatchback with the manual gearbox, which shifts slickly but works with a light clutch that has a long throw. The automatic version is said to shift nicely.

Hyundai Accent, 2012: More powerful, better gas mileage, best subcompact economy 2

However, the Accent invites the manual gearbox because it’s a sporty car with agile handling and nicely geared motor-driven electric power steering. The ride is supple over most roads, but bad road imperfections can definitely be felt. Helping handling are electronic stability and traction control, along with a vehicle stability management system.

The Accent also is the only car in the subcompact class with standard four-wheel disc brakes, which have an anti-lock system, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. Pedal action is progressive.

The upmarket interior is quiet and has easily used controls and a deep covered console bin, although the hatchback has rear blind spots. My SE test car had supportive front seats and an especially attractive interior with the premium cloth seats and piano black accents. Its 16-inch wheels and wider (50-series) tires enhanced handling.

All Accents have plenty of room, front and back. The EPA thus classifies it as a “compact” because of its interior space.

The hatchback opening is wide, but a little too high for quick unloading at such places as airports. Cargo room is decent, but is greatly improved by flipping the split rear seabacks forward.

The heavy hood is held open by just a prop rod instead of hydraulic struts, and some fluid filler areas are a little hard to reach.

In all, Hyundai has a winner with its new Accent, which has features not even found on large luxury cars just a few years ago.

Pros: Stylish. High fuel economy. Agile. Roomy. Sedan and hatchback models.

Cons: Average highway passing. High cargo opening. Hatchback model has rear blind spot.

Bottom Line: Major improvement of over previous Accent models.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read his new and vintage car reviews, visit:

Article Last Updated: September 8, 2021.

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