Hyundai Accent, 2012: New generation improves sub-compact leader

James Raia

With the sub-compact car segment increasingly popular, Hyundai redesigned the entry level Accent for 2012. It's the fourth generation of South Korean manufacturer's smallest family member since its debut in 1995.

The new Hyundai Accent sheds the bland, underachieving reputation of many entry-level machines. It was a wise move by Hyundai, considering the category is chock-full of quality cars — the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, Kia Rio and new Chevy Sonic

The new Accent includes a more powerful and efficient engine, a new four-door hatchback body style and an upgraded interior. Available as a sedan or hatchback, the new is three inches longer, includes a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine and is available with a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

More than eight years ago, the 2003 Hyundai Accent was among the first cars I reviewed in The Weekly Driver's original online format for a Canadian website. The timing was odd since I was responsible for taking two friends about my size (6-feet tall, 190 pounds) to a running event in the Sierra Nevada foothills and at an elevation of about 4,000 feet.

How was that going to work in an entry-level car? The Accent never "flinched." Nor did the Accent have any issues a few years later when I drive the 2007 edition from Southern California to Sacramento, including the long trek over the infamous Grapevine on Interstate 5. Plenty of big engine, high-priced cars were stalled on the side of the road. I zipped past at 80 mph in my entry level Accent.

Hyundai Accent, 2012: New generation improves sub-compact leader 1

Those two experiences sold me on Hyundai, and I've began recommending  the manufacturer's cars to friends and readers several years before they catapulted into the limelight the past two years.

Some things have changed with the Accent. In 2003, the car's price range was $9,999 to $11,897. The 2012 Accent ranges from $12,545 to $16,895. The SE model I recently tested drove priced out a $15,830. But like it was in 2003, the Accent is a surprisingly well-appointed, efficient, sturdy car. Its new edition excels in all of its previously strong categories through the years, now only more.

I test drove the top-of-the line SE trim, Its touted with “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 interior offered plenty of legroom and headroom, and the driver's seat was comfortable. The upgraded cloth seats offered superior quality-for-grade marks and dash, side panels and roof design were attractive, but not spectacular.

Like the previous Hyundai editions I've driven, the 2012 Hyundai Accent presents a solid drive, has good braking and steady, if unspectacular, acceleration.


Great gas mileage, the best among non-hybrids in the class.

Good cargo space.

Attractive new exterior design.


Navigation and sunroof unavailable.

Don't expect anything but mediocre acceleration beyond 75 mpg.

A spoiler on a Hyundai Accent? Really?

Facts & Figures: 2012 Hyundai Accent

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 9.8 seconds.
Airbags (6): front, side and head curtain.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 30 mpg (city), 40 mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: Four stars (out of five) in overall crash, overall frontal overall side; IIHS rating: frontal offset, roof strength (good), side impact (acceptable).
Horsepower: 138
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $15,795.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site:
Price As tested: 15,830.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 7 years/unlimited miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/unlimited mileage.

What Others Say:

"The Accent now runs away from the rest of the segment in terms of value and features." — 
"The redesigned Accent moves up a few notches not only in standard safety equipment, available features, power, and fuel economy, but also in price; the lowest-cost version with air conditioning now starts at about $15,000 with destination, and that's with a manual transmission. As such, it's not the bargain-basement transport it used to be, but it does offer a fine combination of room, refinement, features, and performance for the money." — Consumer Guide.

Hyundai Accent, 2012: New generation improves sub-compact leader 2

"Thanks to products such as Accent, Hyundai is offering strong value for the money. Compare this car's legroom, equipment and price points to its chief competitors, and the comparison works out in Accent's favor." — Popular Mechanics

What The Wife Says:

"It drives nicely for its segment, has good overall vision and offers a good value in the entry level market."

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

"In arguably the most competitive car segment, the 2012 Hyundai Accent holds its own. The Honda Fit has more interior space; The Ford Fiesta is more technologically advanced; the Mazda 2 likely has better handling. But the Hyundai Accent has a lot of strengths and has no weaknesses. Add its 40 mpg highway mileage and industry-best warranty to the equation and there's no reason not to buy it."

Article Last Updated: September 8, 2021.

Leave a Reply

Share to...