Is Hyundai as hot as Vegas in June? Based on recent sales numbers, you'd have to say yes. Deliveries are up 29 percent through May, and that's compared to the record levels of 2010. May was also when the Sonata became the bestselling car in America (retail sales-wise). Clearly, the tsunami-related supply disruptions for the Japanese automakers could not have come at a better time for the Koreans, who were already seeing sales of their impressively redesigned new models zooming to new heights. Is the new Accent up to Hyundai's heady recent standards?
As is typical of new Hyundais, the Accent has got the numbers down. Its new, direct-injected engine has more horsepower (136 hp) and torque (128 pound-feet) than any competitor. At the same time, it's rated at 40 mpg highway and 30 mpg city -- for all versions -- and both of those figures are best in class.
On the road
The 1.6-liter four is mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic -- and the Accent is the only car in the segment to offer two six-speeds. Shift action for the manual isn't exactly positive but it's light and easy -- very much in the Volkswagen idiom. It would be more pleasant to use if the clutch take-up weren't so close to the floor. In our brief time with the automatic, we found it to shift smoothly. With either gearbox, acceleration is only adequate -- nothing in this class is genuinely quick. The direct-injected four is fairly happy in its work, but don't expect a lot of oomph off the line.
What surprised us was how quiet the Accent is on the highway, with very little wind noise. The gearing isn't super-tall, so the engine is turning about 2750 rpm at 70 mph (with the manual transmission). That means the car can climb modest Interstate grades or gather a bit more speed without the need to downshift.
In contrast with previous Korean practice, the chassis is quite tied-down: the ride is firm, and bumps can be fairly sharp. It's not Ford Fiesta-fun, but it is more solid than we expected. Importantly, stability control and ABS are standard here (that's not a given in this bargain-basement price class), and the Accent is the only car in the segment to be fitted with disc brakes at all four wheels.
New styling, new body style
The sedan has grown in length (3.5 inches) and wheelbase (2.8 inches). Its 101.2-inch wheelbase is shared with the new four-door hatchback, which replaces the previous two-door hatch. The Accent's handsome new exterior owes nothing to its dumpling-like predecessor. The sedan isn't too far off from the Elantra; the four-door hatch, however, is a dead ringer for the Fiesta.