Interior space and quality
The interior is very attractive; on the SE there's shiny black finish around the center stack and trim that mimics brushed metal and chrome (it's also optional on the GLS). Too bad Hyundai didn't spend the extra nickels for padded door armrests; these are rock-hard plastic. Switchgear, though, is of high quality and controls are dead easy to use. Outward visibility in the sedan is not too bad but the hatchback has large rear blind spots; you will rely heavily on the side mirrors.
Rear-seat space in either body style is sufficient to put an adult back there behind a six-foot driver. The seat cushion is low, but headroom and legroom are okay. The Versa remains the best small car in rear-seat space, but the Accent's overall interior roominess is sufficient to garner it "compact" rather than "subcompact" status, per EPA measurements.
Cargo-wise, the sedan's trunk is pretty good at 13.7 cubic feet but of course the hatch is the better hauler of stuff. Its 21.2 cubic feet, with the rear seats in place, bests all comers. With the seatbacks folded, there's 47.5 cubic feet, which is also good but falls considerably short of the commodious Honda Fit.
One recent trend among the newest small cars is increased availability of luxury amenities. Hyundai proved hip to that trend with the new Elantra, but not here. You won't find a sunroof (available on the Nissan Versa and the Fiesta), navigation (Versa, Fiesta, and Fit), heated seats (Versa and Fiesta), or leather (Fiesta).
What is perhaps more surprising is that the Accent is not the least-expensive car in the segment. The starting price is $13,202, and that's for the stripper sedan with no air-conditioning (an unimaginable configuration in Vegas in June). Option it up with the bare-necessities package -- Hyundai's Comfort Package, with A/C, power windows, power mirrors, and a stereo -- and you're an all-you-can-eat buffet shy of $15,000 (actually, $14,955).
As it turns out, despite the low-ball come-on prices you see advertised, $15,000 is pretty much the price of entry even in this class, for a car with today's minimum level of equipment. Typically, hatchback models are a bit more, and that's the case with the Accent too. A base GS hatchback starts in the mid-$15,000 range, but the far preferable SE (nicer interior, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, cruise) is in the mid $16s. The same holds true for a Fiesta or a Versa, with a Fit not far behind.
To its credit, though, Accent doesn't need to be the very cheapest car in the segment. The 2012 version can compete on real-car virtues of power, fuel economy, interior quality, roominess, and general pleasantness. In that respect, it very much follows in the tire tracks of its freshly redesigned siblings, and will likely play a significant role in further heating up Hyundai sales.