2012 Hyundai Accent

Matt Tierney

At the press event, every journalist in attendance kept commending the Accent's size. While it's true that the interior is quite spacious for a subcompact (the EPA rates it as a compact), the Accent still drives like a small car. The short wheelbase -- and relatively stiff suspension of our SE model -- makes the car crash over highway irregularities and skip like a stone on a lake over expansion joints. In the city, the Hyundai performs much better.

Although the Accent may be powerful for its class, it's still rather slow. On the highway this results in tense times when it comes to passing, but around town the little car feels peppy enough. The important thing to remember while driving this car is that the six-speed gearbox is really a five-speed with an extra overdrive. This means you often need to drop down one gear lower than you think you should. For example, if you expect a downshift to fourth to be enough to pass another motorist, think again -- you'll need to downshift at least to third.

Overall, the 2012 Accent is a rather nice small car, with plenty of room and a relatively high-quality interior (although the hard door armrests still suck, and the dash is showing a hairline crack already). But it's still a small car and a bland one at that. Personally, I couldn't justify choosing this over plenty of better used-car alternatives, but if you really want a new car, it's not a bad choice.

Greg Fink, Editorial Intern

Hyundai and Kia have upped their games across the board, but most notably with their styling efforts. Kia poached ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer (who contributed significantly to the original Audi TT), and Hyundai has been crafting a new corporate look with its "fluidic sculpture" design language. Both brands have been adding splashes of style into otherwise dully designed segments -- cases in point: the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata and the Kia Sportage.

The Accent's puckered front fascia -- it looks like a fish or someone about to steal a kiss -- is in line with its larger siblings, and the sweeping side character lines give the little hatchback a dash of panache. The cost for this much style in such a small package is rear visibility. Luckily, the dimensions are tidy, meaning that it's not hard to place the Accent when backing up, even if there is little that can be seen out the back window. This is not the first time the Koreans have prioritized style over function; one of our biggest complaints with our Four Seasons Kia Sportage is its mail-slot-sized rear window.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

I try to keep an open mind each time I drive a new car, but I still had preconceptions that the 2012 Hyundai Accent would be a cheap, boring car with few redeeming qualities. How wrong I was. The new Accent is a perfectly competent small car that I wouldn't mind driving on a daily basis.

Here is an affordable, compact hatchback with interesting styling, a quiet engine, an acceptable ride, and excellent switchgear ergonomics. What a change from prior Accents. It may not be the most thrilling vehicle I've ever driven, but I was pleasantly surprised by how satisfied I was with the driving experience. All the controls feel perfect for urban commuting. And with a low MSRP and high EPA ratings, the Hyundai is a very practical choice.

Our test car was equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, and while the gearbox has long, loose throws, the lever always slot home with a convincing click. It may disappoint enthusiasts, but the transmission is perfect for duty in the Accent.

There are some giveaways that let you know the Accent is Hyundai's cheapest U.S.-market product, including uncomfortable seats and weak headlights, but I'm still impressed that a sub-$17K Korean hatchback drives this well and looks this smart.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Let me start with a suggestion: Whoever is in charge of designing the radio faceplate for this new Hyundai Accent needs to actually use it at night. Not only is the big blue display hard to read (there's not enough contrast), but it's bright -- Vegas neon bright. So bright, that even when the instruments are fully dimmed, the radio continues to cast its glare into the cabin.

But that's my only complaint, which should serve as some indication as to how agreeable this latest Accent truly is. Years ago, the only justification for buying an Accent was price. No more. The Accent is stylish and relatively sophisticated for a car that starts just north of $14,000. I was surprised by the presence of a six-speed manual transmission but equally taken aback by the car's driving demeanor. The clutch is weighted nicely; the brakes have surprising grab; suspension is a bit firm but compliant over big (and I do mean big) bumps.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor

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