Do you remember the 1950’s schlock-horror film, “The Blob”? If you’ve never seen it, it’s about an oversized blob of grape jelly from outer space that consumes everything in its path. In the end, the hero (played by a young Steve McQueen) figures out that cold can stop The Blob, so the movie ends with it being dropped somewhere around the North Pole.
If you’re an automaker other than Hyundai, the Korean company must seem very much like The Blob. In just a few short years, Hyundai’s gone from being hte butt of jokes to being the company that no one can keep up with. In the last year, for example, Hyundai’s Equus luxury sedan went from zero percent market share to five percent market share, at a time when other luxury cars were happy to get a tenth of a percent increase in share. The Hyundai Sonata and Elantra are best sellers that keep racking up award after award, and the limiting factor in their growth these days is simply Hyundai’s ability to produce cars. If you ‘re shopping for an Elantra right now, chances are good that you’re putting down money for inventory in the pipeline, since cars on the dealer’s floor are hard to come by.
What the Elantra did for the compact market last spring, the Accent will do for the subcompact market when it launches later this fall. The Accent will no longer be the cheapest car in its class, but when you add up the included features and shop the competition, you’ll soon realize that there’s the Hyundai Accent, and then there’s everything else.
To start with, the new Accent is much more distinctive than the car it replaces, Styling on the outgoing Accent was, at best, bland. Styling on the new Accent mirrors that of the Elantra and Sonata, borrowing a page from Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” design book. Even the inside has been redone, and most would be hard-pressed to tell if they were sitting behind the wheel of an an Elantra or an Accent (which is the difference between a compact and subcompact). In fact, the Accent has so much room inside that the EPA calls it a compact car, and the Accent 5-door has more cargo capacity than a Nissan Juke, Dodge Caliber or Audi A3.
If that’s not impressive enough, how does class-leading horsepower sound? The Accent uses the same engine as the larger Elantra, so acceleration is significantly better than the competition. The Accent’s 1.6-liter, direct-injection engine puts out 138 horsepower and 123 ft-lb of torque, and comes with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. It gets segment-topping fuel economy across its range too: all Accent models, regardless of trim level or transmission choice, get 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.
If safety is a concern, the Accent comes with six airbags, including front, side impact and side curtain units. It’s got electronic stability control and traction control, and even includes electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist to shorten stopping distances in a panic stop. It’s also the only subcompact to offer four-wheel disc brakes standard, which explains how it generates a better stopping distance than the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Ford Fiesta.
Pricing for the 2012 Hyundai Accent starts at $13,205 for the Accent GLS sedan with a manual transmission, and tops out at $17,555 for an Accent SE 5-door with the automatic gearbox. Even though there are cheaper cars in segment, when comparably equipped, the Accent still represents the best overall value. If you’re in the market for a subcompact, look for the new Accent to hit dealer lots this fall.