Test Drive: 2012 Hyundai Accent GL sedan car test drives reviews hyundai
2012 Hyundai Accent GL sedan. Click image to enlarge
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Manufacturer’s web site
Hyundai Canada

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2012 Hyundai Accent

As a rule, a “halo car” is generally a company’s top-line model, high-performance and often made in limited numbers. The idea is to create a buzz that, with any luck, will trickle down to the more mainstream models on the showroom floor. But while it’s hardly a low-production performance machine, it could be argued that, in terms of creating consumer interest, the Accent might well be considered Hyundai’s halo.

A few years ago, it was famously advertised as the least expensive car in Canada. That’s no longer the case, but Hyundai is also no longer relying on a low sticker alone to get customers into the showroom. Instead, the company has redesigned the Accent into its fourth generation, offering sexy styling, a direct-injection gasoline (GDI) engine – still rare enough in upper-line models, never mind an entry-level one – and considerable content for the price.

Test Drive: 2012 Hyundai Accent GL sedan car test drives reviews hyundai
2012 Hyundai Accent GL sedan. Click image to enlarge

As with the outgoing 2011 model, the 2012 Accent uses a 1.6-litre engine, but this is an all-new powerplant. The improvements, including the GDI, bring horsepower up to 138 from 110, while torque is up to 123 lb.-ft. from 106. The previous transmission choices were a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, but this time, both transmissions have six cogs. The published fuel economy improves as well. My autobox-equipped sedan was officially rated at 7.0 L/100 km (40 mpg Imp) in the city, and 4.8 (59) on the highway. In combined driving, I averaged 7.2 (39).

The sedan starts in base L trim at $13,199, which is $400 less than the comparable hatchback version. My tester was the mid-range GL, which rang in at $16,199 with the automatic transmission (it would have been $14,999 with the stick shift). The top-line GLS comes only with the autobox and is $17,999.

My tester included all of the features found on the L, including 14-inch steel wheels (imagine the break you’ll get when buying winter tires), rear disc brakes, active head restraints, tilt steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, power locks, stereo with USB port, and the mandatory safety features of anti-lock brakes and stability control, along with six airbags. To that, it then added air conditioning, keyless entry, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, cruise control, power windows (the driver’s is auto-down), heated mirrors, Bluetooth and audio controls on the steering wheel.

Test Drive: 2012 Hyundai Accent GL sedan car test drives reviews hyundai
2012 Hyundai Accent GL sedan. Click image to enlarge

Hyundai’s modus operandi is generally to stuff as much as possible into a vehicle for the lowest possible price. It makes me wonder where the saturation point will be – when it can no longer out-feature the competition while avoiding sticker shock in its customers – but for now the plan seems to be working. It is an entry-level vehicle, and while that never means that a vehicle can slide on performance or quality solely because of its price, it’s important to keep its segment in mind when you drive it. I’ve read more than one reviewer who slammed the Accent for its power and steering feel, but I believe they missed taking its market into account. If you’re used to driving more powerful and expensive cars, the Accent undoubtedly won’t meet your acceleration standards. The steering also feels artificial and can get a bit jerky if you’re trying to make a smooth arc, such as rounding a highway on-ramp.

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