2012 Hyundai Accent SE review: 2012 Hyundai Accent SE

Sound reaches your ears through a 172-watt audio system with six speakers that is best described as "adequate." It's not bad for the sort of stereo you'd find in a $15,000 car. Bass output is not this system's strong suit, with serious distortion occurring at the low end of the audio spectrum at louder volumes. Mids and highs don't fare much better, but with a bit of tweaking to its three-band EQ, we were able to get some enjoyment out of our music.

The Accent offers a good level of tech, but the omission of navigation keeps it from being great.

You'll notice, however, that we haven't mentioned navigation. That's because the Accent is the only vehicle in Hyundai's lineup that can't be had with the automaker's navigation system. So, you'll have to bring your own portable navigation device or smartphone app if you need help getting from point Alpha to Bravo.

Options and packages
Outfitting your Accent couldn't be easier, because there aren't many options available. If you want a five-door there's either the SE or GS. At the SE level, everything is standard, whether you chose the six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Stepping down to a GS trim level downsizes the wheels to 14-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, swaps in a less aggressive steering tune, and deletes the spoiler out back and fog lights up front. In the cabin, you lose a few more niceties such as Bluetooth connectivity for calls and audio and the leather trim on the steering wheel and shifter. Again, no option packages are available, but you do get the choice of automatic or user-shifted transmission.

Now, if you want an Accent sedan, things get a bit more complex. The manually shifted GLS sedan is even more basic than the GS hatchback, losing its remote door unlock, downgrading to fewer creature comforts in the cabin, and ditching its body-colored side mirrors and door handles in favor of blacked-out parts. Stepping up the automatic transmission option unlocks the ability to add back all of the features of the SE (with the exception of the sport-tuned steering) with the addition of a $1,300 Premium package.

For our money, the $16,555 Hyundai Accent SE (including $760 destination charge) represents the sweet spot for this model, giving drivers reasonable economy, as much tech as Hyundai offers in this class, and a few grins if you don't mind driving a slow car fast. Add $35 if you're an iPhone or iPod user and $1,000 for the automatic transmission, if you're not a fan of rowing your own gears.

The Accent SE trim level offers the best blend of performance, utility, and technology of the available trim levels.

The Accent SE's most obvious rival is the Honda Fit Sport. Watching the manually shifted versions of these hatchbacks go blow for blow is an interesting exercise in how far Hyundai has come in last few years. The Accent SE has more power and better economy. The Fit Sport has slightly better handling and a much better shifter. The Hyundai strikes back with better cabin technology and a $1,000 lower MSRP and the Fit counters with better utility thanks to its Magic Seat. Which of these hot little hatches wins is entirely up to the preferences of the buyer, but at the end of a week with the Accent SE, I'm leaning toward the compact from Korea.

Other competitors include the Scion xD, Toyota Yaris, and Chevrolet Aveo, which can't compete in cabin technology or pure driving joy, and the Ford Fiesta SES, which has a better tech package thanks to Ford Sync, but is also almost $2,000 more expensive.

Tech specs
Model 2012 Hyundai Accent
Trim SE
Powertrain 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder, FWD, six-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy 30 city, 40 highway mpg
Observed fuel economy 29.4 mpg
Navigation n/a
Bluetooth phone support basic voice command, phonebook sync, A2DP audio streaming
Disc player single disc, CD/ MP3
MP3 player support analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB, available iPod connection cable
Other digital audio Bluetooth stereo streaming, SiriusXM satellite radio
Audio system 172-watts, six-speakers, no subwoofer
Driver aids n/a
Base price $14,195
Price as tested $16,590

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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