Like its older and larger siblings, the Accent SE comes standard with Hyundai's basic cabin technology package. That means you'll get a single-slot AM/FM/CD player with MP3 playback capabilities, an XM satellite radio receiver, and standard USB and auxiliary inputs. There's also standard Bluetooth connectivity and a cool blue backlight to the controls and large monochrome display. With the aid of a $35 interface cable, users are able to add iPhone/iPod playback capability with full access to the iPod's organizational structure for browsing by artist, album, genre, and podcast.
The standard Bluetooth connectivity supports the Hands-free Profile (HFP), Phonebook Access Profile (PBAP), and the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) and Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) combo that enables stereo audio streaming. With a compatible phone paired and its address book synced, users are able to initiate handsfree calls by stating the recipient's name thanks to a voice command feature.
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.
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'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.
|Model||2012 Hyundai Accent|
|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|
|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|
|Price as tested||$16,590|