Easy does it
Hyundai Accent GLS 2012
These days it is difficult, if not impossible, to get your hands on a decent B-segment sedan. Most manufacturers think that the hatchback is the only solution for younger buyers. Hyundai is on the offense and has now added the seventh generation Accent to its armour. Pieter Kotze decides whether it has the goods to convert the masses.
Now one of Hyundai’s biggest sellers, the Accent started out life in 1976 as the Pony. Things were different then. ‘Boy bands’ of the time wore extra-tight pants, and some Swedish group was singing about lost French battles, so the name ‘Pony’ must’ve been groovy back then. Luckily the name was changed, and over time so has the look. The Accent might look familiar to some, it follows the ‘Fluidic Sculpture’ design philosophy which has been used by Hyundai to shape its cars over the last few years. There are very definite links to its bigger brothers the Elantra and i40, but it still has its own identity. The ‘eagle-eye’ headlights and L-shaped fog lights lends the Accent an elegant design which should find favour with Mr Family Man. The side profile gets the rising shoulder line treatment, running from the top of the front wheel-arch to the wrap-around tail light, while the roofline follows the now popular coupe-like design to get rid of the traditional three-box shape. The 15-inch steel wheels are covered by plastic hubcaps which can for a second look like the real thing, but maybe Hyundai should’ve been more generous and thrown in a set of alloys.
Part of the Hyundai offering is a comfortable, stylish interior and the Accent is no exception. Perceived quality is decent, if not premium, while the dash layout keeps things simple and easy to use. The comfy front seats can be adjusted for height, but the steering wheel can’t adjust for reach, which might leave some drivers in a slightly uncomfortable position. The GLS model includes auxiliary, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, satellite controls on the steering wheel, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors, rear parking sensors and an Eco-drive indicator as standard features, but there are a few things Hyundai somehow omitted. No rear cupholders, no auto-locking doors and the lack of auto lights and wipers may take some buyers by surprise. On the plus side it does have decent rear legroom and a hungry boot, taking up to 389 litres (seats up) of rep-goodies or family baggage (physical baggage, not mental), almost a 100 litres more than the i20. Soft blue lighting combined with cleverly placed faux-alu inserts rounds off a well-appointed cabin which does not have to stand back for most competitors in its class.
The Accent uses a fizzy 1.6 petrol engine, mated to a slightly notchy five speed gearbox. It’s quite a rev-happy unit, happily surging towards the red line where it will finally produce 122bhp. This comes as no surprise as it uses variable valve timing to get the best balance between performance and economy. Maximum torque (156Nm) kicks in at 4200rpm, and the little Accent is quite frisky in the first couple of gears, but it definitely needs a sixth gear as you’ll tire of the revs sitting at 4100rpm while cruising at 90mph on the motorway. When you drive according to the strict rules of the AA, you might achieve the claimed figure of 46.3mpg for the combined cycle, but realistically you can expect figures around the 35mpg mark.
Using Machperson struts at the front and a torsion beam setup at the rear provides a very compliant ride, but it needs some tweaking. The Accent feels a bit vulnerable in strong crosswinds, and if you don’t keep your eyes on the road it might be wandering off into some other direction. Going into tighter corners with a bit of gusto gives the sensation of driving in a bowl of soup, but then again this is a family car where the focus should be on comfort rather than pin-sharp dynamics. The combination of bad understeer and woolly steering feel doesn’t give you much confidence on back roads and can lead to moments of ‘sweaty palms syndrome,’ so if the suspension can be tightened up a bit it should give the Accent a more planted feel. The soft suspension setup makes town driving an absolute breeze, and in combination with the light steering and clutch action it`s a perfect match for the urban jungle.
The Accent is not available in the UK, but since it is the sedan-twin of the i20 one can expect to pay in the region of £12 500 for the top petrol model if it was launched. Strangely there are also no other B-segment sedans available in the UK, with perhaps the exception of the Proton Gen-2, which you should probably steer clear of. For a few hundred pounds more one can buy the Skoda Octavia 1.4, which is a much bigger car, but you’ll be praying for more power from the little 1400.
The Accent is a decent effort from Hyundai and a big improvement on the old car. It’s perhaps not on the same level as the Elantra, but with a few minor improvements Hyundai can have another winning card in their hands.