So what's the deal with the Accent then? Much is expected. But can it deliver?
In the looks department, it definitely lives up to the hype. The design itself exhibits the very best of what Hyundai has to offer, something that was best spoken with one of the most gorgeous everyday cars I've laid eyes on: the Sonata. The sleek, tapered front end is quite busy with plenty of cool details, with steeply raked headlamps, the foglamps that seem to have been lifted straight from a concept car and the new 6-point grille that is becoming a mainstay in current Hyundais.
Towards the side, there's the great feature line that runs from the front and all around the rear end, giving the Accent a feel that it's always on the move, as no surface is ever just left alone as flat, boring slabs of painted steel. The rear is quite busy too, really capping off the Accent as a true design exercise in the subcompact car class, though I would swap out those wheels for nicer multi spoke rims the first chance I get.
The interior of the Accent was quite surprising, and very pleasantly so. The design guys over at Hyundai certainly put in a lot of work into this one, with tactile surfaces, a very pleasant look and excellent ergonomics. The seats are definitely great, and as I remember, it is one of the very rare subcompact cars that use a piano-black finish along with brushed metal trim, giving a new feel of premium class in its category. Put it simply, the new Accent's interior a far cry from the thrift store feel of the old Accent. So far so good.
Getting acquainted with the features is quite easy, with a very straightforward layout for all the controls. The steering wheel has auxiliary controls for the audio system, which features full iPod integration, USB connectivity and plays through 6 speakers. The Accent is also the first in its class to have automatic climate control, along with the standard power features like windows, mirrors, and keyless entry. The trip computer also has a full suite of information available with average speed, elapsed time as well as average and current fuel economy.
In terms of space and practicality, the Accent exceeds expectations. There's decent legroom to go around for 5 adults, while there are several convenient storage compartments and cubby holes around the cabin. Whats surprising is the size of the trunk, which, at first glance, can easily be the most capacious in the subcompact sedan class.
Now we've driven the old Accent many times before, and what got us is how it's CRDI powertrain really delivers what was promised: power and astounding fuel efficiency, as our good friend Tito Hermoso once clocked an astounding 39.67 kilometers per liter of diesel. Currently, the diesel version of the new Accent is still unavailable, but the petrol versions are ready to take up the mantle.
At the heart of the all new Accent is an entirely new powertrain, consisting of a Gamma engine displacing 1.6 liters. The engine produces a very healthy 124 horsepower and 156 newton meters of torque. The engine is complemented by a 4-speed automatic transmission which, on the spec sheet, looks underwhelming, but actually delivers very decent fuel economy figures at 16.4 kilometers per liter on the highway (100 km/h average) and 12.7 kilometers per liter in city conditions (light to moderate traffic). In terms of noise suppression there's no question about it, as on most road surfaces, the Accent delivers the quietest cabin in the class.
The first night I got the Accent, I was well and truly impressed with it. But after just a day of driving, something came up that I can't wrap my head around: the ride. The Accent is decently sprung for vigorous cornering, but judging from the seat of your pants, the shock absorbers are not up to scratch. It feels severely underdamped, leading to a bumpy feel when youre driving alone, or a wobbly drive when you've got a car full of passengers weighing it down. The rear suspension in particular, has a tendency to bottom out even while taking speed bumps at reasonable, almost gingerly speeds.
For the design, features, quality feel, fuel economy, the amazing warranty (5 years, 100,000km) and noise refinement, I would have gladly given the Accent the full five stars; the same that we gave it's more upmarket brothers like the Sonata, Genesis Coupe and Tucson. But until the suspension issues are addressed (hopefully Hyundai would), the Accent will have to settle for three.