2012 Hyundai Accent SE review: Lots of stuff and good touch too

2012 Hyundai Accent SE

2012 Hyundai Accent SE

After spending a week with the 2012 Hyundai Accent SE, a couple of factors are evident. One is that the Hyundai tradition of getting a lot of stuff for the money continues. The other is that everything touchable feels like it should feel.

The lots of stuff included on our $15,925 Hyundai Accent SE cruise control, satellite radio, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, trip computer, keyless remote and the usual power stuff, et cetera and so on. The price, by the way, includes destination.

Foglights are standard equipment for the 2012 Hyundai Accent SE.

Foglights are standard equipment for the 2012 Hyundai Accent SE. (Click on photo to enlarge).

But the 2012 Accent goes way beyond that. The Accent, per our notes, isn’t a flimsy yuckmobile with the integrity of bargain paper plates. A look inside shows a durable-looking fabric on the seats and on the door panels. The plastic on the dash and doors isn’t soft touch, but it isn’t brittle. Call it soft skin.

More touch: The switches and knobs all have the right amount of friction and heft. The glove box door has a solid feel and the top of the center arm rest is padded, even if it is far back for short drivers who have to scoot their seats forward.

Speaking of touch points, the seats are supportive and have a nice bum pocket with lateral support front and rear. That falls under “good touch,” doesn’t it?

The 2012 Hyundai Accent is an extraordinary piece of work, especially compared to its predecessor that didn’t know how to dress right and came up short on the social graces. The 2012 Accent, new this year, looks like someone didn’t buy at the bargain basement of last year’s styles.  The Accent looks good by any standard, perhaps even better than the Hyundai Sonata that heralded Hyundai’s highly praised new styling theme. The interior too looks like someone wasn’t worried about making the Accent’s interior classier than its bigger and more expensive siblings.

The interior of the 2012 Hyundai Accent SE makes it easy to forget this is a $16,000 car.

The interior of the 2012 Hyundai Accent SE makes it easy to forget this is a $16,000 car. (Click on photo to enlarge).

Hyundai didn’t spare the technology either. The Accent is powered by a 1.6-liter Hyundai “Gamma” engine, sophisticated with dual continuously variable valve timing and direct injection…and if that’s Greek to you, it’s something that until recently was found only on expensive performance engines, and with output of 138 horsepower, one could include this engine with that group…except for the price.

The price is rather remarkable considering that the tested Accent SE is the top of the line. The base Accent GLS starts a $12,545. Of course, a lot is given up for that price. Power windows, for example. Welcome to the hand-cranked windows experience. Also missing is the rear wiper—and hatchback rear windows go translucent with backspray when the roadway is wet. Also no power locks and keyless remote. No tilt wheel. Those and more—including cruise control on the A/T-equipped models—are Accent GS territory only. But figure the Accent GLS a new car at a killer price.

The mid-range is the GS and our then our test car the SE, which gets 16-inch alloy wheels and “sport-tuned” steering, plus leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and more. By its fog lights and rear spoiler shall ye know it.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.