- Supportive seats
- Peppy performance with manual transmission
- Unusually satisfying stereo for this segment
- Relatively quiet cabin
- Impressive warranty coverage
- Low side-impact crash test scores
- Lackluster acceleration with automatic transmission
- Antilock brakes aren't standard
- Harsh ride over irregular surfaces
Regardless of who you are or how much money you can spend, you can't help but like any product that exceeds your expectations. Take the 2011 Hyundai Accent, for instance. In a category where buyers expect little more than basic transportation, Hyundai's affordable compact hatchback and sedan deliver surprising bang for the buck.
It starts with what's under the hood: a 110-horsepower four-cylinder engine that gives zippy performance when paired with the standard five-speed manual transmission. The Accent's relatively quiet cabin is another unexpected plus in a sub-$10,000 car. Same goes for some of the items on the car's standard equipment list, such as the six-speaker stereo with satellite radio capability and a USB audio input new to midrange GS models this year.
But these strengths are tempered by a few notable weaknesses -- most significantly, the Accent's disappointing scores in government and insurance-industry side-impact crash tests. In addition, antilock brakes do not come standard on any trim level except the top-line SE hatchback.
The good news for price-conscious shoppers is that there are now more compact car choices than ever. The new 2011 Ford Fiesta and its 2011 Mazda 2 sibling, for example, offer fresher styling and a fun-to-drive attitude, while the 2011 Honda Fit boasts a more flexible interior and nimble handling. The 2011 Nissan Versa offers a roomy, attractive cabin and upscale features like keyless ignition, Bluetooth and an iPod interface that you wouldn't expect in an economy car.
Realistically, we'd recommend the above models before going with the Accent. But the 2011 Hyundai Accent's combination of unexpected strengths and a super-affordable price tag means it's still worth considering for those shopping for an inexpensive set of wheels.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2011
For the 2011 Accent, Hyundai has deleted the formerly optional sunroof. Upper trim levels now have a 172-watt CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, satellite radio capability and a USB audio input.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2011 Hyundai Accent is available in a choice of two-door hatchback and four-door sedan body styles. The hatchback is offered in three trim levels, including the renamed entry-level GL, midrange GS and top-of-the-line SE. The sedan can be had in a single trim level known as the GLS.
The base GL hatchback makes do without a standard stereo, but it features 14-inch steel wheels, variable intermittent windshield wipers, a six-way-adjustable driver seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks and a rear window defroster. The options list is pretty much limited to air-conditioning, Bluetooth and floor mats.
The GS adds an automatic transmission, air-conditioning, body-colored outside mirrors and door handles, a rear window wiper/washer, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel and a 172-watt, six-speaker stereo with satellite radio and USB/auxiliary audio inputs. Power accessories, keyless entry and an alarm are all available as part of the Premium package.
The sporty Accent SE two-door hatchback adds 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels, firmer suspension tuning, foglights, cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The Accent GLS sedan's list of standard features and options is very similar to that of the GS hatchback.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
There's no getting around the fact that the Accent's plain interior styling and cheap-looking materials make it less attractive than competitors like the Nissan Versa. The front seats are comfortable, though, and the standard height-adjustable driver seat is a nice touch. The lack of a tilt steering wheel on the entry-level GL model may make it harder for some drivers to get comfortable, however.
The rear seats offer enough legroom for average-sized adults. That said, getting in and out of those seats in hatchback models requires some scrambling due to the tight space between the front seats and the door sill. Luggage capacity is about average for cars in this segment, with nearly 16 cubic feet of room in hatchback models and more than 12 cubic feet in the sedan's trunk.
ll 2011 Hyundai Accents are equipped with front-seat side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Antilock brakes aren't available for the GL but are optional for the GS hatchback and GLS sedan. The SE hatchback gets antilock braking as standard.
The Accent hasn't been tested using the government's new, more strenuous crash test procedure. Its 2010 rating (which isn't comparable to other 2011 tests) was a perfect five stars for front-occupant protection, four stars for front-occupant protection in side impacts and three stars for rear-seat passengers in side impacts.
In testing done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Accent received the second-highest "Acceptable" rating for frontal-offset collisions but the worst-possible "Poor" ranking in side-impact tests. In brake testing, an Accent with ABS stopped from 60 mph in a respectable 122 feet; without it, that distance shoots up to 155 feet.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The front-wheel-drive 2011 Hyundai Accent is equipped with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 110 hp and 106 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on all models except the GS, which gets a four-speed automatic that's also available as an option on all but the entry-level GL. In performance testing, a manual-equipped Accent went from zero to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds.
In regard to fuel economy, the Accent models equipped with the four-speed automatic return EPA estimates of 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. Models with the five-speed manual are rated at 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined.
As is the case with many small cars, the 2011 Hyundai Accent's performance depends to a great extent on which transmission you choose. The five-speed manual gearbox makes the car feel reasonably peppy, while the four-speed automatic bogs it down. Likewise, the sport-tuned suspension on SE models delivers better handling, while the softer suspension fitted to GL, GS and GLS versions emphasizes a smoother ride. Despite having one of the quieter interiors in this segment, the Accent's engine noise often negates this advantage under hard acceleration.
VERDICTThe 2011 Hyundai Accent isn't our favorite choice for an economy car, but its low price means it's still worth a look from buyers on a budget.