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Hyundai Accent Drives With Pleasant Austerity

2012 Hyundai Accent Micro-Review

What it is : A comfortable budget car that makes austere times more tolerable.

Starts at $14,195 / 30 MPG city / 40 MPG highway

What’s worth knowing : Korean automaker Hyundai is on fire, with a fleet of vehicles that have been wowing reviewers with strong build quality, fetching designs and a better set of features for the price than most competitors. The Accent is Hyundai’s cheapest vehicle, but the newly redesigned 2012 model is much better than the econoboxes Hyundai built just a few years ago.

Who it’s for : Young drivers buying their first new car, small families, and anybody who appreciates thrift.

What’s good : The price, for starters. The base model is a stripped-down affair that lacks a radio or air conditioning, but the SE trim line, at around $16,000, includes all the basics plus Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls, two auxiliary jacks for portable music players, a sliding armrest that adjusts to the driver’s needs and other interior niceties. The ride isn’t exhilarating, but it’s surprisingly smooth for such a cheap car. Gas mileage that’s well over 30 MPG, on average, is another strong point.

What’s bad : The back seat is tight, which can make it hard fitting a child’s car seat. There’s a shortage of storage pockets and other small sacrifices typical in a budget car.

How it stacks up : A new Hyundai used to be regarded as an alternative to a used Honda or Toyota, but that’s no longer the case. The Accent is now competitive with other appealing cars in this class, like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Chevrolet Cruze.

What to do if you want one :  The Accent is a good choice if you’re looking for an all-purpose economy car blending practicality with a bit of sportiness. If you want something more stylish, consider the Fiat 500 or Mazda 2. The Honda Fit is slightly more versatile, thanks to its fold-flat back seat. And the Volskwagen Golf is more upscale, though pricier.

Rick Newman is the Chief Business Correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a longtime car buff. He reviews automobiles here on a regular basis, as well as writing about all things vehicular.

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