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Test Drive: 2012 Hyundai Accent

The 2012 Hyundai Accent GLS makes a good first impression, but the more time I spent with it, the more I found to dislike. I didn’t find anything that would make me strike the Accent from a small-car shopping list, but I found enough that I’d make sure to give the competition a close look.

I tested the Accent GLS sedan, and the sleek exterior hides an expansive interior. I had tons of space, and even my tall husband had plenty of head- and legroom. I would have liked more padding on the rear seats, but at least there was lots of space. The trunk was also huge, with a wide opening, and the rear seats folded down. In college and grad school, I could have moved from apartment to apartment in the Accent without  breaking a sweat. My test Accent came with the automatic transmission and premium equipment package. It stickered at $17,255, which seemed steep to me, but I did like the iPod interface, satellite radio and Bluetooth.

Cut. It. Out.

At first, the only thing I didn’t like about the Accent was the design of the upholstery. The pattern suggested it had been selected by the set designer from the first season of “Full House” (Thankfully, Dave Coulier was not included in the premium equipment package). Then I drove the Accent from my home in New Hampshire to a press event in Monticello, N.Y. The trip took about four and half hours each way, and like many long car trips, it exposed some bad sides of my traveling companion.

The 138-horsepower engine was good around town, but driving through the Berkshire Mountains, it often ran out of steam and I had to consign myself to the right lane. The steering wheel tilted, but didn’t telescope, so after about two hours, I was uncomfortable. While hard plastics are expected in the affordable small car class, the armrest on the driver's door was so hard that resting my elbow on it actually hurt. It probably would have been okay if I was wearing long sleeves, but who wants to wear a jacket just so they can be comfortable in their car? At 30/40 mpg city/highway, the Accent didn’t use much fuel, but the gas tank only held 11.4 gallons of gas, so I was filling up more than I would have liked (and driving up and down mountains didn’t help the fuel economy any).

The base Accent has a lot going for it if space and fuel economy are your primary concern. But, for more comfort and a lower price, I’d go for the Kia Forte. It starts at $15,200 and has things like Bluetooth standard. While its extra horsepower doesn’t help fuel economy, it does help when you’re on the highway. Don’t take the Accent off your shopping list, but don’t forget to check out other options.

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