The Accent is Hyundai’s entry-level car in the U.S., and like the new Elantra introduced last year, the 2012 Accent carries the 40-mpg highway fuel economy rating on its window sticker, to go with a 30-mpg city rating. The 30/40 rating outwardly should seem pleasing to Hyundai because it’s best-in-class standard fuel economy. Although acceptable for Hyundai, the number was lower than expected, caused by variations that occur in the US06 drive cycle of the Federal Test Procedure, explained John Juriga, Director of Powertrain for the Superior, MI-based Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center.
“We targeted the Accent to be higher,” Juriga said, “and so the real-world numbers should be.”
The Accent (badged the Verna in Korea) has the “fluidic sculpture” styling introduced on Sonata and next carried over to Elantra. Accent is Hyundai’s smallest, lightest U.S. market car and has its newest engine, a 1.6-L all-aluminum four-cylinder equipped with gasoline direct injection. Yet its 30/40 window sticker is almost identical to the 29/40 of the larger Elantra, which is powered by a 1.8-L port-fuel-injected all-aluminum engine, hence the mild disappointment. The 1.8-L Elantra is rated at 148 hp (110 kW) and 131 lb·ft (178 N·m).
However, Juriga told AEI that he was confident that, when the transverse-engine front-drive Accent is recertified for the next model year, the window sticker fuel economy will reflect those factors. There also is some real-world improvement from motorist’s use of the “ECO” mode, which modifies engine output and the transmission shift schedule.
Even with the test issues encountered, the 40-mpg highway is 18% greater than the 34 mpg of the 2011 Accent. A third of the increase (6.1%) is from the direct injection, and the rest is from the column-mount electric power steering (4.1%), a smart charging system (2.7%), lower rolling resistance tires (2.1%), Cd reduced from 0.31 to 0.30 (2.1%), and a six-speed manual vs. the previous five-speed (1%). The 40 mpg applies to all Accent models with the six-speed manual or automatic vs. specific models of competitive makes.
Hyundai is not concerned about meeting the 2016 regulatory requirements for CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy). The company needs a corporate U.S. average of about 37 mpg, Juriga added. "We’re over 35 mpg on CAFE now," he said, adding that converting all engines to direct injection and using engine start/stop will put the company over the top—and there are other fuel-saving developments in the works.
Although Hyundai sells a Sonata hybrid now and has other electrification projects in the pipeline and diesels that it sells in other countries, “we don’t need any of them to meet CAFE.” The U.S. EPA also offers CAFE credits for a changeover to a low-global-warming refrigerant, but this isn’t needed either, Juriga noted.
There is an obvious issue with air-conditioning operation on engines with stop/start, Juriga said. At this time, the plan (for certain vehicles anyway) is to get engine-off cooling with electric-drive A/C compressors to ensure performance in Southern markets with high summer temperatures vs. the limited engine-off cooling range that would be provided by thermal storage evaporators.
The new Accent 1.6-L engine is rated at 138 hp (103 kW) and 123 lb·ft (167 N·m). These numbers are measurably higher than competitive B-segment subcompact cars, and in an AEI test drive the Accent displayed a level of performance that was surprising for an entry-level economy car. Although the previous generation also was 1.6 L, it had a cast-iron block and was rated only at 110 hp (82 kW) and 106 lb·ft (144 N·m).
The 2012 engine has continuously variable valve timing on intake and exhaust and a two-stage intake manifold to go with the direct-injection system. Like several other four-cylinder engines today, it has an offset crankshaft, so the connecting rod is straight at peak cylinder pressures to reduce side-force friction.
The new Accent is larger than its predecessor. Its EPA interior volume numbers put it into the compact class: 103.4 ft³ (2928 L) for the sedan and 111.3 ft³ (3152 L) for the five-door hatchback. The wheelbase was increased 2.8 in (71 mm) to 101.2 in (2569 mm), and overall length for the sedan 3.5 in (89 mm) to 172.0 in (4367 mm).
The three-door hatchback was dropped in favor of a five-door that, on the same wheelbase, is 162 in (4113 mm) long overall. Although the “three-door” was the best-seller in the 2011 Accent line, that was attributed to its price-leader status. The sedan is the new price leader at $12,445 with the manual transmission and $15,195 with the automatic and air-conditioning.
The new Accent body is 59% high-strength steel, and with the all-aluminum engine being 40 lb (18 kg) lighter than the engine it replaces, the vehicle remains trim despite the increased size. Curb mass on the sedan was held to 2396 lb (1087 kg), just 65 lb (25 kg) more than the 2011 model. The 2012 five-door hatchback is 33-34 lb (15 kg) more than the sedan.
Although front disc brakes on a front-drive car typically provide about 75-80% of the braking performance, Hyundai dropped the rear drum brakes typical of cars in this class in favor of more costly rear discs. The change is being promoted as a quality move, but its performance effect is uncertain. Hyundai cited a 60-0 mph (98-0 km/h) braking distance of 138 ft (42.1 m), which it said was 6-7 ft (1.8-2.1 m) less than leading competitive models, but a cause-and-effect relationship to the rear discs was not established.
Front suspension is MacPherson strut; the rear uses a torsion beam but with monotube shock absorbers to save weight. Standard wheel size is 14 in. A 16-in wheel is optional.
The Accent interior features a novel alternative to the conventional plastic trim used for the surfaces of the pillars: it’s a mixture of a fibrous tissue and powdered volcanic rock, and it results in a more upscale textured cloth-like surface. Hyundai claims the surface is scratch-resistant and easy to clean.