We all can t all live in mansions, nor can everyone drive a fancy high-end car. Fortunately even an inexpensive ride provides the luxury of transportation (something we Americans often lose sight of). The Hyundai Accent certainly offers good solid value for us, the 99 percent. It s a vehicle many on a budget would be happy to occupy.

Easy To Buy

Including destination, prices start at $14,970 for the sedan (which is only available in base trim). The particular SE hatchback I ve been driving for a week stickers for $16,570. You d be cross shopping Accent if you were thinking of Fiesta, Fit, Sonic, Rio, Versa and Yaris. Just a couple years ago there were few players in this subcompact segment. Now days it s a pretty crowded field.

Manufacturers believe that by snagging young buyers with a reliable reasonably priced car, they ll remain brand loyal and upgrade to a fancy car when they get that corner office. That could be a Genesis, might even be a luxurious Equis.

In the meantime a direct injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 138 horsepower will be getting you around town. There s a six-speed automatic for $1,000, my tester has the six-speed manual with good action and clutch take up. Folks buy these for fuel economy; the EPA rates it at 30 city, 40 highway.

I drove down to Portland, OR in the Accent and with the cruise control set at 60 miles-an-hour I bested the EPA, achieving a consistent 42 miles per gallon (and yes I was in the far right lane). At a more realistic speed of 70 it drops to 36. That s just physics folks. Slogging around in the Rose City, the trip computer read 25 but I wasn t trying to max out fuel economy in any way. I d say the EPA numbers are fairly close in the real world, just depends how hard you push it.

It s Flingable

While in Portland I found Accent is fun to fling around city streets though it s not as sporty as Honda Fit or Chevy Sonic. The size is compact enough to score easy street parking. The whole package is refined and fairly quiet. It s comfortable too with supportive seats that hold up well on long trips.

Power is decent, 0-60 happens in around 8 seconds with the shift-it-yourself-box. Go with the automatic and you ll need more patience. That 60 MPH run will easily take a full second longer than the manual.

Many low priced cars get drum brakes in the back. Hyundai uses disc units at all wheels. Modulation is good. As you know Uncle Sam mandates electronic stability control these days.

Not a Penalty Box

Inside, Accent doesn t feel cramped which is always a bonus with a subcompact. Materials look and feel decent, the instrument panel gets a unique texture and feel though the bulk of the materials are hard. The steering wheel does not get a reach adjustment, it only tilts. Those comfy seats are covered with a subdued stylish fabric, with a pattern looking like little electrodes from an old transistor radio. It s better than some in more expensive cars.

Switchgear feels fine, so do door releases. There s Bluetooth for phones and a dedicated iPod jack which would be great news if the sound system were worth writing about. It s serviceable, good for listening to business news in order to move you up into the next tax bracket. You ll be turning to the aftermarket for better tuneage, there s no premium sound option.

Often times, inexpensive cars leave out covered center console storage but Accent has it with an adjustable armrest. Fabric on the door panels and a grippy leather-wrapped steering wheel will convince your hands that you broke the budget. Sun visors get mirrors, there s a spot for sunglasses too. All that and no iDrive.

Move to the Back

Smaller cars often force backseat occupants into uncomfortable contortions. Accent treats them okay. Evil Twin stopped by and, when sitting behind me, he didn t complain anymore than he usually does. FYI, we are about average height at 5 9 .

Foot room isn t generous but it s okay and expected in this class. Much like the competition there s not a lot features in steerage. Few of Accent s competitors have door storage, folding armrest, more than one seat pocket or a power port to charge electronics.

Next time you re out car shopping you might notice a trend, one certainly not limited to Hyundai- no spare tire, just a repair kit. Manufacturers say it reduces weight, and of course cost.

When it comes to cargo, Accent is average for a subcompact hatchback, swallowing five packs of Kirkland s finest embossed bath tissue. Naturally the seats split and fold making the hatch version much more versatile than the sedan. And remember, the sedan is only sold as a very basic model.

Fluidic Sculpture is Standard

Styling? Accent s Fluidic Sculpture design language is pleasant enough to look at. It follows the same wedgey school of sculpting that Fiesta and Sonic use. Planning on using a roof rack? There are dedicated mounting points on top, making it simple.

For those into safety, the 2012 Accent scores a good rating in NHTSA s roof-strength and frontal crash tests, and an acceptable rating in the side-impact test. There are six airbags to protect occupants. Pretty standard, though some cars like Chevy Sonic are up to ten. That s a lot of airbags. Hope you never need a single one.

Summing up, Accent is a well-done subcompact in a very crowded and competitive segment. It doesn t offer many trendy options like navigation, keyless ignition and killer sound system but for those who can t, or won t spend a lot of money on transportation, it s a good solid way to get from point A to point B. Heck, with $400,000, Rep. Fleming could practically buy one for each re-election staff member (though after a statement like that you have to wonder about his chances). Hyundai makes this strong Accent easy to understand, and own.

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