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Hyundai Accent Bigger,Thriftier

Hyundai Accent Bigger,Thriftier

Hyundai grew the Accent in size but controlled its weight and improved fuel economy through use of an aluminum block, plastic intake manifold and aerodynamic tricks.

LAS VEGAS – The next-generation Hyundai Accent subcompact offers more power and is bigger than its predecessor, but also has better fuel efficiency, Hyundai says.

“The No.1 most-important purchase reason for the subcompact class is fuel economy, more so than any segment in the industry,” says Brandon Ramirez, senior manager-product planning for Hyundai Motor America.

Hyundai is not divulging U.S. sales targets for the new Accent, only saying it hopes to sell more annually than last year’s 51,975. That total made it the third best-selling U.S. subcompact in 2010, behind Nissan’s Versa and Honda’s Fit, which racked up 99,705 and 54,354, respectively, Ward’s data shows.

Through May, the Versa still is in first place, but the Accent has fallen to fourth in the pack, as Ford’s Fiesta takes the No.2 spot ahead of the Fit.

Hyundai expects to split sales between two body styles, a 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback and about 20% of buyers to opt for a manual transmission.

Demographically, the segment has wide generational appeal, Ramirez says.

Hyundai touts the Accent’s 30/40 mpg (7.8-5.9 L/100 km) city/highway as the best in the segment. Its sibling, the Kia Rio, soon will match that when it goes on sale this fall.

That’s up from the previous-generation Accent’s 28/34 mpg (8.4-6.9 L/100 km), despite an increase in vehicle size, weight and engine output.

The old Accent was equipped with a 110-hp, 106-lb.-ft. (144-Nm) 1.6L engine. The displacement is the same for the ’12 model, but Hyundai has added gasoline-direct-injection technology, as it already has done with its larger 4-cyl. in the Sonata midsize sedan.

The new 1.6L churns out 138 hp and 123 lb.-ft. (167 Nm) of torque and is responsible for most of the new model’s 18% improvement in fuel economy. But Hyundai engineers used a variety of other technologies, as well.

For instance, the new 4-door Accent also is available with a more efficient 6-speed manual transmission in place of the outgoing ’11 model’s 5-speed manual. The new 6MT transmission is more compact and lighter than the old 5MT, resulting in 1% gain in fuel-economy, Hyundai says.

Other tweaks that enhanced the Accent’s ability to sip fuel include switching from hydraulic to electric power steering, low-rolling resistance silica-rubber tires and whittling down the coefficient of drag from a 0.31 Cd to 0.30.

Engineers improved the aerodynamics with tire shielding, a belly pan under the engine and a more aerodynamic design.

Weight control also plays a role in the fuel-economy gains. Hyundai engineers managed to keep the GLS sedan’s weight relatively steady. Despite its larger size, the new Accent is only 31 lbs. (14 kg) heavier than the outgoing model.

Key reductions are achieved in the engine compartment. Switching from a cast-iron engine block to aluminum nets a 30% weight reduction, as does shifting from an aluminum intake manifold to a plastic one.

The ’12 Accent sedan gains 3.5 ins. (9-cm) in length over its predecessor and has a 2.8-in. (7.1-cm) bigger wheelbase. The 5-door version has a bigger wheelbase and is longer overall than comparable Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Chevy Aveo and Mazda2 hatchbacks.

The 5-door Accent replaces the previous-generation 3-door model because entering and exiting was too difficult, Hyundai says.

And even though it is slightly heavier than before, the new Accent is less portly than many competitors, tipping the scales at 2,430 lbs. (1,102 kg) with five doors and a manual transmission.

The ’11 Nissan Versa sedan, with a 1.8L engine, weighs 2,693 lbs. (1,222 kg), while the Ford Fiesta 5-door is 2,575 lbs. (1,168 kg).

The Yaris 5-door is lighter, but Hyundai brags the Accent’s power-to-weight ratio of 17.6 lbs./hp for the sedan and 17.8 lbs./hp for the 5-door bests all competing subcompacts.

Hyundai also is flaunting the Accent’s interior advantages, including a sliding armrest storage console, not available in other subcompacts, plus optional piano black trim around the radio and shifter and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

“It feels much more premium than a (typical) subcompact vehicle,” Ramirez says.

Hyundai is retailing three trim levels of the ’12 Accent, with the sedan available in GLS grade only. The 5-door hatchback comes in GS or SE dress. A total of eight configurations are available, Ramirez says.

The base 4-door GLS with manual transmission is $12,445 to start and comes standard with power door locks, 14-in. wheels and tires, a tilt steering wheel and 6-way adjustable driver’s seat.

Standard equipment on the 6-speed automatic version, priced at $15,195, includes air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM stereo, plus power windows and mirrors.

A comfort package for manual models, costing $1,750, includes the same stereo, plus air conditioning. A $1,300 premium package automatic-transmission version of the GLS features remote keyless entry, steering-wheel-mounted audio buttons, chrome interior door handles and Bluetooth.

The SE 5-door, $14,595 for a manual model, $15,795 for an automatic, has a sport-tuned suspension plus cruise control; Bluetooth; a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; and piano black accents standard; plus larger, 16-in. wheels.

The GS 5-door, priced at $15,795 for the 6MT version and $16,795 for the 6AT model, includes the standard features of the GLS sedan with premium package, excluding 16-in. wheels (14-in. are standard).

The ’12 Accent sedan is available now, with the 5-door trickling into U.S. dealer showrooms from Ulsan, South Korea in greater supplies next month.

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