Thrifty, flexible and affordable, the 2012-2016 Hyundai Accent has long been a go-to small car for budget-minded shoppers after generous feature content, decent fuel mileage, and selection to spare thanks to two body styles and numerous trim grades.
Look for four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models with available features like a sunroof, 16-inch alloy wheels, projector headlamps, leather-wrapped accents, automatic climate control and more.
This generation Accent’s lightweight structure and new direct-injected four-cylinder engine provides one of the most favorable power-to-weight ratios in the segment, meaning performance should prove above average. Headroom and legroom were also rated highly by many owners.
All units were front-wheel drive and powered by a 1.6-liter engine good for 138 horsepower. Manual and automatic transmission options were available.
Consider the Accent alongside its multitude of small-car competitors, including the more flexible Honda Fit, the more stylish Ford Fiesta, and the Nissan Versa Note, Mazda 2, and others. With a generous warranty easing access to a newer used unit with remaining coverage and the promise of great feature content at any given price point, the Accent makes plenty of sense for a value used car shopper.
Test Drive To-Do List
#1: Check the Headlights
Start your test drive by checking the Accent’s headlights for any signs of cloudiness in the lenses, condensation, discoloration or other issues that may degrade light transmission. Many owners report that the Accent’s after-dark headlight performance is adequate at best, and any issues like those noted will degrade performance even further. If you note any issues with the headlight lenses, budget for a replacement set, or a full polish and restoration. Numerous owners have fitted upgraded bulbs or supplemental lighting provisions to help compensate for the Accent’s so-so headlight performance.
#2: Listen for Chirping
After confirming proper operation of the radio and climate control fan, turn both of these off, and apply throttle from idle with the vehicle in neutral while listening for a chirping, squealing or cricket-like noise from the engine bay. If detected, the likely cause is a bad accessory drive belt, which may have stretched out or worn prematurely. This is not a serious or expensive issue to address if detected, though it should be repaired as quickly as possible.
#3: Check the Brakes
With some owners reporting premature brake system component wear, shoppers are advised to test the used Accent’s brakes for signs of trouble, and to have a mechanic investigate further if any concerns are noted. Apply light, moderate and full braking at several points during your test drive, and from various speeds. You’re looking for a feeling of vibration through the vehicle’s front-end or brake pedal. Additionally, keep an ear out for any scraping or squealing sounds in the process. Finally, is there a soft or weak brake pedal? All of these are cues to have the braking system investigated further. If the Accent you’re considering needs new pads and rotors, factor it into your pricing negotiations.
#4: Check the Suspension
A handful of owners have reported the need to replace factory shock absorbers at relatively low miles. Though suspension system wear is largely a function of locale, maintenance, and driving habits, test drivers are advised to remember that excessive bouncing and rebounding, in addition to unwelcomed clunks, pops or snapping sounds as the Accent travels over bumps, are signs that the suspension needs some attention. Coax unwanted noises from a worn out front-end by slowly and sharply turning over a bump, for instance, while pulling into a driveway over a thin curb. Have a mechanic inspect the Accent’s suspension if you detect any noises.
#5: Check the AC
Activate the air conditioner and confirm that it moves cool air into the cabin. Any unwelcome sounds, excessive lugging of the engine, or failure to generate cool air should be investigated. Note that many owners have reported poor AC performance that was actually caused by a failure to properly maintain or replace the cabin air filter. If the AC system in the Accent you’re considering doesn’t work properly, start by confirming that the cabin air filter isn’t clogged. A surprising number of owners fail to ever replace this part, which when clogged can render the AC system virtually useless.
#5: Mind the GDI Valve Gunk
The Accent runs a Gasoline Direct Injected (GDI) engine, which may be prone to excessive and harmful deposits of valve gunk if certain precautions aren’t taken. As such, confirm that the model is fully up to date on all servicing, is running spark plugs that are still within their service life, and has only been filled with top-tier fuel. A yearly GDI engine cleaning service may be useful to keep harmful deposits from accumulating as well. Talk to a Hyundai service advisor for more information. Note that, upon a diagnostic OBD scan, a stored ‘MISFIRE’ trouble code may be a sign of excessive valve gunk buildup.
Your Best Bet? With most problems being easy to detect and remedy, the Accent looks relatively solid from a reliability standpoint. Pay close attention to the condition and performance of the headlights, and shop as new a unit as your budget allows, to maximize protection from the warranty. A solid and well-priced used Accent with no apparent trouble signs should provide worry-free, high-value motoring for years to come.
Good To Know Safety: NHTSA 4/5 Stars (both body styles)