2012 Hyundai Accent; 2012 Hyundai Genesis
In football, if you want to make a sure tackle, you hit ’em high and you hit ’em low.
In the automobile world, South Korea’s Hyundai follows a similar strategy. It offers a dozen cars and crossover utility vehicles that range in price from the Accent GLS at about $13,000 to its Equus luxury sedan at more than $65,000.
The latest entries for 2012 are the economy compact Accent and a high-performance R-Spec version of the Genesis, the company’s first luxury model, since eclipsed by the flagship Equus.
The R-Spec represents a common tactic. You take an existing model, enhance the performance characteristics and slap on a new model honorific. Chrysler has its SRT versions, BMW its M models, Mercedes-Benz with AMG, Audi with S, Ford with SHO, Volvo also with R, and so on.
Despite its entry-level status, the new Hyundai Accent is a bigger departure from its predecessor than is the Genesis.
Hyundai Accent SE four-door hatchbackIn the 2011 model year, the [Hyundai Accent’s](http://www.carsoup.com/US-National/new-vehicles/make/Car-Truck/Nationwide/Hyundai/Accent/?cont=1&mode=make "Hyundai Accent new car inventory") base model sold for around $10,000. The 2012 car is a substantial upgrade with a starting price of more than $13,000.
It is an all-new car with the avant-garde styling, called “fluid sculpture,” that has attracted growing numbers of customers to the company’s Sonata and Elantra models. In fact, the new Accent sedan looks like a smaller version of its attractive siblings.
In addition to the four-door sedan, it comes as four-door hatchback. Between the two, there are just eight model variations. It’s a marketing method that reduces confusing numbers of models with long lists of options.
The four GLS sedans come with manual or automatic transmissions, and comfort and premium option packages. Hatchbacks come as GS or SE models, also with six-speed automatic transmissions or six-speed manual gearboxes.
Base prices range from $13,205 for the GLS sedan with the stick shift to $17,555 for the SE hatchback with the six-speed automatic. All models have a highway fuel economy rating of 40 miles to the gallon and come standard with full safety equipment, including traction and stability control, antilock brakes with brake assist, tire-pressure monitoring, side air bags and side-curtain air bags.
Tested here was the SE hatchback model with the six-speed manual, along with a brief comparison drive in an automatic-transmission GLS sedan.
The hatchback is less attractive visually but way more practical. Although it is 10 inches shorter than the sedan, it has slightly more passenger space and more than 21 cubic feet of cargo space versus the sedan’s trunk of less than 14 cubic feet. Rear seatbacks fold to expand the cargo areas of both cars—the hatchback’s to nearly 48 cubic feet.
Power comes from a 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that is more powerful than the motors in the Accent’s competitors, which include the Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa.
However, the gearing in both of the Accent’s transmissions is biased toward fuel economy, so it takes a bit of attention to keep the power on tap. That means frequent downshifting of the manual transmission and mashing the pedal or using the manual-shift mode on the automatic. For most drivers, the automatic will be the better choice.
Handling is secure around corners, but holding a straight line on the highway required frequent driver corrections. The Accent uses electric power steering and low rolling resistance tires for fuel economy.
Inside, the appointments display a quality combination of materials, fit and finish, along with comfortable seats up front. But the sun visors do not slide on their support rods and do not adequately block sun from the side. The steering wheel tilts but does not telescope.
Outboard back seats have knee and head room for average-sized adults but the center position is an uncomfortable perch.
Genesis 5.0 R-SpecMuch as V models add excitement to the Cadillac CTS lineup, the new [Genesis R-Spec](http://www.carsoup.com/US-National/new-vehicles/make/Car-Truck/Nationwide/Hyundai/Genesis-20T/?cont=1&mode=make "Hyundai Genesis new car inventory") delivers a fresh performance dimension to the Genesis, courtesy of sport suspension tuning and its new 429-horsepower, 5-liter V8 engine.
According to the factory specifications, the new engine, driving the rear wheels through Hyundai’s eight-speed automatic transmission, can accelerate the 4,154-pound R-Spec to 60 miles an hour in slightly more than five seconds. With its taut handling, that makes for an exhilarating driving experience.
Unlike competitors, the R-Spec comes as a complete performance/luxury package. With only a $35 iPod cable as an option, it had a sticker price of $47,385.
The R-Spec joins two existing power plants in the Genesis lineup, neither of which is a slouch: the 333-horsepower, 3.8 liter V6, which starts at $35,050, and the 385-horsepower, 4.6-liter V8, with a price tag of $45,530.
In its brief tenure in the U.S. market, the Genesis has managed to earn street credibility against competitors like the Infiniti M, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Cadillac CTS and BMW 5-Series. The R-Spec will enhance that stature.