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2012 Hyundai Accent (Hyundai)
2012 Hyundai Accent (Hyundai)

Family wheels

Hyundai Accent Hatchback: The apple of my eye Add to ...

Looking for an affordable car that’s fun to drive, is exceptionally good on gas and offers a surprising amount of space inside its diminutive exterior?

The Hyundai Accent is well worth checking out. But a word of advice: Be careful which colour you choose.

Everywhere we went in our Accent GLS test vehicle, friends, family members and complete strangers felt the need to comment on its head-turning colour. Hyundai calls this arresting hue – available only on hatchback models – Apple Green. Fluorescent Lime is more like it. It may be the only production vehicle colour visible from outer space, and people either love it or hate it.

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“That’s a nice colour – for running shoes,” a friend commented.

“Why would anyone paint a car that colour?” my mother-in-law wondered.

Okay, maybe a 48-year-old father of two isn’t the intended demographic for a car the colour of a glow stick. So let’s consider a more relevant question: How does the Accent perform as a family hauler? The answer might just make other small cars green with envy.

We’ll start with the trunk. On a recent family road trip, we visited the grandparents’ cottage for a few days and then dropped my nine-year-old son off at overnight camp for a week. Here’s what we were able to cram into the trunk: One hockey bag stuffed with my son’s clothes and camp supplies, four knapsacks, one overnight bag, one small cooler, two cloth bags full of food, four bike helmets and one large folding dog crate.

The back seat wasn’t huge, but my son and his seven-year-old sister had plenty of room, even with a 20-kilogram Labrador retriever mix lying at their feet.

One obvious shortcoming of the back seat is that there were no cup holders. As a result, my kids had to rest their McDonald’s Fruit Smoothies on their laps. Life is harsh sometimes.

Another drawback is rear visibility. On hatchback models, the squashed rear window limits the driver’s view out the back, but this is partially compensated for by large side mirrors.

Those criticisms aside, it’s hard to say a bad word about the Accent.

Up front, the seats were comfortable, the gauges were clear and easy to read and the radio and climate controls were simple to use. Too many cars these days require a post-graduate degree just to change the station, but the Accent’s controls are all intuitive.

For a budget-priced car, the stereo sounded terrific, and the air-conditioning kept the cabin cool even on days when the mercury soared well above 30 C.

Another pleasant surprise was the car’s composed ride. Hyundai increased the stiffness of Accent’s frame, which allowed engineers to tune the suspension for a comfortable ride without sacrificing handling. My daughter complained that the ride was a bit jittery at times, but I thought the suspension hit the sweet spot, making the car fun to drive without transmitting every bump in the road.

That’s not to say the Accent is a sports car. The 1.6-litre, 138-hp engine provided adequate power, but it was a bit slow off the line (maybe because of all the weight we were carrying). With the Active ECO System turned on – it controls acceleration to improve fuel economy – power dropped noticeably. But that’s okay, because most people don’t buy an Accent to win street races; they just want to win at the gas pump.

To that end, the Accent is rated at a class-leading 4.8 litres/100 km on the highway, which is sure to please even the most frugal driver.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Accent is the price. The entry-level 2013 Accent L with six-speed manual transmission retails for $13,699.

For $18,649, the GLS with six-speed automatic comes with loads of extras, including 16-inch alloy wheels, power locks and windows, keyless entry, air-conditioning with automatic climate control, cruise control, heated door mirrors, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, upgraded stereo and speakers, power sunroof, front seat warmers, fog lamps and mirror-mounted turn signals.

As we drove around cottage country, nobody wanted to talk about any of that stuff, however. They were too busy commenting on the Apple Green exterior. (For the record, the Accent comes in seven other colours, including basic black, grey and white).

“Wow! I love the colour, man!” said a guy at a trailer park where we had pulled in to ask directions.

“Really?” I said.

“Yeah, man. Awesome!”

You know what, I like it, too. One thing’s for sure: You’ll never lose sight of your car in a parking lot.

jheinzl@globeandmail.com

Tech specs: 2013 Hyundai Accent 5-door GLS

Type: Compact hatchback

Base Price: $18,649; as tested, $18,649

Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 138 hp/ 123 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.0 city/4.8 highway; regular gas

Follow on Twitter: @johnheinzl

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