Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

Hyundai rolls out its revamped Accent subcompact for North America at this week’s New York auto show.

Already available in other markets, the car goes on sale this summer in the U.S., beginning at $12,445 for the 4-door GLS model.

Gone for ’12 is the price-leading 3-door Accent, which starts at $9,985 for the ʼ11 model.

Accent sales were down 5.2% through March to 14,487 units, well off the segment-leading Nissan Versa’s 30,335 deliveries in the period, Ward’s data shows.

The ’12 Accent is first to get Hyundai’s all-new 4-cyl. Gamma engine.

The gasoline direct-injected 1.6L 4-cyl. makes 138 hp and 123 lb.-ft. (167 Nm) of torque. That’s up from 110 hp and 106 lb.-ft. (144 Nm) with the 1.6L Alpha engine in the outgoing ’11 model.

While Hyundai claims class-leading horsepower, the upcoming Chevrolet Sonic that replaces the Aveo will get a 138-hp turbocharged 1.4L 4-cyl. in addition to its standard 135-hp 1.8L 4-cyl.

The Accent’s Gamma engine, mounted transversely, has dual continuously variable valve timing.

D-CVVT on both intake and exhaust camshafts boosts fuel efficiency and cuts emissions, Hyundai says in a statement. Also contributing to fuel savings are an alternator management system, an offset crankshaft design, variable induction system and electronic throttle control, the auto maker says.

In addition, Hyundai is using what it says is an economical and reliable maintenance-free silent roller timing chain for the Gamma mill.

Fuel economy for the ’12 Accent should be the best of the current class, Hyundai says, with an estimated 30/40 mpg (7.8-5.9 L/100 km) city/highway rating, topping the new Ford Fiesta’s 28/35 mpg (8.4-6.7 L/100 km) high-water mark and the Honda Fit’s 29/38 mpg (8.1/6.2 L/100 km) rating.

Hyundai matches the Fiesta by offering a 6-speed automatic transmission as the only automatic, but one-ups the Ford subcompact by using a manual with six speeds instead of five.

The Accent’s 30/40 mpg rating doesn’t take into consideration Hyundai’s ActiveECO technology for automatic-equipped cars. When activated, it smoothes out throttle response and can improve the fuel economy 7%.

The Accent’s mileage rating benefits from a 40-lb. (18-kg) lighter engine (vs. the ’11 Accent’s 1.6L Alpha mill); monotube shock absorbers (rear); super flat torque converter; and low-rolling-resistance silica tires.

The ’12 Accent is 22% stiffer than the ’11 model, thanks to an increase in high-tensile strength steel.

“Increasing the stiffness of the structure allowed Hyundai engineers more flexibility in terms of suspension tuning,” the auto maker says. “The end result is a better balance between handling precision and ride comfort.”

The Accent’s front suspension is a MacPherson-strut-type, while the rear gets a torsion-axle-type suspension. Standard disc brakes at all four wheels is a segment-first, Hyundai claims.

Also standard on the subcompact is a column-mounted, motor-driven electric power steering system. Hyundai says the 5-door SE’s steering is sport-calibrated.

Carried over to the Accent from the Sonata and Elantra models is Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design language. It’s not only stylish but functional, Hyundai says, pointing to a drag coefficient of 0.30 for the sedan and 0.31 for the 5-door.

Standard on the Accent GLS, available in both 4- and 5-door body styles, are power door locks; driver-seat armrest; electronic stability control; and a 60/40 split rear seat.

The automatic-equipped GLS adds air conditioning; AM/FM/CD/Satellite radio; power windows; and cloth door inserts. All these features are available on the manual GLS via a comfort package.

The 5-door GS comes standard with power windows, mirrors and door locks, as well as remote keyless entry; a rear wiper and front, 2-speed intermittent wiper.

The 5-door SE gets the GS standard equipment, plus Bluetooth, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted controls and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Buyers will pay $15,595 for the 5-door GS grade and $15,795 for the 5-door Accent SE, Hyundai says.

Adding an automatic transmission hikes each grade’s price from $1,000 (SE) to $2,750 (GLS).

Hyundai also announces at the New York auto show its intention to add to its roster of 40-mpg cars “in the next couple years,” with one 40-mpg highway car and a 40-mpg-plus model. That does not include the Veloster small sports car, due this summer and expected to hit the 40 mark on the highway.

In 2012, Hyundai says it plans to sell 285,000 40-mpg cars in the U.S., which is a 43% increase from the 200,000 it plans to tally by the end of 2011.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com