Sunday, 12 April 2015

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T - First Drive

The Accent, stylistically, is an evolution of the corporate countenance that debuted on the Sonata.

The Accent, stylistically, is an evolution of the corporate countenance that debuted on the Sonata, although it looks less faces of Volkswagen CC on this smaller package.

As it was in its previous generation, the Accent will be available as a four-door sedan or with an odd number of doors. This time around, the latter goes from three-door hatch to five-door hatch/wagon. (The five-door, as is the case with most compacts today, looks better than the sedan.) In a role reversal, the sedan is now the cheaper of the two body styles, with the wagon being between $600 and $2150 dearer than the four-door, based on trim. Overall length now stands at 172.0 inches for the sedan and 162.0 for the wagon. Both ride on a 101.2-inch wheelbase, which is 2.8 inches longer than the outgoing models’. Width is up 0.2 inch, to 66.9. (Equally important is the platform’s 22-percent increase in rigidity compared with its predecessor.

We’re getting used to the idea of desirable small cars, but the notion of a desirable Hyundai still feels crisp and fresh. (The 2011 Sonata was the first Hyundai ever to land on our 10Best Cars list.) The latest creation churned out of the invigorated Korean company is a car hoping to marry these two novel desirability’s. The Accent, stylistically, is an evolution of the corporate countenance that debuted on the Sonata, although it looks less faces of Volkswagen CC on this smaller package.

The standard height-adjustable driver’s seat means that even fugitive circus freaks will be comfortable upfront. Although the 0.6 inch the sedan’s back-seat passengers sacrifice in headroom doesn’t have a meaningful impact on interior-volume calculations, it’s a critical loss for taller riders. Another reason to favor the hatch is cargo volume.

It can accommodate 21 cubic feet behind its rear seat, compared with 14 swallowed by the sedan’s trunk. Hyundai says that 14 cubic feet are enough for four sets of golf clubs; that might be the case only if they’re loose. The sedan’s rear seatback folds in a 60/40 split to accommodate longer items, but you can haul 48 cubic feet if you drop the rear seats in the wagon.

Drivers might need that reminder, as this doesn’t feel like an economy car on the inside. Its interior is typical of Hyundai’s current cars, with ritzy materials throughout.

The satin silver and piano black on top-level models are stylish enough to make the inside of a Dumpster feel cosmopolitan. Note that we are not calling the Accent a Dumpster; even in lower trim levels unavailable with the silver-and-black combo, upmarket materials and thoughtful design make the car feel much richer than its low price tag might suggest.

The seats are quite comfortable, with soft bolsters that are so nonintrusive we didn’t realize they were there until we felt ourselves leaning on them in corners. Then again, the lateral demands placed on the bolsters will never be very high. With MacPherson struts upfront and a torsion-beam suspension at the rear, the Accent is competent and smooth, but almost to a fault. Although it is wonderfully relaxed on the highway, the spongy springs struggle to control body motions.

 During aggressive cornering, body movements seem to boss the torsion beam around, compromising path control.

Hyundai, however, probably wouldn’t try to tell you that this is an economy car for the enthusiast. The Accent is a serene and relaxed form of affordable transportation.

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