The 2011 Hyundai Accent GS is one step up in trim level from the base GL, but a giant step it is. Although the GS costs thousands more than the base GL, it also provides more standard features and even a package of options not available with the entry-level version of the three-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback.
Outside, the GS matches the GL with integrated rear spoiler, body-colored grille, dual manual outside mirrors and skinny, 14-inch tires that, when paired with the coupled torsion beam rear suspension (front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar), can cause body lean in the corners and even some tire squeal. The GS trim, however, does add a rear window washer with wiper to add visibility.
Under the hood, the GS matches the engine found in both higher and lower trim levels. The 1.6-liter DOHC inline 4-cylinder with CVVT produces some impressive fuel economy estimates: 27 mpg city/36 highway with the standard 4-speed automatic transmission and 28/34 with the available 5-speed manual, making this one of the Accent’s selling features. The engine’s power, however, while adequate for commuting purposes, is not designed for high-performance driving, with 110 hp at 6,000 rpm and 106 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. Two transmissions are available: a standard 4-speed automatic or an optional 5-speed manual, both with an EcoShift indicator to promote fuel-efficient driving. Most agree that drivers will get more pep from the manual transmission than from the automatic.
Inside, the GS adds a number of standard features to the GL’s bare-bones budget ride. Air conditioning is now standard, as are a tilt steering wheel, maplights, a sunglasses holder and, new for this year, a standard 172-watt AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers. A USB port and auxiliary audio jack are also standard features.
As with the base GL, most seem pleasantly surprised by the interior space of the GS hatchback. The GS seats 5 with cloth seats. The ride up front is typically described as unexpectedly spacious, with a front seat height that offers a panoramic view. The rear, however, may be tighter for adults, particularly if the driver or front passenger moves a seat back, reducing rear legroom. Additionally, the rear seats, which fold in a 60/40 split to increase rear cargo space, are difficult to get in and out of, given the sloping roofline of the hatchback.
Unlike the base GL, the GS offers an entire package of options. The Premium Package, while increasing price, adds antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, power windows and locks (with remote keyless entry), power exterior mirrors and two lighted interior vanity mirrors. A Bluetooth hands-free phone system, iPod/MP3 holder, carpeted floormats, mudguards, aluminum door sills and an alloy fuel door are among the GS's stand-alone add-ons. Other features, however, such as cruise control, or the traction or stability control systems, are notable by their absence.
Standard safety features in the 2011 Hyundai Accent center around the six airbags found in all trim levels. These include front row, side impact airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and front airbags with an occupant classification system. A tire pressure monitoring system also comes standard. However, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have both given the Accent hatchback a mixed result for crash tests. The NHTSA (assessing the 2010 Accent) gave the hatchback 5 out of 5 stars for front crashes, but only 4 out of 5 stars for side crashes and rollovers. The IIHS gave a rating of Acceptable (one lower than its highest Good score) for front collisions and rollovers, but a Poor (its lowest rating) for front side impact crashes.
The 2011 Hyundai Accent GS continues to offer a small, commuter-minded car. With six standard airbags, a surprisingly spacious interior that doesn’t feel cheap, comfortable front seats and good fuel economy at a reasonable starting sticker price, the midrange Accent three-door now even offers a standard stereo. Although additional convenience and safety features can be added to the GS, they come at a price, which, combined with mixed safety scores, may lead buyers to check out the competition.