Hyundai places Accent on simplicity

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IOL mot jun12 Accent hatch a

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The new Hyundai Accent hatch fills the tiny niche between i20 and i30 models.

ROAD TEST: Hyundai Accent hatch 1.6 Fluid

There’s an important anniversary rolling in later this year.

Come the middle of October and it will be the 21st birthday of my well-used Code 8 driver’s licence.

I remember the entire experience like it was just months ago, and cannot help but snigger when I think of that huge L sign on the rear window of the driving school’s white CitiGolf. Little did the poor aunty who ran the driving school realise what she was in for – as by that stage I had already perfected my Lenasia Launch Control technique, adopted my gangsta low-slung driving position, and mastered the one-finger-on-the-wheel turning technique.

Blind spots and alley docking were the least of my instructor’s concerns; she was far more alarmed by my snap-clutch control, and just how fast her little 1.6 CitiGolf could actually go when she wasn’t looking. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why she felt the need to use those pedals on the front-passenger side – while she would have bet her next set of dentures on me flunking my test completely.

We found a happy medium though, and she showed me how to align the bottom of the L sticker to a specific testing pole when parallel parking – to look like I knew what I was doing. In return I actually became her first student to get my licence on the first try. Brave people, these driving school instructors.

IOL mot jun12 Accent hatch b

At R234 900 it comes at a twenty-odd grand premium over the sedan, but the hatch does pack extra kit.

MODERN, YET SIMPLE

Strangely enough, these memories all came flooding back when piloting the subject of this test, Hyundai’s Accent hatch.

By no means a CitiGolf, the Accent is certainly a modern-day offering – with the recent addition of a hatch to the range the part that’s new. But it’s the way that it goes about its daily business that made me think how perfect it would be for a teenager to attempt a driver’s licence in. I liked that in the Accent everything I needed was a simple dial or knob away, with no menus and sub-menus needed to tackle high-end extras.

Nope, I reckon learner drivers will love that the speedometer is marked simply in 20km/h increments – and not 10s, jumping up to 30s like in the real performance machinery we test. The dials are well-sized, and numbers on the dials big, so you know exactly how fast you’re going. The warning lights for things like your handbrake or headlights are also bigger and well-illuminated, and yes, there’s a real handbrake, not an obscure button.

This really is straight-forward motoring, and it’s refreshing. The USB ports aren’t hidden in the centre console or glovebox, they’re open and reachable; the radio is a radio – it has buttons and dials and doesn’t need a doctorate to operate; and the aircon is an aircon, with simple temperatures, fan speeds and air-flows - it’s not climate control trying to confuse you.

WELL-BALANCED

IOL mot jun12 Accent hatch c

The interior is very user-friendly, and everything you need is a simple dial or knob away.

Learners will love the comfy cloth seats with manual adjustments, the masses of head- and leg-room all-round, and possibly even the 7.7l/100km average consumption returned by the perky 91kW/156Nm naturally-aspirated 1.6 petrol engine.

As a daily city drive the Accent’s rather well-balanced. The steering is light and exhibits none of that dreaded non-centering electric-feel which we’ve found in recent Koreans cars; the clutch is well-weighted with a firm and pleasant feel; and the gearbox has a slick and sharp action. My ten-year old could actually reach the tailgate when open, which I think is a first for the year – but the lack of traction control is a definite safety oversight.

The 1.6-litre petrol engine’s a perky little number, even up on the reef, and paired with zero traction nannies can make for an interesting launch or two. A recent development – which I like in the range – is the addition, finally, of a sixth gear. It means lower revs and better consumption on long stretches. The Koreans have kept the ratios on the shorter side, though, favouring punchier in-gear performance over quieter highway cruising. Which is fine by me. What I did miss, though, was cruise control – it’s the one thing I tend to use, a lot, especially in areas with speed traps.

VERDICT

Strictly-speaking, all that has happened here is Hyundai has added a hatch to its Accent range – which with 370 litres of boot space is 19 litres shy of its sedan sibling. Drill deeper and you’ll find that the Accent hatch fills a tiny gap between the i20 and i30 hatch ranges – with a length measurement of 4 115mm to the i20’s 3 995 and the i30’s 4 300.

At R234 900 (R10 000 more for auto) it’s not cheap, however – especially when you factor in the twenty-odd grand premium over the sedan.

But it does come in range-topping Fluid spec only, with the hatch additionally scoring curtain airbags and alloy wheels. If it’s in the budget it’s a great little car; I think my driving school instructor would love it.

FACTS

Hyundai Accent hatch 1.6 Fluid

Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol

Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Power: 91kW @ 6300rpm

Torque: 156Nm @ 4200rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 10.2 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 190km/h

Consumption (claimed): 6.4 litres per 100km

Price: R234 900

Warranty: Five-year/150 000km

Service plan: Five-year/90 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Ford Fiesta 1.0T Trend (92kW/170Nm) - R227 230

Honda Jazz 1.5 Elegance (88kW/145Nm) - R225 000

Toyota Auris 1.6 Xi (97kW/160Nm) - R236 900

VW Polo 1.6 Comfortline (77kW/155Nm) - R224 800


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