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LONG-TERM INTRODUCTION: Hyundai Accent 1.6 GLS
It can be difficult recommending cars sometimes. If I advise buying something in particular, and it ends up a lemon, I’ll inevitably become the first port of call for recourse. And I don’t want that.
That’s why I often play it safe and recommend modern Korean models. For someone who’s not really petrolhead material, but still wants a reasonably stylish, but reliable and, most importantly, affordable set of wheels, I send them straight to Hyundai (and sister brand Kia) dealers.
At worst, their excellent warranties will keep people off my back for five years or 150 000km, whatever comes first.
But now, for my sins, we at Motoring have been assigned a factory fresh Hyundai Accent for long-term assessment, and I’ll now find out exactly what it’s like to live with one of the cars I’ve recommended so many times, on an ongoing basis.
So far it’s only been a few weeks, and to be honest the flow of regular test cars has picked up recently so we haven’t exactly racked up a million miles in our new family member yet.
NOT SO BORING?
But even so the little Accent hasn’t skipped a beat and, dust layers aside, it’s always ready to tick over, fire up, and offer hassle-free (read somewhat boring) trips home when we need it.
Granted, the Accent’s not as boring as some of the other entry-level fish swimming amongst it in the compact sedan sea. This car gets a muscular (in relative terms obviously) 1.6-litre engine with 91kW and 156Nm that’ll blow the doors off similarly priced rivals like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Ballade, Kia Rio and Mazda2 that only get much weaker 1.4 and 1.5-litre options at this price. This car’s got far more pace than I’d consider adequate in this segment, and it’s this standout trait that’s the ace up the Accent’s sleeve.
But the ride is fantastic too. Small cars like this are often ailed by short wheelbases that exaggerate the blemished roads we live with in SA, but not so here.
The Accent’s pillowy 14” rubber no doubt plays a big part in soaking up crummy surfaces, but the whole package, including quality rubber bushes and well tuned shock and spring settings, makes for a well sorted handler. Especially when considering that it’s got a plain torsion beam setup at the back.
Unfortunately the Accent’s electrically-assisted steering isn’t 100 percent perfect, being a little disconnected at dead centre, but it’s close enough to turn a blind eye.
So the Accent has power and handling covered, but it completes the value trifecta with a roomy cabin and an impressive standard features list. Ours is the R13 000 more expensive GLS version (R173 000 versus R160 000) but even the base GL gets standard aircon, MP3 compatibility for the four-speaker audio system, a trip computer, remote keyless entry and electric (front) windows.
Move up to GLS spec and Hyundai throws in Bluetooth phone connection, rear park assist, heated mirrors, a centre armrest, rear electric windows, and two more speakers.
There are a couple of obvious absentees though, and I wonder how hard it would be to include simple things like illuminated window and lock switches in the doors, as well as an auto lock function on pull off. I’ve often found myself fumbling with these buttons at night, adjusting mirrors, opening windows and unlocking doors accidentally in the dark. Another typical Korean oversight is the lack of RDS on the radio, so there’s only decimal pointed digits where almost all other cars show actual station names in the display.
I also think the Accent is in dire need of a sixth gear because highway cruising at 120km/h has the tacho needle pegged at a high 3 500rpm. Anything north of the speed limit makes the 1.6 holler at a volume that’s not quite comfortable. Korean roads are obviously slow ones. But even with the short gear ratios and high-revving motor, the Accent’s still giving us a decent average fuel consumption figure of just around 7 litres per 100km. Not bad at all considering the healthy power the 1.6 offers.
There are still many more weeks, and kilometres to come in our long-term Accent, but as it stands I’d have no problem with the Accent if a mate had recommended it to me.