Most of us find foreign accents sexy, whether it hails from France, Italy or Ireland. But Korean? Aikona, I wouldn’t have thought so…at least not until along came Hyundai with a rather special Accent.
OK, so the Korean Accent in this instance is spelt with a capital A and it is not exactly a cute lilting voice but a rather impressive new entry in the local small saloon market. And it’s a car that exudes a kind of fuzzy warm appeal that will go down well with a wide range of accents.
Following closely behind the shapely new Hyundai Elantra unveiled here just a few weeks ago, the Accent is shaped in the same continental stylishness as its slightly bigger, more expensive sibling. Because of its frugality, size, practicality and price, it is ideally suited to singles and small families in the 25-35 age group, but also expect to see them in droves in car rental fleets or sporting government department stickers.
It is also the kind of car that will suit the young at heart market segment of retro ravers hell bent on enjoying life and spending their children’s inheritance.
Interestingly about 25% of the expected volumes have already been pre-ordered by three of the biggest players in the car hire business.
Far from boring
But don’t be mistaken, this 7th generation Accent is far from the boringly dull econobox workhorses that crowd rental car parks, for not only is it pretty to look at, but the ride is top notch, the cabin is comfortable, the boot is ample and the car brims with safety and convenience features not usually found in a car in this price range.
With the same coupé-like profile as the new Sonata and Elantra, the Accent is smartly decorated with handsome two-tone bezel halogen headlamps, attractive L-shaped fog lamps and a large hexagonal front grill which further enhances its lower, wider and longer kerbside presence.
The main benefit of this body stretching is a more spacious cabin with lots more head- and leg-room. In fact, the new Accent’s interior space is now probably on par with that of a medium-sized car and it certainly can seat four adults comfortably, even on long journeys, with enough boot capacity to swallow all their luggage as well.
The living quarters are as attractive as the exterior with dials, knobs and gauges perfectly and logically positioned and there is no need to consult a handbook of biblical proportions just to change a radio station or check the fuel consumption on the trip computer, as is the case with so many fancy-pants cars over-burdened by electronic wizardry.
Good quality sound system
Adding to the pleasure of a journey in the new Accent are features such as a good quality sound system with a USB port for iPod, MP3 player or any other portable multimedia device, as well as an integrated Bluetooth system on the higher-specced models that allows drivers to make hands-free phone calls and to stream music wirelessly over the car’s stereo speakers.
Another pleasing feature is its clever trip computer that tells the driver what the average speed of the journey is, how far the car will travel with the fuel left in the tank, the immediate and average fuel consumption and how much driving time it will take to empty.
An “Eco-Drive” indicator also lights up to pat the driver on the back when the car is driven in the style of Oom Koos and Tannie Sannie on their way to the Sunday church service in Bredasdorp.
Another nice to have is the set of electric outside mirrors (which on the top models can be heated on dewy mornings) and rear park assist on the flagship models.
Initially only two five-speed manual models, the GL and GLS, will be available but a four-speed automatic variant is also due in the near future.
Tad sleepy with four aboard
All models are powered by the same 1.6-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol engine with double overhead camshafts and multiport fuel injection with Constant Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) that turns out 91kW and 156Nm.
Performance figures for the manual model are 10.2 seconds for the 0-100 km/h sprint and 11.4-seconds for the auto version which are more than adequate, if not wildly exciting on paper. Our launch drive was in the Cape with only two aboard, but the Accent might feel a tad sleepy with four aboard in the energy sapping thin air of Gauteng and places further north.
Greenies will nod with pleasure at the Accent’s given combined cycle fuel consumption figures of 6.1 and 6.4l/100km and emissions rates of 145 and 151g/km.
At our launch drive the local media only got to drive the GLS manual model on a scenic trip that took us from Paarl via the Franschhoek Pass through Villiersdorp and Rawsonville then back to Paarl via the original Du Toitskloof Pass – a lovely route that gave us ample “feel” for the newest Hyundai.
Impressive it certainly is; every time I drive a Korean car the styling, build quality, cabin comfort and insulation seem to get better. This new Accent can hold its head high in the company of key rivals such as the Chevrolet Aveo, VW Polo Vivo and Toyota Yaris Zen3.
Comprehensive, price-savvy package
It may not be the cheapest of the bunch but overall the latest Accent package is much more comprehensive and price-savvy than the opposition if you factor in key considerations such as warranty term, service plan, roadside assistance and the Korean’s wide range of standard safety, comfort and convenience kit.
On the launch run I liked the way the engine responded when I tickled the fun pedal and even in fourth gear the gallop came quick enough for easy overtaking. It certainly felt perkier than its performance figures suggest on paper.
The noise levels are low and the car sits confidently on the road, although it does lean when pushed hard through the twisties. But then the average Accent driver is hardly likely to drive this Accent like he’s a milky-beard wearing his cap sideways while listening to thumping taxi music.
The brakes are good and I liked the gearbox with its shortish, smooth shift and clearly gated slots. The electro-assisted steering is a bit light, as steering of this nature tends to be, but it is bang-on for the target market and it certainly makes supermarket parking a doddle.
The brakes felt good through the passes although we never pushed it to the stage where the ABS and EBD had to jump into action… but nice to know they are on guard duty against foolishness in any case.
Other safety features include driver and passenger airbags, crumple zones, high rear stop lights and seat belts with pre-tensioners but no traction control and rather disappointingly, no ISOFIX child seat fixtures and no Euro NCAP safety rating, the latter because the car is so new it had not yet been subjected to crash testing by the time it arrived over here.
Comfortable, practical, stylish, good value for money
On the media drive I cruised quietly and comfortably at legal speeds and on one long and lonely stretch of road the speedometer moved fairly close to the maker’s claimed top speed which I will rather not specify, just in case one of those sandwich-munchers who hide behind bushes with cameras can read.
So, yet another attractive, good value for money offering from this rapidly growing carmaker that last year slotted into fourth spot in the world with sales of more than 5,7 million vehicles.
Anyone in the market for a sub-R200 000 comfortable, practical, stylish, good value for money new car would really be quite foolish not to have a close look at the Accent, particularly if you consider the extra value of its class-leading five-year/150 000km warranty and its rust warranty, roadside assistance and service plan for the same time and distance period.
A charming Accent this, to be sure.