Look, the Accent has grown up... Ryan Bubear drives the 1.6 GLS Automatic.
The new Hyundai Accent is unlikely to win you that cushy job, or land you a date with the curvy blonde on the third floor — as much as the manufacturer's local advertising agency may try to convince you otherwise.
With chuckle-worthy lines such as "my wife left me for a guy with a fancy Accent" and "I hear he only got the job because of his fancy Accent", the advertising minds have perhaps overestimated the impact a small sedan can have on one's existence.
That's not to say the Accent can't add value to your life. It certainly can, what with its competitive price-tag, long list of standard features, and practical balance between performance and economy.
And while you shouldn't bank on it getting you laid, it is in fact rather easy on the eye. Indeed, it resembles its larger sibling, the impressively elegant Elantra (I received hate mail from a loyal Hyundai owner for my opening paragraph of that review), in a number of ways. It shares many of the Elantra's "fluid" exterior design features, and the two look particularly similar from the rear. And, thankfully, it bears very little resemblance to its predecessor...
The Accent is available in three forms: the entry-level GL manual, the higher-spec GLS manual, and the GLS automatic. My test car was the auto, which arrived sporting "Sleek Silver" paintwork. The profile view is perhaps the 4.3m-long sedan's best aesthetic asset, with flowing coupe-like lines dominating proceedings. From the front, two light creases near the centre of the bonnet stand out, and L-shaped fog-lights feature at each front corner. From here, the shoulder line rises all the way to the rear lights, which wrap around the rear corners.
Somewhat disappointingly, all three models are available only with 14-inch steelies, and there isn't the option of alloys on even the range-topping GLS. I get the impression that a tasty set of understated alloys wheels would greatly enhance the premium feel of the Accent.
Plenty comes standard
But where the Accent does score big is with its high specification level. Even the entry-level GL gets a fair whack of standard equipment, such as air conditioning, MP3 radio with Auxiliary and USB ports, trip computer, eco-drive indicator, remote central locking, electric mirrors and electric windows up front. The GLS gets all that, plus rear electric windows, Bluetooth, posher cloth seats, heated mirrors and the all-important rear park assist.
All three models employ a 1.6 CVVT naturally aspirated powerplant, which pumps out a very usable 91kW at 6300rpm and 156Nm at 4200rpm. According to the official figures, the automatic version appears to dawdle to the 100km/h mark, taking 11.4 seconds from standstill (some 1.2 seconds tardier than the manual). However, the auto 'box sees the Accent excel at higher speeds, and its 80-120km/h acceleration time of 8.5 seconds is truly impressive (and very noticeable out on the road), making the manual's 13.8 seconds seem like an age.
In the real world, this translates into pleasing overtaking grunt from the eager little four-door. And considering the automatic transmission has just four (forward) gears, it performs surprisingly well both in traffic and on the open road, with the kickdown function proving quite effective. The H-Matic (effectively Hyundai's version of "Tiptronic") application is fairly pointless, with so few cogs to swap between, although it does work well to quickly drop a gear if you're not kickdown-inclined. The automatic's claimed combined fuel consumption is 6.4 litres per 100km, not too much over the manual's 6.1.
Inside, fond memories of the Elantra are again conjured up, thanks to modern silver and gloss black trim, and funky blue back-lighting. The vinyl steering wheel on the GLS model is of the multifunctional variety, featuring easy-to-use controls for audio and Bluetooth. Space up front is generous, but a six-foot passenger would struggle to sit entirely comfortably behind a six-foot driver, despite the decent headroom back there. But for a small family, there is more than enough room.
Frustratingly, the cavernous boot (some 389 litres) cannot be unlocked via the remote, although a lever in the cabin allows you to pop the lid, and it can of course also be opened using the key. But where the Accent does score well in the it's-the-small-things-that-count category, is in the power window department: the driver gets an auto-up and auto-down one-touch feature, which is also operational with the ignition off. It may sound trivial, but in terms of everyday living, it makes a marked difference.
The ride is fairly agreeable, with the Accent able to deal with some of the nastier surfaces thrown at it. The steering feels a touch artificial, but is well-suited to low-speed manoeuvres needed in busy parking lot environments and the like.
With an eye on its many competitors, the Accent — which is priced from R 152 900 to R 173 900 — offers decent value for money, especially when one takes into consideration the respectable engine, top standard specification, practicality, and five-year/150 000km warranty and five-year/90 000km service plan.
So, regardless of which of the many distinctive South African twangs you possess, at least you have the option of acquiring a classy Accent (apologies to Hyundai's ad agency).
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Click through to page 2 for specs and pricing.