It would be more than generous to call it a "classic" - though I'm rather fond of my 25-year-old Mazda hatchback. But after a frosty commute – wind whistling through decayed door seals while I prayed fervently for the heat vents to emit more than a warm breath – I just couldn't wait to climb into a brand new press car.
This week, it's a 2015 Hyundai Accent hatchback – also available as a sedan.
It was hard not to compare them. Side by side, my elderly "classic" and the Accent are roughly the same size and fall within the same sub-compact segment.
The advent of Hyundai's "Fluidic Sculpture" reshaped the Accent into one of the most stylish in its segment.
But there the similarities end.
Previous generations of Hyundai's smallest entry went from woefully ugly to acceptably forgettable. But the advent of Hyundai's "Fluidic Sculpture" reshaped the Accent into one of the most stylish in its segment.
This particular Accent is the "Sport Appearance Package" trim which includes all the features of the mid-range GL and adds sunroof, fog lights and 16-inch alloy wheels. The GL model's base price is $17,799, the Sport Appearance Package is $18,849, a $1,050 difference.
This trim package, and the cheery Yellow Sunflower paint are new for 2015.
We've already talked about the enormous changes small cars have undergone, in our recent subcompact comparison test, and in virtually every review in this segment for the last couple of years. Small vehicle segments have been exploding in popularity, and stiff competition has injected new levels of quality and innovation into manufacturer's most basic offerings.
Stepping from one into the other truly hammers it home.
My car's interior is a perfect example of the penalty-box mentality of its era – as if budget buyers didn't deserve any better than to accept what they were given and live with it. Dreary grey plastic covers every surface, with no effort to appear as anything more than functional.
Inside the Accent, you'll find plenty of hard plastics too – but they've been moulded into creative surfaces and textures with plenty of attention to design and function. There's no pretence of luxury here. Niceties like leather seating and navigation are unavailable on the Accent, however you can get them on its sister car, the Kia Rio. But that doesn't mean that the Accent's cabin is without charm.
The seats may be cloth, but they're attractively patterned and the front ones are heated. There's far more room overhead than you'd expect from a car that doesn't look that tall from the outside.
The steering wheel telescopes (not all competitors do), there's hands-free Bluetooth, remote power entry, cruise, a power sliding sunroof, steering wheel audio controls and air.
Rear seats split 60/40 to produce 600 litres of cargo space – which is about mid-pack for the segment. However, it falls far short of the Honda Fit, undisputed champion of interior flexibility with a grand total of 1,492 litres.
There's no flashy touchscreen and as mentioned, no navigation. It's fairly simple to pair a smart phone and channel the turn-by-turn app through the Accent's sound system, but the caveat is increased data usage. The communication between my iphone and the Accent's connectivity system was a bit wonky as incoming phone calls would sometimes sever the navigation connection and only "rebooting" the car would re-establish it.
Without display screen, there's no back-up camera, which could be of concern to some buyers. The Accent's tapered roofline and small rear window result in poor rearward visibility.
On the road, the Accent is well-mannered and with the predictable sort of handling you'd expect. It's soft enough to be comfortable without inducing a lot of wallow. Suspension is comprised of a shock & struts with sway bar front setup and a simple torsion beam in the rear. Steering feel is solid and weighty (which I liked) but utterly devoid of feedback (which I didn't).
There's a nice level of sound deadening when it comes to wind noise and vibration, but the tinny sound of rocks or ice pinging off its undercarriage give away the Accent's budget lineage.
With 138 horsepower and 123 ft-lb of torque, the Accent boasts best in segment power. However, the six-speed auto tends to keep it in the lower rev range to conserve fuel, which makes it seem rather lethargic at times. Knock the shift lever over to sport and drop it down a few gears and the Accent can zip along nicely.
However, with extra power comes extra fuel consumption. The Accent's official combined rating is 7.8L/100 km - and this go-round they're being truthful as that's pretty much what I averaged. However, the roomier Versa Note and Honda Fit boast combined ratings of 6.7L and 6.5L respectively.
During a four hour road trip through a miserable snow and ice storm our highway consumption actually dropped to 6.1L/100 km – mostly because traffic conditions forced us to keep it below 70 km/hr the entire way. But the trip itself was warm and pleasant, the cloth seats remaining comfortable for the duration of the long drive.
There are roomier choices, and those with better fuel economy however, the Hyundai Accent Is a stylish little car offering plenty of features, a low base price and terrific warranty.
Climbing back into my "beater" at the end of the week is like zipping through a time portal and into the segment's primitive ancestor. I'm already coveting those heated seats.
5 years/100,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/unlimited distance 24-hour roadside assistance
|Model Tested||2015 Hyundai Accent Sport Appearance Package|
|Price as Tested||$20,544|