The Accent 1,6 GLS automatic rose in my estimation even before I drove it… It’s a four-door light car with an automatic transmission and a (82 kW!) 1,6-litre engine, making it a pretty unique offering in its segment of the market. Granted, small automatic saloons are far and few in between… The Yaris Saloon Spirit AT (R150 650) and Kia Rio 4-dr High AT (R132 995) offer 63 kW 1,3- and 70 kW 1,4-litre engines respectively and the automatic 1,6-litre Ford Fiesta (R133 950) is only available as a hatchback. The recently-launched Nissan Tiida 1,6 Visia+ Auto has subcompact space and versatility, but costs R157 700 – and that’s R17 800 more than the price of the Accent!
Now for the not-so-good news… The Accent’s exterior styling is best described as on the lobotomising side of innocuous. The front of the car is frankly non-descript (but not ugly, I guess) and the rear is exactly the way I would have sketched it on the back of a napkin had someone asked me to picture what the rear of an average Korean saloon looked like. Oh dear, boys and girls, the test unit made me dread the day that I would be forced to fire up my little automatic-transmission runabout and drive to the town hall to watch my grandkids make fools of themselves in the annual primary school play.
Come on! Not all light cars are unsightly – the Rio has a tangible European flair to it, the Yaris saloon is strangely endearing and on the 5-door side, the Fiat Grande Punto is gorgeous. But to make up for the Accent’s lack of, um, accent, its interior is really of a very high quality; The fit and finish is excellent, the controls feel sturdy and durable without being garish and the two-tone hard plastic interior is neat and not too austere. There is also a very versatile Clarion Tuner/CD/MP3 and Cassette system (that produces very good sound quality) in the car, and it its bopping equaliser readouts offered a bit of animated entertainment from an otherwise monotonous fascia.
But then things start to look up… The Accent 1,6 GLS automatic not only has a good standard specification – power windows (not just at the front, either) and mirrors, air con, driver and front passenger airbags, seatbelt pretensioning for both front occupants and ABS, the Korean newcomer is also a little livewire on the road. Its 1,6-litre mill has CVVT (Continuous Variable Valve Timing) with double overhead camshafts and delivers 82 kW at 6 000 r/min and peak torque of 145 N.m at 4 500 r/min. It’s a surprisingly perky little car, but be warned: Your ears will be ringing like Big Ben’s bells when the Accent’s little engine revs into its upper ranges at kickdown – it’s a noisy one!
Nevertheless, if you have to be stuck in peak hour stop-start traffic (the daily bane of urban commuters around the world), the Accent, at R139 900, represents the most cost effective way to drive around in air-conditioned comfort while resting your left foot.