Last month, both Hyundai and Kia cut the price of one of their subcompacts to $9,995, making the two models the cheapest new cars for sale in Canada.
In fact, the cash purchase price of the Accent L three-door hatchback and the Rio EX sedan is roughly 30 per cent less than the next cheapest new cars in the country, the Chevrolet Aveo/Pontiac Wave twins.
But which one of these two budget-friendly platform mates really is the better "under $10k car?"
Finally, in recognition that many customers in this price range cross-shop used vehicles, we've also included some used compact alternatives from Wheels classifieds:
Kia Rio EX MT
Both the Rio and Accent have plenty of standard features that would have made cars in this class eight years ago cry for their mamas: power steering, multi-adjustable driver's seat, AM/FM/Aux/CD/MP3 Stereo with four speakers, tinted glass, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, dual front airbags — it's all here, except air conditioning.
One of the main reasons you might choose a new car over a used one is warranty. With a five-year/100,000 km comprehensive package, both the Kia and Hyundai excel.
But just remember: any desire for performance should be checked at the door.
Both share a 1.6 L four-banger with 110 hp and 106 lb.-ft. of torque. With a mandatory five-speed manual transmission, both run from 0-to-100 km/h slower than a Civic Hybrid. (For you masochists out there, that's about 12.5 seconds.)
Needing only regular unleaded gasoline, fuel economy for both is good at 7.4 L/100 km in the city and 6.2 L on the highway. But a Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris sip and emit less. And both Koreans are also weak on the safety front, with no ABS and only dual front airbags. Even pricier models with available side airbags rated a "poor" on the U.S. insurance industry side-crash results.
The Rio scores over the Accent with a quieter interior, comfier ride, and better access to its rear seats with its extra doors. It also offers one more year of roadside assistance and one-year/20,000 km coverage for consumable items.
But the Kia drops to second with its less practical trunk and bland sedan looks. Its conservative shape and big black rubber rub strips reminded me of cheap Peugeots from the 1990s.
Even more important to penny pinchers, despite the identical $9,995 advertised pricing, the Rio has a higher transaction price.
With a more expensive $1,455 destination charge, plus added sales taxes, the Rio's real cash price is $12,939. Or $130 more than the Accent.
Even if you decide to get financing, the Kia loses out with 2.9 vs. 0 per cent on a 60-month loan, and 1.9 vs. 0.7 per cent on a 48-month lease.
WHY BUY? Comfortable ride; extra year of roadside assistance.
WHY NOT? (Relatively) more expensive; dull-as-dishwater looks; less cargo room.
USED ALTERNATIVE: 2007 Kia Spectra LX Sedan, auto, A/C, 44,000 km, $11,999.
Hyundai Accent L 3-door
If you're not moving people in and out of your back seats on a regular basis, or don't mind the slightly diminished rear hip room once back there, the Accent two-door's crisp styling may be just the ticket. The car's unique rear-pillar character lines mean that even if you do go with the cheaper of these two "under $10k specials," you don't have to look like you did.
As a two-door hatch, the Accent is far more practical than the Rio sedan. With its seats folded, the Hyundai holds an extra 115 L of bachelor apartment stuff at move time.
But for all of the Hyundai's practicality advantages, I'd toss its Kia sibling aside mainly because the Accent was more fun to drive. In relative terms, I mean.
Where the Accent sedan is tuned more for comfort, the two-door hatch gets a sports suspension. Mini Coopers have no fear. But the Hyundai hatch's small size and composed chassis make it more athletic than you would ever expect for the car's low-ball pricing.
The only axe I have to grind is with the five-speed gearbox the Accent shares with the Kia. It's inaccurate and challenging to use. Compared to a Fit, it's downright agricultural.
But overall (and as noted, for cash buyers only) for the price, its build quality and overall refinement don't feel a third less than an Aveo.
But every penny counts. And the Hyundai's cheaper destination charge is compounded when it comes to tax time. With an out-the-door price of $12,809, it's the cheapest of the $9,995 cars here.
I always recommend a test drive before writing a cheque. But between these two Korean twins, it's hard not to take the more practical and fun-to-drive Accent.
WHY BUY? (Relatively) less expensive; styling; hatchback utility.
WHY NOT? Rear seat access; one less year of roadside assistance.
USED ALTERNATIVE: 2007 Ford Focus ZX3 SE, auto, A/C, 22,000 km, $11,999.Freelance auto reviewer John LeBlanc can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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