Hyundai Accent hits end of the road, for now

It's been six months and 23,449 kilometres, but our time at Wheels with the long-term Hyundai Accent L tester is finally over.

  • The image of cars in a showroom

It’s been six months and 23,449 kilometres, but our time at Wheels with the long-term Hyundai Accent L tester is finally over.

Fifteen journalists and numerous friends and hangers-on spent time behind its plastic steering wheel to answer the burning question: What’s it like to drive the cheapest new car in Canada?

You can read all of our opinions on the blog we kept at ( That was the requirement if you wanted to drive it: You had to write exactly what you thought of it.

Most people were astonished by how much was offered for its cash price of $9,995. “It has been flawless – not a single rattle, untoward noise, or bump in the night,” wrote Jim Kenzie back in June.

“It’s a terrific weekend car if your kids aren’t too huge, or for just two of you, you could easily get a week’s worth of stuff in,” wrote Lorraine Sommerfeld a couple of months later.

“It’s great on gas, has excellent pick-up and cruising speeds, lots of cupholders and you can park it anywhere.”

For the record, the best gas mileage it recorded over a complete tank was with Allan Johnson, vintage motorcycles columnist, who hypermiled his way to 6.4 L/100 km. The worst was at the hands of editor Andrew Meeson, who saw 10.1 L/100 km while slogging around the city on a hot day with the a/c cranked.

Even Robert Herjavec – one of the dragons on CBC’s Dragon’s Den – was impressed.

“I have to admit that one day I took the car out just to drive it around – it was fun,” he wrote. And this from a rich guy who owns a slew of exotic cars with hubcaps costing more than the little Accent itself.

He drove the budget car to a golf game, and then out to the airport where he parked it beside his business jet. “For the target market – and the unbelievable price of $10K – this is one of the greatest automotive bargains of all time,” he wrote.

Not everyone was so impressed.

“Some of the little things starting to show up,” wrote Johnson. “Seat belt access is cumbersome and therefore increasingly annoying. The high beam headlights are okay and well aimed but the low beams are just not adequate for more than 70 km/h.”

“Gawd, how I hate this car,” wrote Wheels assistant editor Woody McGee, who was mostly annoyed because he’d gotten stuck in traffic on the DVP before getting a speeding ticket.

Plus, he’d hated the Accent he’d owned and driven from 2000 to 2004, especially when its clutch failed just before the 60,000-km warranty period but after the then-three-year warranty.

At least the new Accent has a much better reputation for quality. In the most recent vehicle dependability study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, it was named North America’s most dependable subcompact vehicle.

Certainly, in its 23,000 kilometres with Wheels – changing drivers every week, getting flogged to California and filled with footballs – it behaved admirably.

I was the first person to drive it, and the last. Way back in June, I wrote: “It’s not exciting, but what do you expect for 10 grand?” I was frustrated by its lack of central locking and power windows, though the manual transmission was a pleasure to shift through.

Last week, I drove it again, more than curious to see how the little car had stood up to its daily abuse. The new-car smell was gone. The steering wheel felt thin and the seats hard.

But the engine started and quickly heated the cabin against a sub-zero morning. The windows cleared and the car pulled happily away from the driveway. On the highway, it nipped up to cruising speed and sat there comfortably, my coffee on hand in the centre console and the radio filling the air with music.

My young sons had plenty of space in the back seat, even with winter clothing and school backpacks, and the rear hatch swallowed up some heavy bags of water-conditioning salt. Gotta love hatchbacks.

It wasn’t exciting, but what do you expect for 10 grand?

I can tell you this: these days, you can expect a lot more than even just a couple of years ago.

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