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Kathy Renwald's best and worst of 2008

Kathy Renwald's best and worst of 2008

KATHY RENWALD’S BEST

Hyundai Accent hatchback

The stripped down Hyundai Accent is charming enough for $9,995.

Not once during a week of test- driving did I feel deprived or downtrodden driving the cheapest car in Canada.

A manual gear box keeps us entertained and there’s just enough power with a 1.6L engine to keep out of trouble.

The radio with AUX plug-in is good quality, the seats are fine and hand-cranked windows are an amusing novelty that burn a few calories to boot.

Best of all, there is something about driving a cheap car that immediately lifts the burden of owning something precious. People will think you’re brilliant driving a bargain car, instead of washed up or filing for bankruptcy.

Swing the deal right and you can buy the Accent on a credit card, earn a pile of air miles and then pay off the balance before getting nicked for the interest.

… AND WORST

Smart Fortwo

I don’t get how a car company responsible for some of the most glamorous and sexy vehicles in the world could also produce the Smart Car.

I know it’s popular, I know it sells, it’s cute in a gnomely way, but its crude mechanics make driving it a trip back to the dark ages.

Most alarming is how the vehicle pauses like a wheezing asthmatic as it shifts up through the gears.

During the pause, as forward momentum takes a holiday, your body does a slow motion move toward the dash, like a cat preparing to dislodge a hairball.

Apparently, Smart Car buyers like the sensation.

Of course, there’s no back seat, luggage capacity is on par with the plastic bag they give you when checking into the hospital, and the Smart gets slapped around on windy days.

So it’s good on gas and easy to park. You could buy a Kia Rio or Toyota Yaris and maybe take public transit once a week and feel just as virtuous.

As for parking, this is Canada – land of malls and highways and citizens who obey parking signs. Stuffing small cars into tight spaces isn’t an Olympic sport here. The Smart leaves me smarting.

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