Modern-day prom queen is reliable and responsible

I have spent eight days in a Hyundai Accent, and I have learned a great deal.

  • The image of cars on a parking

I have spent eight days in a Hyundai Accent, and I have learned a great deal.

I have learned that a vehicle is very much like a purse: if it’s a big one, you will cram it full of junk you don’t really need because you can. If it’s small, you will discern what you really need, and travel unencumbered and unfettered.

I have learned there are auto manufacturers who don’t mind putting out a good product at a great price. Every Wheels writer is driving the Accent in turn, the pitch being it’s the cheapest car in Canada at $9,995. The truth is I stopped thinking about the price after the first day: if it isn’t comfortable, fun to drive, or useful in most circumstances, nobody is going to care how cheap it is.

In 1986, my dad bought a Ford Tempo. It was $10,000. Twenty-two years ago. Granted, it was a four-door, and the Accent is a two-door hatchback, but the Tempo wasn’t a patch on this car. It too was a bare-bones car, built for function over luxury. A young girl I knew bought a Hyundai Pony in 1986, an untried car in Canadian climes, but at about $6,500, it was a deal on wheels.

We sadly watched her little Pony rust away. But slowly and steadily, Hyundai started its learning curve and, today, that little Accent is the result of what I wasn’t sure existed – a truly decent car at an affordable price.

I’ve learned that I’ve expected and accepted car prices forever creeping upwards, because I must pay for safety and technology that the manufacturers must develop. While this will certainly hold true for emerging technologies as oil fails, there are manufacturers who have kept their noses to the grindstone and persevered, while in the next yard the grass was much greener, as were the profits.

I’ve never been much of a marquee driver (hey, I dated a guy with a Pinto), but like many of us, I’ve developed some preconceived ideas about quality, status and value.

I’ve learned the field is changing rapidly; spending the most money hardly guarantees you the best, and some of those bargains are worth a second look. The day I picked up the Accent, J.D. Powers and Associates (a respected industry watcher) rated it the most dependable vehicle in its category.

As a rule, I don’t care who is wearing the tiara (there are a lot of factors to consider) but the fact Hyundai, among others, is pushing vehicles from also-rans to prom queens is notable. It is listening to customers, not just shareholders.

I’ve learned we’re entering a new frontier of cars, and the way we drive them. For most of us, exotic cars represent dream cars, exciting technology and cars-as-art. But the reality is a great many of us are looking for something reliable, affordable and responsible.

An old friend of mine used to call cars Aye-de-Bee. In his Saskatchewan accent, he’d remind me a car was to get me from A to B, not cost more than the mortgage each month, and not wear out before I was sick of it.

I’ve learned to look in new directions, because the old answers won’t work for the new questions.

Lorraine Sommerfeld’s column appears Saturday in Wheels and Mondays in Living.

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