2008 Hyundai Accent L
2008 Hyundai Accent L. Click image to enlarge
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2008 Hyundai Accent

Toronto, Ontario – It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen an honest-to-gawd under $10,000 car in Canada, but thanks to the folks at Hyundai and Kia, there are now two to choose from: the Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback and the Kia Rio four-door sedan.

There is one catch: the $9,995 price is a “Hyundai Canada 25th Anniversary” cash-only offer – if you’re leasing or financing through Hyundai or Kia, the bottom line for both is $13,595.

So what do you get for ten large? In the case of my Accent two-door tester, a surprisingly well-built, cheery and pleasant driving vehicle. I’ll say right off the top this Accent really impressed me.

The 110-hp 1.6-litre four is certainly gutsy enough, and the light clutch and five-speed shifter are friendly and smooth. Likewise the steering is low effort, yet everything operates with a high-quality feel that belies the car’s price.

2008 Hyundai Accent L
2008 Hyundai Accent L. Click image to enlarge

Yes, the doors have a tinny sound, but structurally the Accent is a very sound piece. The paint on my tester was Tango Red that showed interesting coppery undertones – a shade you’d expect to see on a more expensive piece of equipment.

Speaking of equipment, what you don’t get on these base cars is air conditioning, power windows or power door locks. Talk about a walk down memory lane: when was the last time you had to hand crank a car window or go around and lock each door individually? Or drive with the windows down on a sweltering day with your arm hanging out just to keep from melting?

Okay, confession time. My tester had optional dealer-installed air conditioning (about $1,600), which doesn’t make a whole lot of fiscal sense as the next trim level (Accent GL) adds air, power windows and locks for $1700.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I didn’t use the A/C for the first five days of my test. I wanted to bask in (or is that bake in?) the full-on Ten-grand experience. Luckily my arms were long enough to reach the passenger window crank.

2008 Hyundai Accent L
2008 Hyundai Accent L. Click image to enlarge

While the Accent’s interior is somewhat plain, the seat fabric looks upscale and durable, and the plastics and simple metallic trim highlights have a high quality appearance. It may be the least expensive car on the market, but it doesn’t feel cheap.

The steering wheel tilts and (surprise!) the driver’s seat has a height adjustment wheel for both the front and back of the bottom cushion, so it can be angled to suit your derriere’s preference. There is also a fold-down armrest for the driver’s chair and twin vanity mirrors.

Another nice interior feature is the auxiliary jack in the AM/FM/single-CD four-speaker audio. Harmon or Kardon won’t be losing any sleep over the sound quality here, but it did sufficiently blast the traffic reports over the roar from the open widows. My only interior gripe would be the armrest on the door that is harder than Chinese arithmetic.

2008 Hyundai Accent L
2008 Hyundai Accent L. Click image to enlarge

Back seat accommodation is acceptable for normal sized adults, and making ingress a little easier, the passenger seat slides forward on its rails. A nifty foot pedal release aids rear seat riders in their getaway.

With the split 60/40 rear seats folded flat, there is a useful amount of cargo space. I managed to fit my mountain bike in there (with the front wheel removed).

I spent a fair amount of time commuting into Toronto from Oakville during my time with Canada’s cheapest car, and its highway manners proved to be quite good. The Accent has a nice compliant ride, it tracks well and feels stable at speed. The engine drone gets a bit tiresome as it is geared fairly low – engine speed is 3000 r.p.m. at 100 km/h. The plus side of this gearing is decent highway acceleration. You never feel like a sitting duck in the 2008 Accent.

My wife took the Accent to work one day and really liked the way it drove, but said she would spend the extra $1700 for the next trim level with air, powered windows and locks. She thought this would be an excellent car for a young college student leaving the nest.

2008 Hyundai Accent L
2008 Hyundai Accent L. Click image to enlarge

For someone learning to drive stick, the Accent would be a great choice. The clutch is light, smooth and forgiving – likewise the shifter is smooth and foolproof.

While the scrawny 185/65 14-inch tires don’t provide much grip, the Accent is a zippy and predictable handler. Also, the brake feel is very good, although ABS is not available on the Accent hatch, no matter what trim level you specify.

Over a week of mixed city and highway driving the Accent used 8.0 L/100 km of regular grade fuel. Not enough to have David Suzuki doing cartwheels, but considering the car’s bargain basement price, certainly acceptable.

I grew to really like Accent. It is well built, cheerful and fun to drive. In these days of automobiles loaded down with more gizmos than you can count, it was strangely refreshing to manually operate the windows and walk around the car to ensure the doors were locked. Guess I’m showing my age.

Pricing: 2008 Hyundai Accent L Hatchback

Base price: $9,995 (cash only offer)
Options: $1,600 (dealer installed air conditioning)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,345
Price as tested: $13,040
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

  • Specifications: 2008 Hyundai Accent

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