Has Mazda Australia gone SUV mad?: CarsGuide Podcast #205
Episode 205 - Has Mazda Australia gone SUV mad?
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First, though it was the follow-up to the ultra-popular Hyundai Excel, the change of name from Excel to Accent confused a lot of buyers. The car had been called Accent in other countries for several years, however the Koreans feel that a new model needs a different name to keep it fresh, but Australians tend to think the opposite.
If a car has earned its stripes, we prefer to hold on to the existing name. Reading between the lines, it seems there was quite a battle over the name, and the Australian importers lost. Accent it was.
When Accent was launched in June 2000, Hyundai tried to push the car a little further upmarket, by charging higher prices. Not that it was expensive, but compared to some of the rock-bottom deals being done on the superseded Excel, the Accent came up looking on the pricey side.
Finally, a couple of years after the launch of the Accent, Hyundai brought in another smaller car, the Getz. Though it was not quite in the same class, buyers tended to opt for Getz against Accent, which did the Accent no good in the sales race.
The result is that it's bargain-priced as a used car and canny buyers are doing deals that get them a lot of car for a minimal outlay. That may change soon, as there are signs that the Accent is finally starting to hit its straps on the new-car scene.
Towards the end of 2002, most of the more expensive Accent models were pulled off the market. At the same time the body range was reduced to just one choice. If you didn't want a three-door hatchback, tough luck. Before that, there had also been the options of a five-door hatch and a four-door sedan.
Incidentally, the last of the superseded 2002 models weren't retailed until several months into 2003. These are sometimes resold as 2003 models as far as price is concerned, but it's the build date on the compliance plate that's important, and that's the one that's likely to be quoted back at you when you trade in the Accent down the track.
In September 2003 the Accent received a facelift to move it away with the somewhat bland look of the original model. This later model is proving more popular in the used scene, and it's worth rustling up the extra cash to buy one. At the same time as the body was revamped in 2003, the Accent's engine capacity was increased from 1.5 to 1.6 litres.
Performance from the new 78kW unit made the small-medium Hyundai reasonably zippy, not exactly a ball of fire in the acceleration stakes, after all it's quite a big car for an engine of that size, but it has enough for the average owner.
The Accent is a pleasant car to drive. Handling is quite lively and the feel through the steering is good. There's a fair bit of understeer if you push hard, a keen driver will find it quite acceptable, if not exactly exciting.
It has good interior room for its class, and we know of more than one family with young children that is happy with it as a family car. The boot is roomy and easy to use and has a good shape.
Hyundai's build quality, which was a bit hit and miss in earlier times, was very much improved by the time the Accent arrived. The Accent appears to be holding up well to the rigours of rough Aussie roads.
Hyundai is now well and truly established as part of the local automotive scene and its dealer network is large and widespread. However, as is often the way with city cars, there are not so many dealers in rural areas. We have heard of no real complaints about the cost of servicing or spare parts and the Accent has good under-bonnet space so it's easy enough to work on.
Rust isn't normally a problem, but look at all the lower body areas and around the front and rear windscreens to be safe.
Do an engine check for easy starting and smooth idling. Where possible, that should be done with the engine cold, preferably after the car has been standing overnight.
Feel for a manual gearbox that baulks during fast gearchanges, especially the three-two downchange.
Turn the steering wheel all the way from one side to the other while travelling at very low speed and listen for clunking noises near the front wheels. They probably indicate the universal joints are worn.
Look over the interior, including the boot, for signs of rough usage. It may indicate the complete car has been treated harshly, or it may just be that the kids have run a muck from time to time.