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Hyundai Accent does not skimp on quality, fun

Ten grand. Well, $9,995 if you want to split hairs. That’s the cashprice on the 2008 Hyundai Accent L three-door, a hatchback that wasalready a likable little compact car.

Ten grand. Well, $9,995 if you want to split hairs. That’s the cash price on the 2008 Hyundai Accent L three-door, a hatchback that was already a likable little compact car.

The price, incidentally, doesn’t extend to the sedan version, and expectedly you get a pretty basic car for the money.

But it’s 10 grand — what do you expect? The biggest and most-essential option is air conditioning, which isn’t standard equipment, and rings in at $1,678.95 as a dealer-installed option. Add another $1,000 if you want the optional four-speed automatic.

If you’d like the full rundown of what to expect after slipping behind the wheel of the least expensive car in Canada (a claim shared by its similarly priced Kia Rio corporate cousin), you’ll find: Power steering, 14-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, dual front airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, 60/40-split folding rear seats, multi-adjustable driver’s seat, four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo, tinted glass, rear spoiler, and rear wiper/washer.

The Accent L’s engine is a torque-rich, 1.6-litre four-cylinder rated at 110 horsepower that’s a good match for the optional four-speed automatic transmission. The standard five-speed manual works well, though the long throws between gears detracts from the sporty ride.

There’s nothing out of the ordinary on the chassis or on the steering and suspension side, but it’s the end product that counts and the Accent delivers a solid feel on the road. The ride is slightly firm, but the body doesn’t lean much and this appealing little car takes corners very confidently.

The subcompact segment in Canada is alive with tough competitors these days. Witness the Honda Fit and Nissan’s Versa, not to mention the Suzuki Swift, Chevrolet Aveo, Pontiac Wave, Toyota Yaris and Kia Rio. In this category, Hyundai sees the Yaris as its main rival and, in typical Hyundai fashion, it’s taking on the Toyota with a bigger car and more stuff for the money.

If you’ve got very little to spend, even a well-maintained used car may be on your radar. But arranging financing, making sure the vehicle is sound, and warranty headaches can result from not doing your homework. Buying a super-inexpensive car from a dealership alleviates those concerns — plus it lets you slip into a “new” car.

Before the price reduction, the Accent could hold its own against its market rivals. Now, it looks ready to also compete on quality and in the “fun factor” sweepstakes. Now, it’s 10 grand — and still very much the good car it was at its original mid-$13,000 price point.

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