A Note from the Editor: A stock image has been supplied with this review.
As the theory of Yin and Yang teaches us, life provides opposites for the benefit of balance. Similar theories proclaiming opposites attract also exist as justification of balance. I became familiar with the reality of the concept after a quick coastal birthday trip provided for an easy juxtaposition of two very opposing vehicles.
It began well. After an agreeable weekend crisping on a Sunshine Coast beach, with equally agreeable wine, a friend and I packed the gear into my Audi A8 for what I assumed at the time would be a smooth, easy, four-hour drive down the highway to Queensland’s capital. A journey the Audi should have zero issues with, as it is one of the best mile-eaters built. Comfortable seats, excellent stereo with playlist prepared, and a capable, relaxed V8 up front ensuring smooth relentless, and first-class progress. Then…
The engine cuts in and out like a bad phone signal and gets worse at speed. The main fuel pump is dead. The journey is incomplete. I am furious and very far from home.
After having two forced hours to calm down waiting for the tragedy of witnessing your pride and joy (Yang) being loaded onto a tow truck, I got stuck into researching a hire car so my (incredibly patient) friend and I could finish the trip. And this brings me to the Accent Active. The Yin.
Finished in what they call Crystal White, the $15,990 Hyundai is equipped with a 1.4-litre four and a CVT ’box. Mercifully, the fuel pump in this Accent worked just fine.
The radio touchscreen did as well. And the steering wheel. Which went left and right on command, but without any real weight or feel. The air-con was cold, though smelt like a urinal cake was installed as a pollen filter. I suspect this, however, is a hire-car thing and not a Hyundai thing.
As I transferred luggage from the Audi to the Hyundai, I cognitively compared the two and that $16 grand price kept battering away any real criticism. ‘Yes, but it’s only 16 grand,’ I would think, ‘Should you expect steering feel and a pleasant-smelling interior for that?’.
On the move, I discover the joys of the CVT are not joyous. It is a great deal like a slipping clutch. It does seem to move off the line quite well, but it is a lethargic box and refuses to calm down quite as quick as the throttle is lifted. It is noisy and a bit harsh, and I found myself wondering aloud if the smaller engine was worth the trouble as the CVT keeps it working quite hard. This became a reality when the fuel consumption wasn’t anything like a 1.4-litre should be.
The next flaw came in the absence of cruise control. Surely this should be mandatory as a safety feature in Australia! Surely. Radio controls were on the steering wheel, though, so there were at least buttons to push.
There was air-con, electric windows and the seats were nicely trimmed, though are really for short distances or the short-statured. Preferably both.
On the move, the car seemed to ride, steer and stop well enough in such a way as not to stand out – ‘It’s 16 grand! Calm down man!’ – and the Bluetooth streaming provided welcome audio relief from the drivetrain noise.
The dash seemed to be very well made, most of it was well made actually, and the general – first – impression was of a car above the lower price point this model holds. Touch the air-con controls, or the door trims, or the urethane steering wheel, however, and you realise this is a cheap small car. It is built to be a cheap small car, priced as a cheap small car.
After making the journey home, for $15,990 I thought I would have been happy to drive one of these. But then I remembered the VW Up with its availability of sat-nav, cruise control, rear parking sensors, and leather trim steering wheel. And I changed my mind.
The following week I did the same journey in a repaired Audi. Cruise control, space, silence, effortless power and extreme comfort couldn’t make the difference between Yin and Yang more acute. As told by an old Chinese proverb, the journey is the reward.