A ROUNDABOUT TRIP IN A HYUNDAI ACCENT
I appreciate the concept of overlanding, but in reading Leisure Wheels I’ve discovered that driving for pleasure can be undertaken in any type of vehicle, not just specialised SUVs. The February 2017 issue of your magazine, in particular, was a mindbender for me. Reading about a Porsche 944 and Suzuki Super Carry used in vastly different but equally unexpected ways, made me realise that driving can be fun whatever vehicle you’re in.
So it was with great excitement that I prepared to take a trip from Durban to Swaziland to attend the birthday party of a good friend. Little did I know what adventure lay in store. The first surprise came when I saw the vehicle I had been allocated at the car rental. My own vehicle is a 2.4l Jeep Patriot and with its thirsty engine and to keep the services at bay, I find it more economical to rent a smaller vehicle for longish trips. This time I was given a Hyundai Accent 1.6-litre six-speed manual hatch. Yoh! (as we say in the township). Its sporty looks, flowing lines and low profile 16-inch tyres had me smiling and were those rear PDC sensors I saw? Yes! Yoh, yoh, yoh!
The interior did not disappoint. The multi-functional steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, driver and passenger airbags and front and rear electric windows won me over instantly. Next was the space. I had been concerned when I saw the hatch because I was travelling with my two musketeers – my son of three and his five-year-old sister, both needing car seats. I need not have worried.
The vehicle handled admirably. We got out the house in Durban at 4:30am on Friday, and I managed to get a good feel for the spunky hatch on the N2 north before the road got busy. We got to the border post at 8am. I was impressed with the
time we had made and had a full day of activities planned for Swaziland, but it was not to be.
My daughter’s passport had expired earlier in the month. What? It had not occurred to me to check. Was there anything they could do to help? No, My popularity rating with the musketeers seemed headed for an all-time low.
I related my plight to the SAPS officer to whom I handed the gate pass, and he suggested I go to Home Affairs in nearby Pongola to try to get an emergency passport. This presented a glimmer of hope, which was unfortunately swiftly extinguished. Despite her affidavit agreeing to the kids going across the border, without their mother, an emergency passport could not be issued. Being a parent to a pair of Energizer bunnies requires great resourcefulness to be able to keep them occupied, and I am well practiced. If we couldn’t go to Swaziland, we’d visit my sister in Joburg who has two daughters of similar ages. I explained the situation to them, presented the alternative, and it was accepted with great excitement.
So, having travelled 400km from Durban to Golela to Pongola, we set off on the approximately 450km journey to Joburg. I was impressed that in Pongola, the fuel gauge hovered just below the half-tank mark. This was a hatch after all, with a fuel tank of only 43l and, mindful of the 1.6-litre engine capacity, I expected the gauge to be closer to empty. However, it seemed to live up to the manufacturer’s claimed combined cycle consumption of 6.4l/100km.
Travelling from Pongola to Joburg was five hours of pure bliss. The vehicle was an absolute pleasure to drive. Its low centre of gravity made it feel surefooted on the many bends we encountered and the available 91kw of power and 156Nm of torque made acceleration and overtaking a joy, especially on the inclines as the altitude increased.
Singing along to the music of Crazy Frog and nursery rhymes we were a merry bunch as we edged closer to our destination. Following a stop at a roadblock, we had an entertaining debate on whether police arrested ghosts and what the ghosts ate in prison (something that seemed to weigh heavily on the mind of the three-year-old).
We arrived in Randburg at 5pm, 12-and-a-half hours after leaving home. On Saturday morning my sister took all the kids out, while I spent the morning wondering whether I should still be going to Swaziland. If I did, it would be the equivalent of going from Durban to Swaziland and back to Durban (the original plan) not once, but at least twice. This meant double the cost as well as the exertion. I decided that I did want to go to the party. This was, after all, my best friend from childhood. So at 3pm I pointed the nose of the Accent east and got on the R24, N12 and N4 on the 400km trip to Ezulwini, Swaziland. The party was due to start at 6pm and being on my own, I got the opportunity to put the Accent through its paces. Wanting to make the most of the remaining daylight and the open road, I maintained an average speed close to the speed limit.
Again the little Hyundai handled itself like a star. I found the gearbox highly responsive, and the six gears allowed the vehicle to do high speeds at relatively low revs. Being used to my Jeep Patriot auto and five-speed manual Toyota work bakkie, I found myself on many occasions forgetting to engage sixth gear and straining the engine – and negatively impacting fuel consumption – unnecessarily. But I soon got the hang of it. I also found that the vehicle’s light weight became an issue at high speeds. There were times when I encountered crosswinds or sharp bends and the vehicle felt like it would get out of control if I went any faster.
Turning off the N4 and heading south to Carolina, I needed to reduce speed considerably to avoid the gaping potholes on this road. After Carolina, the road got much better and soon delivered me to the N17 which took me to the Swazi border. I went through the border with no incident (phew!), and got to the party venue in Ezulwini at 7pm. What a relief.
The less said about the party, the better. Let’s just say I managed to get to bed by 4am. I got up midmorning, took the time to visit family and friends, and then headed back to Jozi. I left Mbabane at 6pm and made it to my sister’s place in Randburg just after 11pm. I got a good six hours of sleep and at 7am on Monday, the children and I started on the 600km trip back home.
With no need to rush, and mindful of the speed traps, we had a leisurely drive home. In between more music from Crazy Frog, more interesting debates and several bouts of sleep for the musketeers, we got home to Durban around 3pm. When I handed the vehicle back to Tempest, the trip meter recorded 2 349km from the time I took the vehicle to its return four days later. We could have driven from Durban to Cape Town and almost halfway back! From never having thought much of the Hyundai Accent, it is now one of my firm favourites. I’m looking forward to the next trip, and I’ll be sure to ask for the little gutsy hatch by name.