A ROUND­ABOUT TRIP IN A HYUNDAI AC­CENT

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - MAIL - Sbongiseni Vi­lakazi Dur­ban

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.

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