Good morning, and welcome to another action-packed Shitbox Showdown! Today’s cars are, well, they’re cars. That’s for sure. And we’re going to discuss them, even though they’re the sort of cars no one ever discusses. But first, how did yesterday’s coupes do? Let’s find out:
Yowza. Almost no love for the little blue Crossfire, huh? Oh well. I still like it.
I’ll tell you what, though: If you all like boring white cars, have I got a treat in store for you! Today’s contenders are scenery, background vehicles in their own stories, generic cars used in advertisements to sell oil filters. Nobody ever thinks about these two, and that includes the people who own them. But in a way, that makes them perfect for flying under the radar. Not flying very fast, mind you, but with great stealth. Let’s take a look.
2005 Hyundai Accent GLS – $2,990
Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Sacramento, CA
Odometer reading: 158,000 miles
In the beginning, in the US at least, there was the Excel. And Americans looked upon it and saw that it was… not good. But they bought it anyway. The Excel begat the Accent, and it was marginally better. At least it held together until the payments were up. The Accent wasn’t infamous for being wretched like its predecessor; in fact, it wasn’t known for anything, really. If you thought about it at all, you probably though of it as the store-brand version of a Tercel.
And really, that wasn’t far off: the Accent felt generic as well, with a basic little four-cylinder engine powering the front wheels through either (in this case) a five-speed stick or (if you absolutely insisted) a four-speed automatic. It made adequate power, got decent fuel economy, and didn’t break down too often. The Hyundai Accent has been for sale for a quarter century in various forms and has not once managed to distinguish itself in any way. You have to admire that sort of consistency.
This Accent is in good condition, wearing its 158,000 miles with dignity. It’s a pretty fancy model too, with air conditioning and a CD player. It still has crank windows, though, and that’s fine for a car like this. Power windows are just one more thing to break.
Unfortunately, it’s not the “good” bodystyle; Accents were available (and popular) as a three-door hatchback, with a surprising amount of cargo space. This one fell victim to the Great Small Car Sedanification that occurred in the 1990s and 2000s, when hatchbacks started to be seen as “cheap” and small car buyers in America somehow got conned into buying less practical three-box sedans like this. But what’s done is done, and this car’s first owner chose the wrong style, and we’re stuck with it.
2005 Dodge Stratus SXT – $3,500
Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, FWD
Location: Sacramento, CA
Odometer reading: 150,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does
The Chrysler “cloud cars,” successors to the long-running but much-maligned K cars, were likewise ubiquitous, and largely forgettable. In fact, you may have been handed the keys to one of these without even realizing it; the Dodge Stratus was a common rental car in its day. This very car could have ferried you anonymously to a convention in Des Moines and you wouldn’t have even noticed.
This Stratus is powered by the same 2.4 liter four that has propelled a million PT Cruisers. It works fine, and holds up pretty well. It sends what power it has to an Ultradrive four-speed automatic; these had a bad reputation early on, but by 2005 the kinks were fairly well ironed out, as long as they were properly maintained.
Speaking of well-maintained, this Stratus looks pretty damn good for 150,000 miles. I mean, it’s all freshly Armor-Alled and vacuumed and waxed, but that stuff can only go so far. Something weird might be going on with the power window switches, and there is a hole worn in the carpet, but other than that it doesn’t look abused or neglected.
The seller says it runs well, everything works, it just passed a smog test, and it has new tires. You could do a lot worse for basic transportation. It’s not exciting, or luxurious, but it’s not unpleasant either. It’s just a decent midsized four-door sedan.
I’ve always been of the opinion that it doesn’t matter what you drive, or how you drive it. What matters is where you go, and with whom, and the memories and stories you create along the way. These cars may be boring, but take one on a trip to the Grand Canyon and it will show up in the background of your photos twenty years from now, and you’ll remember stopping in that rest stop with all the creepy scorpion paperweights for sale, or cranking up the stereo and singing along to that silly B-52s song. Or whatever. The point is, if you can’t have fun with a “boring” car, you’re not trying hard enough. So which one will it be?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
I haven’t looked, but surely someone has already posted Will Ferrel’s “I drive a Dodge Stratus!” already?