Five minutes. That’s how long it took me to figure out which Hyundai Creta I’d been testing without copping out and phoning the friendly press office lady. Mind you, it used to be worse than this…
Until a few months ago, it could’ve possibly taken me double that time to peruse press releases, download data cards or browse big brochures in search of the correct model. Why? Because it seemed like Hyundai had 16 engines, four transmissions and 22 trim or spec levels for each of their 900 SUV model ranges.
Cynicism aside, my point is that this Creta (plus a few other crossover types) were recently updated to keep the competition sweating, then panel-beaten into the current brand image, while being rearranged in terms of drive trains and spec levels to simplify the bewildering maze that is Hyundai’s current vehicle line-up.
There’s quite a bit of logic in this, plus concrete proof that Hyundai and their local representatives are thinking on their feet. Every gap in the crossover/SUV feeding frenzy is catered for. Every model has the right amount of fire power and best possible specs for the price. You get manuals and autos, petrols and diesels, 5- or 7-seaters, front- and all-wheel drives; catering for all tastes and budgets.
Plus they’ve been better distinguished from each other.
Although the compact crossover Creta still has a choice of three engines (this 84kW 1.5L four pot or a 90kW 1.6L mill) and three gearboxes (Manual, Auto or this CVT), every one of the four derivatives is only available with a petrol engine driving the front-wheel drive. This falls in line with a big German rival brand whose naughty Diesels have made a silent exit through the back door.
Turbo-diesel fans will have to pay up for the loosely-related Grand Creta (1.5D) or the visually-similar poster boy, Tucson, in 2.0D guise. It’s worth noting that big brother Tuc is almost double the price, while the 7-seater Grand Creta 1.5D is barely 50 grand more than this Creta 1.5 Exec. Even less in petrol form!
But back to our gleaming metallic red press vehicle, which cuts a daring figure with all its black and silver accent panels, stylish multi-spoke alloys and clean-cut interior. I personally loved Hyundai’s earlier two-tone efforts but the Saffa public quickly voiced their dreary wishes for an all-black affair.
And Hyundai S.A., in what has become their trademark, listened and complied.
So here we are: you can now buy this new Hyundai Creta 1.5 or 1.6 in manual or auto, probably in white or pearl white or off-white or silver (you rebel, you), with a full black pleather cabin. Most of them have ABS, EBD, ESP and other driver aids, a good handful of airbags, auto this and remote locking that, plus a few LED highlights or voice-controlled goodies.
I suggest making a large cup of coffee to peruse the latest price list. I did. Here you’ll also discover the highly competent media system with smartphone integration, touch-sensitive display but – praise the Heavens – plenty of physical shortcut, skip and volume controls. The air-con/ventilation controls are very basic. Do with that information what you like.
If you’d like me to get hyper-critical, I could probably poke some holes in a few door card textures or dashboard panel gaps, but it just wouldn’t be fair at this price point. For what you pay, there’s a decent amount of silver highlights, crisp instruments and cool backlight. The steering wheel also has sporty buttresses and premium stitching.
Leg- and head-room is OK for most adults but keep in mind that this is an affordable SUV for young families. Having typed that, you do get plenty of storage bins and charging ports around the interior, plus 60/40-split folding rear seats which extend the generous 420L boot space to almost 1400L. With a bit of care, you can pack a lot of items into this vehicle!
Other crucial criteria include 200mm of ground clearance, a 10.8m turning radius, 1175kg kerb weight, about 485kg of maximum payload, 215/60R17 tyres all around, 0-100km/h in about 12 seconds, 170km/h top speed, massive warranty and service plan, plus 6.3L/100km on average from the sizeable 50L fuel tank.
Most testers found the ride and handling perfectly acceptable for this class of car, leaning towards the more comfy side in the wake of its competitors’ huge alloys and sporty suspension setups. Cabin noise is kept to a pleasant minimum on all but extremely rough road surfaces while the drive train, umm, can get noisy.
A few years ago, the majority of buyers would’ve run a mile at the thought of a CVT (one gear fits all) type of transmission but Hyundai is one of the pioneering manufacturers who spent some time with theirs and given it elocution lessons. “Now listen here, junior. When they rush you, simply pretend to shift gears!”
And that’s basically what this car does when trodden on. Instead of camping out near its throaty engine’s red-line forever – which is what any engineer would want – this gearbox was retrained by the marketing department to simulate ratio changes. It does this with relative success and conviction, while sticking to the naturally-breathing motor’s optimum power band.
So there we go. The gap-filling Hyundai Creta has been shaped and moulded into an even better version of itself with improved looks and gadgets, plus a tempting combo of drive train and versatility. Your only agonising choice is which model to choose; and what shade of white yours should come in?