The Indian-made Creta spearheaded Hyundai's arrival in the South African compact family-car segment in 2017 and, by virtue of being one of the Korean brand's top-selling models, the crossover's popularity has arguably come at the cost of sedan sales (in particular). Our Indian correspondent, Paranjay Dutt, recently got to grips with the 2nd-generation Creta, which will be arriving in South Africa soon.
Did you know that, in India, Hyundai sold no fewer than 500 000 units of the 1st-generation Creta in the past 5 years? The Creta’s popularity has affected the hatchback-based compact SUV/crossover segment positively (since 2017, it's been joined by its Kona and Venue siblings here in South Africa), while, at the same time, luring customers away from sedans and larger family cars. Ahead of the 2nd-generation Creta’s arrival in Mzansi, we thought it’d be a good idea to give you a taster of what Hyundai has in store.
In its latest guise, the Creta has certainly shed its safe/unchallenging styling cues. The moment you lay your eyes on one, you’re bound to either like it (for its distinctive looks) or hate it (let’s be honest, is does not possess a conventionally beautiful face or rear). However, regardless of what you think, it can’t be denied that the Creta now looks more assertive. Its feature list has grown too, but most importantly, it comes with a new range of engine and gearbox choices. In short, the update has broadened the Creta’s appeal and, surprisingly, more focused as well. The 1st-generation model more than succeeded in breaking new ground for the brand; the new Creta is ready for a new challenge.
The Certa's rear styling is now more polarising to look at than the previous version's.
The biggest challenge for the new Hyundai Creta comes from within – in the form of its overall design. I say "challenge" because this is far from the most universally pleasing exterior execution you’re bound to see. At the front, it’s as if the Creta was styled to be a smaller version of the Hyundai Palisade (Hyundai’s extra-large SUV, which is available in selected markets only). The fascia arrangement is such that the headlamps are positioned unusually low (effectively half-way down the height of the car's nose, much like on the Nissan Juke), while the daytime running LEDs sit where most would expect the main lenses to be. The fog lamps, meanwhile, are placed with the indicators in the bumper.
That the front takes some time getting used is an understatement, but it’s also safe to say the Creta looks much better in the metal (especially from the rear, which in photos, looks, um, awkward). In reality, it’s thankfully far from that. For the India-spec car, you get LED tail-lamp clusters and an extra brake light mounted below the rear windscreen. The dual-tone bumper does its job in reducing the visual monotony and, as is the case at the front, the bumper-mounted lamps are still a touch too low... or is it just me?
What’s cooking inside?
The interior marks a major step-up and features a much more advanced infotainment system.
On the inside, the Creta continues with Hyundai’s tradition of offering fairly feature-rich cabins. The interior build quality is fair, but it makes up for that with a large panoramic sunroof and clean dashboard design. The onboard infotainment system comes with a 10.2-inch touchscreen (that conventionally sits under the new rectangular vents) and an 8-speaker setup by Bose. It won’t transform your in-car audio experience like, say, the Bowers & Wilkins in a Volvo, but it does sound better than most other factory-spec systems.
In addition to that, Hyundai also offers its suite of connected-car features. The suite is most likely market-dependent, but it does have some nifty features such as remote start, one-button call to emergency- and towing services, and the ability to cool the cabin even before you step inside the vehicle. Plus, if you fancy opening the large sunroof with a voice command, well, the Creta will happily oblige. For a vehicle in this segment, it’s hardly a surprise that also you get features such as a wireless-charging pad, ventilated seats, and so forth. Compared with the model it replaces, the Creta has grown marginally – in length, width, and wheelbase. The latter makes the cabin slightly more spacious.
What's it like to drive?
Based on the Kia Seltos platform, the Creta is now slightly larger in all directions compared with its predecessor.
Like the outgoing version, the Creta feels like a well-engineered compact family car. Its powertrain is not the most eager I've experienced, but it rides fairly well on most surfaces. It's particularly comfortable on tarmac and slightly less composed on uneven road surfaces, but, as long as you’re on the road, the Creta is pretty much at home.
The steering is quick and light, so the newcomer takes urban commuting and executing parking manoeuvres in tight spaces well in its stride. Out on the motorways, the Creta stays well-mannered. It’s not the most engaging or communicative driving experience, but if you do a lot of trips and happen to encounter long, sweeping corners along your routes, the Creta won’t disappoint. Sudden direction changes aren’t going to be fun, though, as the Creta is far from the perfect vehicle to hustle along a mountain pass...
Hyundai South Africa will likely announce the final engine line-up closer to the launch fo the model (in October); in India, the new range comprises a choice of 3 powerplants. There’s a naturally aspirated 85 kW 1.5-litre petrol unit, which is available in conjunction with either a manual or an optional CVT auto 'box. The one we have on test here is equipped with an 85 kW 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine (available in combination with either a six-speed manual – as seen here – or a conventional automatic). The third engine is a 1.4-litre turbopetrol unit, which is the most powerful of the trio (with peak outputs of 103 kW and 242 Nm) and mated exclusively with a dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The diesel version was the model to have in the previous version, the new diesel is smaller and has slightly less torque.
The 1.5-litre turbodiesel is noticeably quieter than before, although, on the downside, it feels a trifle low on gusto compared with the outgoing 1.6-litre mill. A quick look at the spec sheets does present that it’s down by about 10 kW and 10 Nm. But, like most new turbocharged diesels, it’s bound to be a happy companion on long trips. The manual gearbox is easy to use, and while the annoyingly placed armrest can be intrusive when shifting to 2nd from 1st, the engine’s ability to pull in almost any gear is notable.
Like the underlying platform and the other engines in the Creta's line-up, the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol is also shared with the Kia Seltos. And the range-topping motor is easily the one you’d pick if you want your Creta to be fun-to-drive. It’s got solid mid-range punch – it's tractable enough to make the Creta 1.4 Turbo an eager little runabout!
The Creta is much-improved in all departments, this bodes well considering how popular the previous model was in SA.
The sales stats don't lie – compact crossovers are wildly popular in the new-vehicle market. However, there always seems to be some sort of downside to them. Consider the new Creta, for example. It does everything well, but not anything that a similarly-sized hatchback can’t. Plus, while the idea of having larger wheels and a bigger glasshouse makes the Creta an appealing choice for those looking for a practically compact car with a (slightly) raised driving position, bear in mind there’s no all-wheel-drive option.
Which puts me on the spot, because, on the one hand, the Creta is just another crossover, but then again, it’s a really good one. And once you live with it, you're bound to appreciate it for the overall ease of use rather than its idiosyncrasies. Its engine isn't punchy, but sufficiently tractable, and the slightly raised ride height is handy when you're looking for a parking spot at your local park run. It’s familiar and makes you feel instantly at home. That’s astonishing for a new car, but then the Creta's always been like that.