Hyundai has 2 successful offerings in the SUV segment—the Tucson and its larger sibling, the Santa Fe. In recent years, Hyundai has seen a major change in its design philoso–phies (much like their Japanese competitors), and have come out with pretty and more functional versions of these two SUVs (as well as their other offerings, the Sonata went from bland to breath taking real fast). So, what was Hyundai missing?

Before we answer that question, there’s something you need to know, many automobile manufact–urers design cars with what I call “The Ladder Concept.” This is basically a way to pull in customers at a lower price point to build loyalty, and then slowly transition them to better and better models. This is something Suzuki does exceedingly well. Thus, each model acts as a step in the ladder, letting you climb higher and higher in terms of the vehicle you drive. You have to remember, that at a higher price point, people are heavily swayed by brand perception, so converting someone from one brand to another is very hard. Its much easier to hook people in at a lower price point, when price and features player a bigger role. So if you are confident that your lower end product can “hook” a customer, its only a matter of time that you can transition them to better models in you line up (as the customer themselves develop financially).

So getting back to the question, what was Hyundai missing? An cheaper entrant to their SUV line. But not any more. Meet the Hyundai Creta, launched in January 2018. The Creta has been killing the competition in India in the compact SUV segment, quickly rising to be the segment leader—praised for its refined design, premium interiors and well tuned engine. So the Creta isn’t some newbie, with its hands in its pockets, waiting in the corner, its a tried & tested warrior that comes roaring onto our roads demanding a closer look. So that’s what we did.

Exterior

The compact SUV market is crowd–ed. You’ve got the boring looking ones, you’ve got the eccentric look–ing ones, and you’ve even got a few that look pretty good. So where does the Hyundai Creta fall in this spectrum? That’s easy, it is most definitely a good looking piece of machinery. Looking like a mini version of the new Santa Fe, and built with the Hyundai Fluid design philosophy, the Creta’s beauty is in its balance. The large chrome grille provides “bling” to the front face, but the lack of additional chrome highlights and unnecessary embezzlements, lets the vehicle transition from being at home in front of a night club, a library, or parked next to a rugby match.

The wrap around headlights stay snug against the body, creating a continuous flow from the face to the side profile, which maintains the design ideology seen in the front. This may seem like common sense, but I can’t tell you how many cars are on the roads today that look completely disjointed, with the front, side and rear looking like 3 completely different vehicles. The black trim seen in the lower front bumper runs along the wheel arches, across the side skirts and to the rear, where the wrap around tail lights pull the eye along seamlessly.

Unfortunately, the rear isn’t quite as pretty as the front, and does look a little boxy when you look at it strai–ght on. Having said this, it doesn’t look like a hearse or the back of a van (something a few European SUVs are guilty of), so my mild dis–appointment here may be unfair. As I’ve said before, its quite hard to make the back of an SUV look good, there’s just too much space.

Something you have to come to terms with when dealing with compact SUVs is the diminishing window size as you go from the front the back. Instead of dropping the roof line dramatically, the Creta balances it by increasing the door height, probably one of the better ways of dealing with this that I’ve seen.

Interior

Comfortable. If I had to sum up the interior of the Creta, I’d say it was comfortable. From the dual tone dashboard, to the matching trims, from the simple yet well intuitively organized centre console, to the multi-function steering which controls everything you’d need as a driver, it all feels comfortable. The hard plastic doesn’t look or feel flimsy, and I suspect won’t wear out very quickly either.

The Creta isn’t a vehicle that you need to get used to, as soon as you get it, it’s all very easy. Aesthetic–ally, it may be a a little boring, with no real special frills or mind blow–ing high tech features, but given its Rs.9.75Mil price tag and its purp–ose, I think thats fine. The Touch screen infotainment system inclu–des bluetooth, which is a must have these days, with sufficient wattage from the stereo system that you don’t really need to worry about changing it out.

Of course you get a smart key with push button start, again, like the bluetooth, something that we’ve come to expect in this category. You’ll also find that the Creta is quite spacious even though it is “Compact”.

In the back, you get sufficient legroom, but headroom might be a bit lacking if you are over six foot. For most of us though, its more than enough. This isn’t an issue unique to the Creta, its the curse of the Compact SUV in general. You do get a 12v socket back here and there are A/C vents, which makes it functional and comfortable for your passengers as well. Storage-wise, plenty of cup holders and little spaces to keep your stuff, including a nice smart phone sized surface in front of the gear shift. In the back, with the seats up, you get 402 litres of space, with the rear seats folding down to boost that significantly. The Creta isn’t best in class for boot space, but coupled with the rest of the interior, not much to complain about.

Performance

I’ve been pretty clear so far that the Creta is a great compact SUV. Now, that’s not changed, but I am a little unhappy. Let’s first look at the specs, you get a 1.6L Dual VTVT Petrol engine paired to a 6 speed automatic gearbox. It pumps out about 126BHP with 151Nm of torque. All good numbers. What I don’t like is that those horses come galloping out at 6,400rpm, and max torque is achieved at 4,850 rpm. Though the Creta doesn’t employ CVT gearbox, the numbers make it feel like it does. This is reflected a little in the drive as you get a lot of engine rev before you get much go at stop and low speed starts.

HOWEVER, before you turn your nose up at the Creta because you think its all whine and no go, I must tell you that its not the case. The Creta has go, and plenty of it. Going from 0-100km/h in about 10.3seconds, you’ve got all the oomph that you need for Sri Lankan roads. Overtaking isn’t an issue, as power comes through well if you are already going above 30km/h. If you are a half decent driver can expect to get your fuel economy levels between 12km/l to 15km/l in moderate city driving and closer to 17km/l, if you head out of the major areas.

The ride is pleasantly comfortable, the suspension (McPherson struts with Coil Springs in the front and Coupled Torsion Beam Axle with Coil Springs in the back) do a great job handling the typical Sri Lankan road. It also has what I like to call ride confidence. Its stable at speeds of 100km/h and the brakes aren’t twitchy, responding well even when you slam your foot down.

The great thing about these compact SUVs is that they often behave like sedans or hatchbacks, but give you a better driving position, which is the case here as well, you feel “tall”, which makes maneuvering the Creta very easy.

Conclusion

The Rs.9.75Mil price tag is pretty great. This is very much a slightly up market, above average compact SUV. Hyundai has come along way over the years and do hold second hand value, so if you are in the market for something like this, you need to call the Hyundai Lanka team (info below) and go for a test drive. It wasn’t India’s 2016 Car of the Year for nothing, and its still one of the top 10 selling models in that country.

It isn’t what you’d call a driver’s car, you don’t have the amazing feel of the road and the joys of man (or woman) melding with machine. But, if you are looking for that kind of vehicle and you expect it from a compact SUV, well, you’ve hit your head. This segment is all about allowing people to be mobile, with the convenience of space and comfort for long and short trips. The Hyundai Creta easily delivers on all these points, and makes you look pretty good while doing it too.

Hyundai Lanka Contact Number:
+94 11 286 6866

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