Over the years, we’ve gotten used to several tall claims and promotional overstatements from various car manufacturers, but some of them still manage to get our attention once in a while with hyperbolic statements about their new models. One such was Hyundai’s representation of its new Creta compact crossover on its global website, where it is called ‘The Perfect SUV’. It goes on to mention the crossover’s ‘iconic design’ and how it ‘commands authority’ like ‘auto royalty’.
Well, after spending a few days with the Creta, I can tell you that it’s far from the perfect SUV, nor is it royalty or an iconic design, and commanding authority from behind its wheel appears to be a futile exercise. However, there’s something else that I can tell you with conviction, and that is, the Creta is a finely balanced, good-looking crossover utility vehicle that is simply better than most of its rivals in the segment, like the Renault Duster and the Ford Ecosport. With this car, Hyundai really didn’t have to try this hard to convince potential buyers.
The Creta wears Hyundai’s latest Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language quite comfortably, with the lines not looking disproportionate from any point of view. The front takes cues from the bigger Santa Fe and the Tucson, with the same hexagonal treatment given to the radiator grille, while the waistline is sharper and less curvy than those two. In fact, the angular profile seems to have some similarities with the older Mercedes GLK, and the roof rails and side cladding add to its rugged posturing. The ground clearance is just right visually as well as practically, as it adds to the Creta’s confident stance while also making entry and exit much easier. However, the styling of the rear isn’t exactly in line with the rest of the body and the thick chrome trim above the licence plate looks a bit garish and out of place.
While the exterior design is decidedly SUV, Hyundai strikes the perfect middle ground between SUV and saloon when it comes to interior ergonomics, ride height and the driving position. The seats are large, wide and supportive for a vehicle of this size. The rear seats are also contoured and are more comfortable than the flat benches seen in some rivals. It’s pretty impressive how Hyundai’s designers have managed to free up this much room in the Creta’s interior considering its modest dimensions. Built well, the cabin also boasts better quality plastics than most other crossovers in this class. Storage spaces and cubbyholes abound with all four doors getting fairly large bottle holders. Carrying four adult passengers comfortably along with a reasonable amount of luggage will be just another day’s work for the Creta. The absence of all-wheel drive means the floor is flat, which makes it easier for a third passenger to be squeezed in, albeit for shorter trips.
Built in India, and with a suspension set-up presumably tuned to deal with the country’s famously pot-holed roads, the Creta glides remarkably smoothly over Dubai highways. Ride quality is excellent and comparable to SUVs a notch higher in segment and pricing. The fact that it shares its platform with Hyundai’s compact passenger cars gives it an edge in terms of handling, which is more car-like, with negligible levels of body roll and good straight-line stability. However, the whole experience is let down by the steering, which although light and easy for city driving and tight parking manoeuvres, is vague and lacks in precision and feedback at higher speeds. This is all the more disappointing as Hyundai has raised the bar in the steering department with cars like the new Sonata and Tucson.
The 1.6-litre petrol engine’s output of 121bhp and 151Nm of torque is adequate for urban duties and lazy highway drives, but if sudden acceleration is called upon, the four-pot screams its way up to the mid 5,000rpms, however still falls short of meeting the demand. But it’s relatively frugal, a 1.6-litre mill sipping just about 7.0 litres per 100km on average.
Being a Hyundai, it’s crammed with many comfort and safety features that are not available in other cars in its class, such as cornering headlights, an infotainment system with a 7.0in touchscreen interface, sat-nav, leather seats in the range-topping variants, keyless entry, push-button ignition, electric-folding mirrors and rear AC vents. Safety is taken care of by up to six airbags, which is also rare in the segment, a reversing camera, electronic stability control, and a body structure made of two types of high-strength steel, which Hyundai claims ensures better passenger protection. This is one of the best-equipped CUVs in this price range, but do not expect it to take you far out off the road, as all-wheel drive is not even an option and the ground clearance isn’t that high either.
And as it has been doing for a few years now, the Korean carmaker has priced it brilliantly well, with the base Creta starting at Dh49,900, which is as much as you’d shell out for a small hatchback these days or something like a Renault Duster, which isn’t as well equipped. Meanwhile, the top-spec variant retails for Dh68,900 — a good Dh1,000 less than the base price of a Ford Ecosport, which tops out at Dh85,000. That makes the Creta arguably the best value-for-money crossover SUV on the market today. And even if Hyundai doesn’t use words like perfect, iconic or royal to sell it, customers will find it difficult to turn away from the value it offers.