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There have been very few new cars that have managed to create as much buzz around itself as the new Hyundai Creta. Ever since the first test mule was spied, the discussions have raged on various automotive portals across the interwebs. Makes one wonder, what’s so special about the vehicle in question anyway? Is it groundbreakingly different? No. Then what’s the fuss about?
You see, Hyundai’s brand value has gone from strength to strength over the years. Hyundai has been amongst the few low-cost car makers to have presence beyond the 10 lakh rupee segment. And it has happened purely because of perseverance. The first generation Tuscon and Terracan were colossal failures. Slowly but surely, by upping their game one step at a time, Hyundai has managed to convince the Indian masses that the slanted H, can be premium if it wants to.
Now, another thing the Indian masses are strangely convinced about, is that they need a beefy looking small SUV which is livable with, on a daily basis. And it was Renault that drew first blood with the Duster which remains amongst the highest selling in its class. The only legible rival to the Duster was Ford’s Ecosport. Both of these cars sell because they essentially follow the same design principle, which seems to be ‘Shrink the SUV’. Hyundai has joined the fray with the Creta, a muscular looking, brawny compact-SUV wanting to turn the segment on its head and rewrite the rules. Does it succeed? Read on..
One thing’s for sure, it looks the part. There’s absolutely no denying the fact that the Creta is possibly the best looking vehicle in its segment. While looks are extremely subjective, the clean profile and flowing lines on the car are really hard to dislike. The Creta, is based on Hyundai Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 philosophy, which has matured as the time has passed. There are no ungainly flares or bulges anywhere on the body. Just nice, well defined proportions and sharp character lines to match.
One of the first things that grab your attention are the gorgeous 17” Diamond cut wheels on the top-spec SX (O) version. The design and the finish look ever so classy and it really fills up the wheel wells nicely. The diamond cut wheels stand out even more on the lighter shades, giving it a nice contrast in the process. As with most Hyundais, the Creta has a relatively high waist line that meets the wrap around tail-lamps. It wrestles for space with the rear windows and ends up pushing the window line higher than most would’ve liked. The rear window does seem a size smaller than preferred. Other than that, as is the norm in this segment, the Hyundai wears a pair of roof-rails which I think it could’ve done without. But it does manage to lend the Creta some extra mm’s of height making it look taller than it actually is.
The front is aggressive, marked by large projector lamps. It also gets a neat set of daytime running light at the base of the headlight. The Creta wears the trademark hexagonal Hyundai grille, with horizontal chrome slats, that sit in line with the edge of the bonnet. The bonnet itself is devoid of excessive creases or power bulges, just a couple of mild lines emanating from the tip of the headlamps. The rather large bumper houses vertically aligned foglamps housed in a neat trapezoidal cluster.
The rear might not be to everyone’s taste. The design that started off so well tends to look lost as it moves past the C-Pillar. The split tail-lamps have a minimalistic design and look neat. While the subtle spoiler looks near, what is a definite turn-off, is the chrome strip above the number plate area and the area itself. It looks a tad bit out of place on the tail-gate and might have looked at home on the bumper. And yes, it gets the obligatory black cladding that envelopes the lower half of the car with some dull silver skidplates both at the front and the rear.
Now, the Creta may not be as butch looking as the Renault Duster, it isn’t as soft as the Ford Ecosport. Well, the Creta isn’t exactly a beautiful car. But, it isn’t ugly either. What it definitely is, is striking! It is amongst those ‘Love it or Hate it, you simply can’t ignore it’ designs. It does look like a sized down Santa Fe from the front, but other than that the Creta has it’s own lines to flaunt.
It’s the usual Hyundai fare on the inside. The interior is predominantly black, with beige thrown in to add that premium touch. I really like how the beige runs from door-pad to door-pad passing the centre of the dashboard while it does so. The dashboard itself has a lot of cuts & creases making it look busy. However, there’s no room for complaints when it comes to fit and finish. The Creta’s interior can be termed premium, more so when you compare it to the Duster. And as is the case with most modern Hyundais, the interiors are loaded to the gills with kit.
Before we get on to the tech on offer, let me point out that the Creta scores extremely high on utility. There’s a recess in front of the gear lever and a couple of cup holders right next to the handbrake. There’s more storage inside the central armrest and the door bins will accommodate a 1 litre bottle and some folded magazines. There are thoughtful inclusions, like a sunglass holder under the map lights and hooks on the rear grab handles for your coats. There’s a rear armrest with cup-holders as well, that is standard across the trim levels barring the base version. A 60:40 split seat is available on the diesel automatic variant of the Hyundai.
At the heart of the centre console sits the touchscreen music system with navigation on the top-spec Creta. This touchscreen unit is coupled with 6 speakers (including 2 tweeters upfront). The base Creta however has to make do with a standard 2DIN music system with CD, USB, and AUX options. There’s no Bluetooth on the Base trim, while the top-spec SX (O) variant skips out on the CD player. The touchscreen is quite responsive to input and wouldn’t really frustrate you as much as say, the one on an XUV5OO would. It is intuitive to use and it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out how to work the system.
The automatic climate control, or FATC (Fully Automatic Temperature Control) as Hyundai calls it is easy to use, has a legible display and not to mention, is properly effective. We got to test the effectiveness of the air-con even when the temperatures hit 40 degrees. The cabin did get cooled down relatively quickly.
The rear air-conditioning is standard across all variants and helps immensely in cooling the rather large cabin of the Creta quickly.. The vertically stacked central AC vents might not be the best idea Hyundai could’ve had. The one to the right of the screen, more often than not ends up chilling just the steering wheel. It can be quite a task to get the air-flow past the steering and onto the driver. It also gets a mood change bar, which essentially is a strip of light that sits above the air-con control and changes color you raise or lower the temperature.
The seats on the Creta are upholstered in leatherette or fabric, depending on the variant you choose. The leather seems a lot similar to the one used on the more expensive Elantra and feels rich. A similar material also finds it way on to the door pads and the armrests. The front seats are a nice place to be in. I do not really have any complaints with the front seat really, it managed to support my 6 foot build easily. Headroom is generous, and the seats have enough travel to get you into a comfortable position. If I really had to nitpick, the shoulder room is just about average.
The view is commanding and the seat is amongst the most comfortable ones out there. The driver get’s a steering wheel wrapped in faux leather. The unit itself is identical to the one on the Elite i20. Other than the Base trim, all other variants get steering mounted audio and call controls. The steering is light and nimble, but more on that later.
The rear passengers in the Creta might feel claustrophobic. The high window line, coupled with the dark interior doesn’t exactly make the cabin feel airy. While space is nothing to complain about, the rear bench could’ve done with a little more cushioning. The seat is reclined at a relaxed angle and gets a central armrest with cupholders as well. Over long journeys, the lower back might feel strained a little, but nothing to complain about.
Bootspace is healthy at 402 litres as well. The loading area is nice & flat, and not very high off the ground. Loading in the weekend luggage shouldn’t be a problem at all.
The Creta does lose out on certain trademark Hyundai features such as the chilled glovebox, auto headlamps and auto wipers as well. Cost cutting is even more evident in the top-spec petrol, which is home to a gearknob straight out of a base Hyundai Grand i10 and a steering wheel which feels extremely plasticky and low rent. Also, features like the Supervision Cluster (Hyundai talk for Driver Info/MID) has been given the boot in the top-spec petrol Creta. While the top-spec diesel Creta won’t leave you short-changed, the petrol just might. None of the above omissions are deal breakers as such, but they do feel like they do not belong in a car you are shelling out close to 1.5 million for. Other than that, the Creta hardly leaves any room for complaints.
Before we get on to the engine options, the power outputs and other facts and figures - I’d really like to point out the ride quality on the Creta. The way the suspension soaks up the bumps and the potholes won’t be out of place in a class above the Creta. It also manages to ride relatively flat for a vehicle of it’s size. The body roll is well under control and the nose doesn’t dive like an eagle into the corners. While it isn’t really supposed to be a tool for attacking the twisties, it wouldn’t really disappoint you a whole lot if you actually chose to.
The feedback from the steering has definitely gone up a notch as well. It is far better than any other Hyundai on sale today. It is still light at lower speeds and weighs up as the speeds climb. To be honest, the light steering came as a boon in Mumbai traffic - where the last thing I needed after a tiring day was an arm workout. The light steering is extremely helpful while parking the Creta as well. Turning it in or out of a tight spot doesn’t require a lot of effort. While the steering doesn’t get as heavy with higher speeds as I’d have liked it, we can safely say Hyundai is taking steps in the right direction in addressing the vague steering response issue.
The Creta is offered with 3 engine options. All engines have been borrowed from the Hyundai Verna sedan. On offer is a 1.6 litre petrol, a 1.6 litre diesel and a 1.4 litre diesel as well. The 1.6 litre diesel gets an optional automatic transmission, while the others have to make do with 6 - speed manual gearboxes. I got my hands on the top-spec 1.6 diesel as well as the petrol. Let’s kick things off with the diesel now, shall we?
To start with, the NVH levels on the diesel Creta come as a pleasant surprise. The engine settles into a smooth idle once cranked and the thrum from the engine is fairly muted. Refinement levels deserve a special mention, the low NVH levels definitely sets the Creta apart from the likes of the Duster - whose diesel clatter tends to get annoying at times. The motor puts out 128PS of power and a healthy 260Nm of torque.
The Verna borrowed motor quickly hides the extra weight the Creta lugs around once you are firm with your right foot. As with most Hyundais, turbo lag is evident right upto the 1900rpm mark after which the power delivery is smooth. The abundance of torque lets you drive in one gear higher without creating a ruckus. The Creta is amongst those soft-roaders that do not require frequent downshifts. For example, you could glide over a speedbreaker at 15km/h in 2nd gear easily, without the engine feeling strained. Also, pull from low revvs is appreciable on the diesel motor.
The clutch is nice and light, but has a longish travel. The push and release of the clutch will never be a problem, but the travel just might in bumper to bumper traffic. Inside the city, the lag can be irritating, not letting you exploit that tiny gap in traffic you’d like to get through. You really need to be patient with the diesel Creta within city limits.
That said, the highways is where the Creta diesel really shines. It can do triple digit speeds all day long. It really, really can. While cars like the Elantra and the Verna could do similar speeds as well, it didn’t really inspire a lot of confidence in the driver while doing so. The Creta however, feels planted and does not feel twitchy.
The top-spec variant of the Creta petrol is the SX+. For the uninitiated, it is one trim level lower than the top-spec SX (O) diesel Creta. While there are a lot of omissions on creature comforts, the suspension and ride quality is identical to that on the diesel. So, let’s just focus on what’s under the hood.
The 1.6 litre petrol motor develops 123PS of power and 151Nm of torque. However, the power is at the top of the revv range. You’d find yourself constantly pulling the car in one gear lower than you should be in order to extract some fun out of it. The motor itself is slightly lethargic as well. It slumbers under 1500rpm and needs to be woken up with a heavy right foot. Overtakes need to be done while the motor is on the boil, preferably after downshifting a gear or two. Dancing out of your lane and planting the foot down simply won’t do. While you are revving the engine, some bit of engine sound does filter into the cabin, especially past 3500 rpm. This can be attributed to the lack of insulation under the bonnet. However, this sound is oddly pleasing and can be enjoyable at times too. Other than that, the Creta petrol isn’t the best when it comes to efficiency either. It nudged the 11 km/l mark while on test. The claimed mileage by Hyundai should be achievable on a highway run.
There are a host of safety features on offer as well. The top-spec SX(O) gets antilock brakes, six airbags, vehicle stability management (VSM) and hill start assist amongst others. While all of this is jolly good for the diesel Creta buyers, the treatment dished out to prospective petrol Creta buyers is nothing short of step-motherly. It not only misses on the driver aids, but also has to do with only the driver and passenger airbag. A Petrol SX (O) should've been on offer with all the boxes checked.
On the whole, the Creta doesn't disappoint when you drive it. It is more than happy to straddle around the city or chug along on road trips across states. The suspension set up and the ride quality is right up there with the Europeans and that in itself is a big compliment. While we would've loved a little more feedback from the steering, but Hyundai gets full marks for trying.
Which one should you buy? If you plan on using your new Creta occasionally, with not a lot of running look at the petrol. It's a nice compact SUV for the city. In case the running is substantially high and includes a lot of intracity drives, pick the diesel AT. However, our favourite Creta continues to be the Diesel MT in the SX(O) spec.
What Hyundai has done is appreciable. There's a Creta for every kind of use and every size of wallet. Let's go back to my opening question, does it manage to rewrite the rules and turn the segment around on its head? Well, Hyundai has had to halt export operations to meet domestic demands, ramp up production and there's a waiting period running into months on the Creta. The Creta has definitely caused a stir in the segment.
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