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HYUNDAI CRETA

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Inspired by the ancient Grecian island of Crete, Hyundai’s latest addition to its growing SUV family, the Creta, impressed BERNIE HELLBERG at its recent media introduction in Hermanus.

By all accounts, the once thriving island of Crete was one of the most influential regions of Ancient Europe. Home to the Minoan civilization (2700–1420 BC), which is currently regarded as the earliest recorded civilisation in Europe, the island of Crete once was central to, and the main reason for, the burgeoning commercial prosperity of Grecian maritime power.

I did not ask Hyundai executives at the recent launch why Crete was the inspiration for the name of the brand’s smallest SUV. The Creta is neither a burgeoning powerhouse, nor is it particularly Mediterranean-looking in its design. I suspect that, had I asked the question, I would have received a well thought through response that evokes images of beauty and power and success. But, I did not ask, so I do not know. And, in the end, it does not really matter why this particular car got this particular name. What matters is whether the Indian-built SUV has what it takes to woo ever increasing numbers of compact SUV customers to part with their ever dwindling, and very hard earned cash.

Just because the compact sport-utility segment is currently the fastest growing of them all, and just because customers are spoilt for choice with at least eight other similar vehicles available to choose from locally, it does not mean that they will make the purchase lightly, or for just any new model. It is a tough market out there, and it is getting tougher.

WHAT IS THE CRETA UP AGAINST?

At the moment there are eight main competitors to the Creta, including: Nissan‘s Qashqai and Juke, the Opel Mokka X and Mazda CX-3, Suzuki’s SX-4 and the Jeep Renegade, and Renault’s WesBank South African Car Of The Year finalist, the Kadjar.

The Creta, says Hyundai’s marketing chief, Stanley Anderson, offers better value, more standard features, higher levels of comfort, and, in some cases at least, a better safety profile. He is right, of course. The Creta is a great offer on paper, and it seemingly beats the opposition hands down.

WHAT’S ON OFFER?

Hyundai undoubtedly spent the last few months twisting Korean arms to get the best deal possible on their new baby SUV. The fruits of their negotiating skills are abundant, and the Creta is packed with standard tech that includes details from tip to tail: fog lamps and ‘bending’ headlights; electric folding side mirrors and roof rails; a large touchscreen infotainment system with navigation; rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera; plus a multi-function steering wheel.

In terms of safety, there are six airbags and IsoFIX seat connectors, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, and a completely redesigned front- and rear suspension system that not only improves directional stability, but also the car’s general handling and ride comfort.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

Three models make up the Creta range. Two 1.6-litre petrol versions are available with either a six-speed manual (R319,900) or automatic (R339,900), while a brand new 1.6-litre turbodiesel auto only model rounds off the range at R369,900.

It is interesting to note that the Tucson enters the market at R379,900, pushing through the R534,900 mark at the top end.

Although it has a slight propensity for running out of steam at lower revs, Hyundai’s tried and trusted 1.6-litre petrol engine is well suited to the Creta, which, in manual guise, delivers a balanced mix of fuel consumption (7.9 l/100 km) and power (90 kW) that is ideal for this type of family SUV.

Does it beat all of its competitors in terms of power? Unfortunately not, as both the 2.0-litre Mazda CX-3 2.0 Dynamic and Mitsubishi ASX 2.0 GL offer 25 kW and 20 kW more power respectively, albeit it from much larger displacement engines. The turbocharged 1.4-litre turbo Mokka X also boasts 13 kW more grunt, at an attractive price to boot.

The range-topping turbodiesel derivative fares slightly better against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai 1.6dCi Acenta auto, delivering only 2 kW less power, although, at 260 Nm of torque, it cannot outgun the Qashqai’s 320 Nm.

This does not detract anything from the diesel Creta’s appeal though. At just over R60,000 less than the Qashqai, the Creta offers dollops of value, proven Hyundai reliability, a newer smoother auto transmission, and more standard spec.

All Creta models also get Hyundai’s 5-year/150,000 km warranty with an added 2-year/50,000 km warranty on the powertrain, and a 5-year/90,000 km service plan.

LAST WORD

Despite the fact that Hyundai has been selling the Creta in overseas markets since 2015, the arrival of the model in South Africa is likely to set the cat properly among the pigeons in the compact SUV segment. Creta looks good, is built solid, and will not cost you too much either – on the showroom floor, or at the pumps. If you are looking at an entry-level Tucson now, I would give the Creta a second look, it is worth it.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © HYUNDAI SOUTH AFRICA

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