Creta is offered in front-wheel drive only, but has a generous 190mm ground clearance.
Creta is offered in front-wheel drive only, but has a generous 190mm ground clearance.
Hyundai has launched its Creta into South Africa's hyper competitive compact-SUV market.

Having until now relied on the larger Tucson (formerly the ix35) and Santa Fe as its adventure-vehicle offerings, the Korean importer is a latecomer to this downsized segment but enters the fray with a keenly-priced and well-specced model range. The moniker derives from the Greek isle Crete, as per Hyundai’s convention of naming its SUVs after places.

The three-model Creta line up sells from R319 900 to R369 900, offering a more affordable alternative to the Tucson range which is priced between R379 900 and R543 900.

At 4270mm in length the Creta is smaller than the 4475mm Tucson but Hyundai’s space-optimisation gurus have done a notably fine job inside. The family-sized cabin has very generous head- and legroom for four or five adults, along with a reasonable-sized 402-litre boot that includes a full-size 16” spare wheel. The back seats flop down to increase cargo space.

The dashboard plastics are hard – not the more premium soft-touch type – but they’re nicely textured and the cabin has a smart look and feel.

The roomy interior’s well stocked and all three derivatives are Executive models that come standard with leather seats, cornering lights, a parking camera, and navigation, features which aren’t very common in a segment which includes rivals like the Mazda CX-3, Opel Mokka X, Jeep Renegade, and Nissan Qashqai, among others.

The Creta’s navigation and MP3/USB/Bluetooth infotainment system are operated by a large 20.3cm touchscreen, supplemented by buttons on the multifunction steering wheel.

Standard safety fare across the range comprises six airbags and ABS brakes (but no traction control) and the Creta achieved a four-star rating in Latin NCAP crash tests.

A smooth performer, but no fireworks

Available in front-wheel drive only (there are no plans for a 4wd version), this Indian-built Hyundai is offered in two 1.6-litre engine derivatives: a normally-aspirated four cylinder petrol and a four-cylinder turbodiesel.

The petrol, available in a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, ekes out 90kW and 150Nm for a claimed top speed of 165km/h(manual) and 169km/h (auto), while fuel consumption’s claimed at 7.9 litres per 100km for the manual and 8.4 litres for the auto.

An honest little powerplant with no fireworks, it’s a smooth performer that felt eager enough with two people aboard when I drove it at the media launch in Cape Town last week.

For those who plan to regularly fill that voluminous interior with passengers and luggage, and they can afford the higher pricetag, the torquier diesel is the better choice with its 94kW and 260Nm, and it also sips less fuel at a claimed 7.4 litres. It feels punchy and hums along smoothly, with little hint of any agricultural sound, and at sea level there’s no distinguishable turbo lag.

Riding on independent suspension and high-profile 16” tyres, the Creta distinguished itself on the rough dirt roads that were part of our driving route. It filtered out the worst of the bumps and the vehicle felt solid on the rough sections with no body judder, although the cargo cover in the boot rattled in both vehicles I drove.

At 190mm the ground clearance is higher than average for a crossover vehicle (higher even than the 172mm Tucson), helping to keep the Creta’s belly out of harm’s way on really rough tracks. This doesn’t translate into an overly top-heavy feel around corners and the handling is reasonably neat and nippy.

The electric power steering makes light work of taking tight corners but on straighter roads it’s not too good at self-centering, and the driver has to make small corrections to keep the vehicle in a straight line. Not a major issue, but it could become an annoyance particularly on long trips.


1.6 petrol Executive manual – R319 900

1.6 petrol Executive auto – R339 900

1.6 turbodiesel Executive auto – R369 900

Prices include a five-year/150 000km warranty and five-year/90 000km service plan.