Johannesburg - I didn't think I’d enjoy driving the recently refreshed Hyundai Creta because on paper it really comes across as a run-of-the-mill type crossover.

For me, its styling is too staid and on the inside it looks a few years older than most of the vehicles it’s competing with for sales. If I wanted a Hyundai crossover, I’d look at the new Kona, I thought.

Nevertheless, I spent a week with the fresh-faced Creta recently and the car completely changed my mind. The Creta has found more than 8000 homes in South Africa since its launch in 2017, so it’s popular to say the least. There must be something special about this car, though, that makes it such a hit, I wondered. (We’ll touch on this again later).

For 2018, the Creta’s exterior makeover comprises a new bolder front grille with a chrome bezel, a new front bumper with dual-tone finish and skid plates, new fog lamps and LED Daylight Running Lights, and a new set of roof rails with a lower profile.

The rump of the Creta has also been revised with slightly tweaked tail-lamps with LED inserts, repositioned reflectors and a new rear skid plate. The new Creta sports a fresh alloy wheel design too. 

Hyundai Automotive SA has kept the same derivative line-up, engine and gearbox choices, and specification configuration for the Creta range.

All three Creta derivatives are therefore sold with the ‘Executive’ level of standard features, which includes leather seats, leather-cladding for the steering wheel, multi-function remote controls for the Bluetooth telephone, sound and radio system, and a 20cm touch-screen display for the infotainment system.

The infotainment system in the Creta also offers an optional satellite navigation feature, which has to be activated with an SD card at a cost of R2522, and it will be worth it to have the maps integrated, I think, just for the convenience it offers.

Other convenience features in the Creta include air vents for the rear passengers, a rear armrest with cup holders, cruise control and rear park assist sensors and a camera that displays its images on the screen of the infotainment system. This came in really handy when parking in tight mall parking lots.

The engine and gearbox combinations used in the Creta range are:

Creta 1.6 Executive Manual – 4-cylinder 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine with a six-speed manual gearbox. The engine delivers maximum power of 90kW at 6300rpm, with torque peaking at 150Nm at 4850rpm. Fuel consumption for this model is a claimed at 7.9l/100km.

Creta 1.6 Executive Automatic – The same petrol engine as above, but coupled with a six-speed automatic gearbox. The claimed fuel consumption for this derivative is 8.4l/100km.

Creta 1.6 Executive Turbodiesel Automatic – This derivative uses a 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel engine, together with a six-speed automatic gearbox. Maximum power delivery is 94kW at 4000rpm and its torque peak of 260Nm is reached at 2750rpm.

Hyundai claims a fuel consumption figure of 7.4l/100km in a real-world, combined cycle for the diesel auto, but I achieved 6l/100km over a week-long test period. I didn’t drive with an economy mindset either, as I overtook where I needed to and enjoyed the acceleration that the vehicle had on offer where the road accommodated.

This is that special thing that I alluded to about the Creta. It uses such little fuel, but then is able to deliver such refined acceleration and pace that you’d think you’re driving a much more expensive SUV (not a front-wheel drive crossover).

I was equally impressed by the Creta’s ride quality and road manners. Hyundai says it has tweaked the suspension, giving the vehicle an increased caster angle to deliver more stable, smoother high-speed travel. You can feel this suppleness on the highway, as you glide along thanks to the ‘torquey’ nature of the diesel engine.

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It makes for a great family car too, with a spacious interior and boot that will happily swallow a pram, camp cot, numerous bags, and whatever you need to take for a weekend away or a trip to the coast.

It comes with dual front and side airbags for driver and passenger, and curtain airbags for protection of rear passengers. You’ll also get ABS and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) as standard.

VERDICT

The Creta comes in five colours: Polar White, Fiery Red, Sleek Silver, Marina Blue and Star Dust. But, whichever colour you choose, there’s only one derivative that you should consider buying, and that’s the range-topping diesel automatic version. I simply loved it, for its ride, its frugal nature and its relatively affordable pricing. 

The looks of the car grew on me, and the inside didn’t feel so dated thanks to the touch-screen audio system and airy cabin. Overall, I’d happily live with a Creta, particularly in times like these where the cost of fuel keeps on rising. A fuel efficient ‘big’ car like the Creta is just about perfect right now.