Hyundai Creta is 20cm shorter than the Tucson but still impressively spacious.

Johannesburg - What do you do when you’re Hyundai and your Tucson becomes South Africa’s best-selling medium SUV? You launch another, cheaper SUV, of course.

Inspired by the Tucson becoming not only the market leader in its class, but Hyundai’s most popular model range in this country, the Korean brand recently launched its Creta SUV range to feed this country’s seemingly insatiable appetite for station wagons with raised ride heights.

The Creta fills a slot, both price and size-wise, below the Tucson and the larger Santa Fe. Built in India, the three-model lineup sells from R319 900 to R369 900, offering a more affordable alternative to the Tucson which will set you back between R379 900 and R543 900.

Like the Tucson, the Creta comes with a five-year or 150 000km warranty and five-year or 90 000km service plan.

The three Creta variants are Executive models with above-average levels of comfort and gizmos for this segment including navigation, dual-tone leather seats, cornering lights, a parking camera, and a MP3/USB/Bluetooth infotainment system operated by a 20.3cm touchscreen, supplemented by buttons on the multifunction steering wheel.

The large touchscreen is easy to use and legible, and I really liked its high-definition clarity. You can pipe music through the system via Bluetooth, USB and AUX ports, and families don’t have to fight over who gets to charge their cellphone as there are also two 12V power sockets.

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

Ground clearance sits at a decent 190mm.

The hard dashboard doesn’t have the squishy plastics that so help to raise the level of perceived smartness in modern cabins. It doesn’t radiate quite the upmarket feel of the Tucson, but in general the Creta’s interior is neat and modern and there aren’t any too many shortcuts in terms of build quality.

Storage space inside the cabin is not only plentiful but well thought out in terms of practicality; for example the nook in front of the gear lever which is perfectly-sized for a large smartphone – much better than having the phone sliding around in a door pocket as you have to do with some cars.

Rear passengers get the comfort of their own rear air vents and a rear centre armrest with cup holders, along with prodigious amounts of legroom. Though the Creta’s smaller than the new Tucson (4.27 metres vs 4.47 metres long) it’s impressively spacious and people aren’t squeezed together like sardines. There’s also a full sized spare wheel in the decent-sized 402-litre boot, and the back seats flip down to accommodate larger shopping expeditions.

Well-stocked cabin gets two-tone leather seats and a crystal clear touchscreen display.

The Creta is available with a choice of two engines: a 1.6 petrol with outputs of 90kW and 150Nm (in six-speed manual or auto choices), and a 1.6 turbodiesel (auto only) which sends 94kW and 260Nm to the front wheels. No all-wheel driver version is available.

We test-drove the diesel version, in our view the better choice for its big torque advantage and superior fuel consumption: the petrol auto is rated at 8.4 litres per 100km while Hyundai claims the diesel auto sips 7.4 litres per 100km. Interestingly our diesel test vehicle easily beat that, recording 6.9 litres – it’s almost unheard of to beat the factory-quoted fuel-consumption claims.

Along with its unthirsty nature the diesel Creta has a decent turn of pace. It gets going without any notable hesitation, never feels underpowered around town, and cruises easily on the freeway. The gutsy torque will also deal with heavier passenger/luggage loads easier than the petrol.

Lofty ride height

The vehicle’s a generally quiet performer except for the engine sounding a little gruff under acceleration, but it settles into a more refined hum when cruising.

The front wheel drive Creta doesn’t have any cross-country aspirations but at a lofty 190mm it has superior ground clearance to most crossover vehicles in its class (it’s even higher than the 172mm Tucson). This, combined with its high-profile 16” tyres, gives this Hyundai a better-than-average appetite for gravel roads where it has good bump-smoothing ability.

The elevated ride doesn’t turn it into a sloppy handler and it gets through turns fairly neatly, without excessive body roll.

Driving it is easy, even for the dainty-armed, with electric power steering that makes light work of cornering and parking this fair-sized vehicle. However on straight roads the steering has the slightly annoying characteristic of not self-centering completely, requiring small corrections to keep the vehicle in a straight line.

VERDICT

The Hyundai Creta is a roomy, well specced and well-priced (particularly in petrol guise) alternative to the larger Tucson.

The range-topping R369 900 Creta diesel is a tough one to call however, as its price strays quite close to Tucson territory. This vehicle’s competitively priced against oil-burner rivals from other brands (see below), and though the engine is superior to the Creta petrol it’s at 30 grand extra.

Those not particularly hung up on the darker fuel or an auto gearbox may opt to rather spend ten grand more on the entry-level Tucson 2.0 Premium petrol manual (115kW/196Nm).

FACTS: Hyundai Creta 1.6 turbodiesel Executive AT  

Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
Power: 94kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 260Nm @ 2750rpm
0-100km/h (Claimed): 11.9 seconds
Top speed (Claimed): 179km/h
Price: R369 900
Warranty: 5-year/150 000km
Service/Maintenance plan: 5-year/90 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Kia Soul 1.6D Samrt AT100kW/300NmR431 995
Nissan Qashqai 1.5cDi Acenta81kW/260NmR382 900
Renault Kadjar 1.5 Dynamique81kW/260NmR394 900

Follow Denis Droppa on Twitter @DenisDroppa

Star Motoring