BENCHMARK! The word defines almost all Hyundai products currently on sale here in India. The upcoming SUV, the Creta, or ix25 as it is known globally is a similar story. Indian buyers have been preferring SUVs over sedans for a long time now with the C2 & D1 segments not really growing as expected. However, compact / mid-sized SUVs have really caught up in the Indian market really well. Right from the Ford EcoSport to the Mahindra XUV5OO, Indian customers now prefer a bigger car even as their daily ride.
This is a new segment for Hyundai, and yes, they are trying everything to get it right. The Creta hasn’t been launched yet, but given that there is an i20 Active in the market, this ix25 based crossover will surely charge a premium. Hyundai will launch the Creta in 4 variants – Base, S, Sx & Sx (O). Out of this, the diesel automatic will be available only in the Sx trim level. First mover in the segment with a 6-speed diesel automatic, Hyundai is looking at attracting even the convenience seekers who love slightly butch looks. Hyundai invited us for a quick preview of the Creta at their test facility within the plant in Chennai, and these are just initial impressions about the SUV. A detailed review will be out around the end of July 2015.
Based on the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, the Hyundai Creta is a good looking vehicle. At the front, you have a hexagonal grille with 3 chunky chrome slats and the Hyundai logo placed in between. Projector headlamps along with LED DRLs are again a segment-best feature and will surely attract those who love form over function. Below, there’s a unique, vertically stacked fog lamp with a similar designed fog lamp housing with a black surround. Below the grille, you have the air dam which is just like any other car and then there’s a silver skid plate below. Lower section of the bumpers get black body cladding. Bonnet gets subtle crease lines. Overall, the front end design does look premium and looks mature too. Unlike the Ford EcoSport which might turn out to be a bit too funky for the masses.
Come to the side, and the Creta looks like a downsized version of the Santa Fe. The A & B pilar is blacked out to give the roof a floating effect. There’s a bold crease line starting from above the front wheel all the way back to the tail lamp. Below, there’s a good amount of body cladding to take the beating when driving over roads unknown. Body cladding continues over the wheel arches as well. No side body moulding though. Door handles get chrome treatment and also house the true keyless entry button. 17″, diamond cut alloy wheels in the darker share look fantastic and add a lot more to the overall design of the car. Lower variants however get 16″ alloy / steel wheels. The Creta also gets silver roof racks to add to that SUV character. Compared to the EcoSport, the side profile is noticeably larger. And well, it should be since it is not a sub 4 metre SUV.
In all honesty, the rear end of the Creta is a bit quirky, and would not be to everyone’s taste. We’re glad Hyundai did not mount the spare wheel on the tail gate just for the heck of it. At the back, you get elongated, wrap-around tail lamps, not LEDs though. The number plate housing is the quirky part which is placed at the bottom end of the tail gate. Too add to the already quirky placement, it gets a garish chrome applique on top which really sticks out as a sore thumb. It would have been great if the number plate was housed in the rear bumper. Rear bumper also gets a silver skid plate in the centre, surrounded by black cladding predominantly. Body colour on the rear bumper is restricted towards the top section. Two reflectors have also been placed on either side for added visibility at night. Badging at the back includes a Hyundai logo, Creta badge, CRDi badge & variant badging. Tail pip is not visible unless you bend down to have a look. On top, you get a sharkfin antenna & a small roof mounted spoiler to wrap up the aesthetics department.
Overall, in numbers, we would rate the Creta an 8/10. Points deducted only for the quirky rear end design. Build quality is typical of Hyundai’s; not solid, but would last the distance. Also, there are noticeable & inconsistent panel gaps for example – between the tail gate & tail lamps. Placed side by side to the Renault Duster, the Creta might not really look larger, but is surely a well finished packaged. Renault really needs to make note of this and work on a much improved Duster facelift, or else, the Creta will crush the competition. Of course, till Maruti hits back in 2016 with the YBA.
There will be very few questions raised about interior quality & fit & finish in Hyundai products. As is the case with the likes of Grand i10, Elite i20; the Creta is build with top quality plastics which will surely last the distance.
At the front, you have a dual-tone, black & beige dashboard. Beige is seen on the face while the top & lower section is seen in black. Dashboard top is flat, for those who want to place perfume bottles or deity idols. The steering wheel wrapped in leather feels premium and gets integrated audio + telephone controls. Steering is also contoured to rest your thumb. Instrument cluster gets a twin-pot layout with the tachometer to the left, speedometer to the right & a MID in between. MID displays features such as speed, odometer, trip meter, gear shift indicator. However, basics like distance to empty have been given a miss. The top-spec SX (O) variant also gets a push button to start / stop the engine.
Centre console houses a 7″, touchscreen infotainment system with audio, video & navigation abilities. While functionality, touch response etc. was decent, the screen visibility was very poor. Even with brightness all the way up, we struggled to see what was displayed on the screen in direct sunlight. Sound quality from the 6-speaker setup is good, and even radio output was crystal clear. Hyundai offers full automatic climate control on the Creta, but the control knobs feel average. AC vents are vertically stacked and get silver accents. There’s a small cubicle below the AC controls where the Aux-in & USB inputs are also placed. Leather wrapped gear knob feels premium 7 gets subtle hints of chrome as well.
Leather seats are seen on the Sx (O) variant while the lower versions get fabric upholstery. Seats however are seen in black (+grey for fabrics). Seats are nice & cushiony & should keep occupants happy. View from the driving position is slightly higher compared to the hatchbacks, but not really a big deal that someone will take time getting used to. Coupled with seat height adjustment, it will be easier to find a suitable riding position soon.
Rear seat will surely be the talking points on the Creta. With 6′ 2” tall driver ahead, we have more than 2 inches of knee room left. Head room availability is also in abundance. The 5th passenger can be accommodated easily since the backrest is fairly flat even though there is a centre armrest in place. Footroom for the 5th occupant would be a bit less considering the rear AC unit protrudes a fair amount. There’s another charging point placed here below the AC vents. Rear windows are very small and even taller passengers will feel claustrophobic. There’s very little greenhouse at the back & the window sill comes almost close to your shoulder level.
Boot space is ample and can accommodate more than your weekend luggage. It can eat up 4-5 medium sized bags easily along with the recessed rear parcel tray where you can park oddities. On the display model, the spare wheel provided was an alloy, and we hope Hyundai continues this even on customer cars.
Plastic quality could have been improved for the sunglass holder & other minor spots which could have rounded off the overall package much better. Even the roof liner feels of the Grand i10 grade, could have felt a bit better.
Compared to the EcoSport & Duster, the Hyundai Creta is miles ahead in terms of quality. Both the previous competitors stand no chance when it comes to matching the fit & finish along with touch & feel. The Creta would soon become the car to beat in this segment, if priced right.
Engine, performance & handling:
At the preview event, we only had the 1.6L diesel versions available for a drive. Hyundai offers the Creta with 3 engine options:
- 1.6L, Gamma, dual VTVT, all-aluminium petrol motor producing 123 PS of power (6-speed Manual Transmission)
- 1.6L, CRDi, VGT diesel motor producing 128 PS of power (6-speed Manual & 6-speed Automatic Transmission)
- First in segment diesel automatic SUV
- 1.4L, U2 CRDi motor will also be available on base models with 90 PS (6-speed Manual Transmission)
NVH levels are fantastic. Fire up the 1.6L motor and it is barely audible inside the cabin except for the times when your moving and the turbo is spooling. Hyundai claims that they have made extensive use of dashboard insulators & anti-vibration pads to keep cabin noise under control.
Slot it in first and the 1.6L motor moves around very easily. Torque availability lower down the revv range is a boon within the city. Even with 5 healthy occupants on board, the Creta crawled effortlessly at city speeds. Also, the light EPS steering wheel helps a lot in stop & go traffic situations. Gearshift quality is also very smooth. The 2nd gear is good up to 80 kmph and can take care of city commuting along with short performance stints. Shifting at the optimum spot, you might even get some wheelspin in 2nd gear, just for fun.
Out on the highway, the Creta cruises at 100 kmph at a very easy 1,650 RPM, in 6th gear. Engine & wind noise was well contained unless you really pushed the car hard, closer to the redline. With 128 PS of power, the Creta is be the most powerful SUV in the segment and it is evident when you floor the pedal. However, there’s noticeable lag initially when trying to roll-on on higher gears from low speeds. Stay above 2,000 RPM and the car throttle input is crisp, and the Creta feels more than adequate for your model your occasional enthusiastic runs.
Manual gearbox is butter smooth, and coupled with a light clutch, the Creta is a very easily manageable SUV within the city. Travel for the clutch pedal is relatively lesser, making it easier on your left foot in traffic situation. Gear gates are well defined too. The 6-speed automatic however is still a bit lethargic. It is not even close to the likes of the VW DSGs, but then, that what a single clutch can do, not much. However, gear shifts are smooth and not jerky at all. Driving with a light foot, the 6-speed automatic is much better than the 4-speed automatic seen on the Verna. Diesel + automatic combination is likely to attract a lot of attention.
High speed stability is also acceptable and the SUV maintains balance throughout. We did not really get to test the car over rough roads, but the suspension setup felt decent to perform in the city & highways. However, the Renault Duster still is our favourite when it comes to ride quality. But compared to the EcoSport, the Creta is a notch above. With 5 on board, the rear end of the car squats down noticeably and there is a chance of scraping the bottom over speed bumps.
Braking performance comes from disc brakes at the front and drum brakes are the rear. Although this is adequate, missing rear disc brakes are a glaring omission. Hyundai has taken this feature out from the new Verna & i20 as well while the previous generation models had it. Under hard braking, the Creta has a fair amount of nose dive, but it stops in a straight line. ABS does kick in, but the shuddering is not felt prominently on the brake pedal.
Safety features are amongst the best-in-class with 6-airbags, ABS, ESC, ESM, HAC & immobiliser.
Overall, the Creta is now going to set a benchmark in the segment. With best-in-class features, superior quality inside-out, this new SUV from the South Korean manufacturer will surely eat into the sales of Ford EcoSport & Renault Duster. Even the Mahindra Scorpio could take some hit. In the coming months, post the launch, the Creta sales figures are surely going to be amongst the top sellers in the segment. Were you planning to buy a compact-SUV anytime soon? Do wait for a month and give the Creta a shot…