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Did you know the Hyundai Creta is one of South Africa’s bestselling compact SUVs? Its figures outnumber those of such popular staples at the Renault Duster, Toyota C-HR and Rush, and the Suzuki Jimny. Only the Mazda CX-3 and Volkswagen T-Cross are more popular than the Korean, and not by much.

It stands to reason Hyundai South Africa would be rather nervous to fiddle with a winning, albeit overly conservative, formula … which is why it’s surprising the update is such a radical departure. We drove the new model from Somerset West (where Juliet and I were flagged down by an impossibly stylish driver of an Audi Q5 to comment on our “lovely-looking vehicle”) through to Caledon and back via Grabouw; everywhere we went, the Creta drew either admiring glances, or puzzled stares.

IT’S CERTAINLY AN ACQUIRED TASTE…

I happen to think it looks great. Highlights include LED front and rear light signatures that appear nearly identical; a cool, full-width rear reflector strip; and a dual-tone paint treatment that’s standard on this flagship 1.4 TGDI and optional on two other models (more on the range in a bit). Less successful is the dour design of the 17-inch wheels, while the profile is a touch heavy-handed towards the rear.

THE RANGE

The 1.4 TGDI sits at the pinnacle of a four-model line-up kicking off with a new, naturally aspirated 1.5-litre in place of the 1.6 from the outgoing range. Power and torque are down but still sufficient at 84 kW and 143 Nm peaking at 4 500 r/min. It’s coupled with either a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission, and is offered in Premium (disappointingly, just two airbags on this one) and Executive trim.

Slotting into the middle of the range is a new 1.5 CRDi diesel engine shared with the Kia Seltos (read our review here). It musters up 84 kW and 250 N.m from 1 500-2 750 r/min (again, less than the outgoing 1.6-litre). Here buyers have no choice of transmission: just a six-speed automatic, which should pair very well with the powertrain if the Kia is any indication.

The TGDI, meanwhile, offers a compelling new addition to the Creta line-up. Its 103 kW and 240 Nm through 1 500-3 200 r/min, channelled to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, are ample. Hyundai SA doesn’t quote performance figures but this feels like a sub-10-second 0-100 km/h car. It’s smooth, too, but dip into the performance and fuel consumption suffers, Juliet and I recording 8.5 L/100 km on our (spirited) drive. Hyundai says 7.2 L/100 km is more accurate.

IS THE INSIDE AS RADICAL AS THE SKIN?

Not quite, but the interior is an obvious improvement on the previous model’s cockpit. Perceived quality is good (although the plastic shroud around the gear gaiter is disappointingly creaky, exacerbated by its placement in the exact spot where your left knee rests), the layout is as simple as you’d like and the view out is mostly unobstructed. All models feature a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay plus Android Auto, as well as PDC supplemented with a rear-view camera. Executive trim adds artificial leather upholstery – dual-tone on the 1.5 petrol and CRDi; black accented with red trim on the TGDI – LED headlamps and wireless cellphone charging. For the first time, reach adjustment is offered on the steering column and finding a suitably comfortable driving position is a cinch. Odd, though, that only manual air-con is fitted across the range.

Space in the second row is plentiful – legroom’s especially impressive and way beyond that offered by the new Volkswagen T-Roc I drove last week – and the luggage bay holds a claimed 433 litres, expanding to 1 401 litres with the 60:40-split rear bench folded and stowed.

HOW DOES IT DRIVE?

Unsurprisingly, completely conventionally. This is a reworked version of the previous Creta’s platform – shared with the Seltos – and majors in comfort. The ride is excellent, offering great absorption without wallowy handling (we tested it on gravel, too), and general refinement is impressive even at the sorts of hair-raising speeds Juliet drives on country lanes. The steering could do with a touch more weight but will find favour with the majority of buyers who use Cretas in urban environs.

VERDICT

The new Creta is an impressively sensible update of the outgoing range. If that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise, it’s certainly not my intention. I applaud Hyundai for scrutinising the previous model and identifying what worked (comfort, refinement, space) and what didn’t (frumpy looks, bland cabin design, outdated infotainment tech), and developing the new version accordingly. Only the looks leave a question mark: will conservative buyers be drawn to Hyundai’s showrooms once more? It’s 2020 … I wouldn’t bet against it.

PRICING

All Creta models offer a five-year/150 000 km warranty (plus an additional two years/50 000 km on the powertrain) and a four-year/60 000 km service plan. Take note the similarly priced Kia Seltos boosts the latter to five years/90 000 km.

Hyundai Creta 1.5 Premium MT: R374 900

Hyundai Creta 1.5 Executive IVT: R429 900*

Hyundai Creta 1.5 CRDI Executive AT: R469 900*

Hyundai Creta 1.4 TGDI Executive DCT: R484 900

*Add R5 000 for dual-tone paintwork.

For an alternative take on the Creta, don’t miss Juliet’s five quick thoughts:

 

About the Author: Terence Steenkamp
Editor. Car lover. Traveller. Doggy dad. Pinot noir drinker.