Hyundai Creta: Creating a game changer

A lot has been said about the new upcoming Hyundai compact SUV, starting from its name to what its price range should be. According to the South Korean car manufacturer, the name Creta is derived from the word "create". We can go on discussing the name all day long, but to be honest, what's in a name when the product looks promising and aims at fulfilling what people want in an urban SUV? Before the official launch on July 21, Hyundai called 60-odd journalists from all parts of the country to its Chennai plant to give them a feel of what the Creta is all about.

We drove the 126 bhp, 1.6-litre diesel motor, same as the one in the Verna, and got our hands on both the manual and the automatic.

Hyundai straight away clears the air by explaining that it didn't want to get into the 4-metre rat race as it wanted an SUV that was not a compromise for the buyer. And this is evident as the Creta gas ample knee and legroom for the rear passengers. Three adults can squeeze in, but I would suggest that two adults or three kids in the back would be ideal. After all, no one wants to feel like canned sardines.

The rear seat squab feels slightly flat and lacks a bit of thigh support. How does that translate in reality? The seats could have been more supportive and the back rest lacks adequate shoulder support for taller passengers. There are some thoughtful touches by Hyundai as the rear comes with a 12-volt socket, an arm rest and the all-important air conditioner vents.

The front seats, on the other hand, are very comfortable and provide good back support. The driving position might not be as commanding as one would expect from an SUV, but with seat height adjustment option, this issue is sorted.

The cabin is more or less identical to the i20, but with a 5-inch infotainment touch screen, the layout looks a lot more contemporary. As expected from Hyundai, the Creta is loaded with many features like the in-built 1GB memory space and the six-speaker surround sound in the music system, six airbags, reverse parking camera, ABS and audio navigation system. Apart from this, the cabin is practical in terms of storage space with many cubby holes and bottle-holders. The Creta also has a spacious boot. Unfortunately, I don't have the exact boot space figures, but with the rear seats folding down completely, it is safe to say that it offers plenty of luggage space.

As mentioned earlier, I drive both the manual and automatic versions of the 1.6-litre diesel. I first get into the manual variant, which is mated with a 6-speed transmission. Instantly you can figure out that the gear ratios have been re-worked as the engine lag is barely felt, unlike the Verna. The engine remains fairly quiet till you start pushing it from 2,500 rpm onwards. Step on the pedal and the Creta responds instantly and doesn't leave you hanging. This diesel engine is the most powerful powerplant in the segment. Therefore, it isn't a big surprise that the 126 ponies are always ready to sprint a bit faster without complaining. But what does catch my attention is the refinement.

It is now time to drive the 6-speed automatic Creta. The initial pick up is decent, keeping in mind that it will be used predominately during rush hour. One does feel that the transmission could have up-shifted a bit more quickly, but then it is ideal for day-to-day commute. I feel the gear ratio is set up like this so that the Creta is more fuel efficient. You also have the option to switch to manual mode and change the gears at will.

I have purposely left the looks for the last as you can see what it looks like in the pictures. In my opinion, the Creta comes across as a mini Santa Fe, which is a very positive compliment. The eagle-eye headlamps, which also feature projector and day light running lamps (only for the top variants), the aggressive vertical fog lamps and the all-chrome hexagonal grille give the Creta a no-nonsense look, which many people want in their SUVs. With 17-inch alloy wheels (only top-end variants get this), bulging wheel arches and a muscular looking side profile, the Creta has a solid stance.

Unfortunately, I don't get to drive the Creta over undulations and broken roads, so I can't really comment on the ride, but handling wise, it is definitely the best in the segment. The Creta is planted on the tarmac as I take sharp turns and throw it around corners. The body-roll is controlled and it never lets me feel nervous or second guess the SUV's capabilities.

The Creta is a fully loaded premium compact SUV and will come in three engine options: 121bhp, 1.6-litre petrol, 1.4-litre diesel and, of course, the 1.6-litre diesel that I drove. I expect this SUV to change the segment and it might even force its rivals like Renault Duster and Ford EcoSport to change their strategy. So don't be surprised if suddenly, the latter two start offering monsoon discounts. Just to give you an idea how the Creta will shake up this segment, the South Korean auto-maker revealed that it has already received over 10,000 pre-bookings for the new compact SUV, which will make its debut on July 21.

The pricing of the Creta will be critical, but knowing Hyundai it will be priced aggressively, while the top variants will be slotted slightly higher than the Duster. If one is out in the market to buy a compact SUV, I would advise one to wait for the Creta. Arup Das is Features Editor with AutoX