Putting everyone on notice
If there’s one segment Hyundai has struggled for the past several years, it’s the subcompact crossover SUV market. While the company was able to cement itself in the compact and midsize SUV markets thanks to the Tucson and Santa Fe, Hyundai had to offer several nameplates in the B-segment SUV market.
From the i20 Cross Sport, the first-generation Creta, as well as the Kona, it seems Hyundai just can't catch a break in this segment. With Hyundai under new management, the automaker decided to bring the second-generation (facelifted) Creta to the local market.
Built and sourced from Hyundai's new Cikarang plant in Indonesia, the Creta now serves as the brand's entry-level crossover and brings with it sleek styling, loads of features, and intelligent safety systems. Will Hyundai be able to impress customers looking for a subcompact crossover and will it give the competition something to look out for?
Let's begin by talking about the Creta's unmistakable look. While some might say Hyundai's current design philosophy is unorthodox, you have to give them credit for thinking outside the box. Immediately, your eyes are drawn to the Creta's two-tier headlight design and “Jewel Pattern Grille”. The eye-catching design not only gives the crossover its signature appearance, but it's also quite daring and moves away from the norm.
Even the LED taillights at the back are not the typical design you would see on a B-segment crossover. Granted, it took me a while to get used to their unusual look. But when I saw another Creta on the road and saw them lit up, I instantly became a fan of the taillights' design.
Then there's the Dragon Red finish that's paired with a black roof which is actually standard on the top-of-the-line GLS. Combined with its SUV-like proportions, high beltline, and generous 200mm of ground clearance, the Creta is a looker from every angle and every direction. Props to Hyundai's designers for making the Creta very stylish.
With the exterior clearly getting a lot of attention, we were expecting the interior to be rather drab or normal-looking. I'm happy to report that was not the case. From the seats to the dashboard, as well as the door trims, I have to commend Hyundai for using a black-and-white two-tone finish. Not only does it lift the cabin ambiance, but it makes the interior look more upscale than it is. Yes, it still has cheap plastic, but you have to remember that Hyundai has to price it just right, especially in the B-segment crossover market.
The steering wheel, despite having a leatherette finish, had a quality feel to it. The two-tone black-and-white seats have contrast stitching on them which is not something you would normally see in this segment. The touch points do not feel flimsy. Last but not least, there were no uneven gaps or noises from the cabin assembly while the vehicle is moving. Overall, I have to say the unit feels solid.
Like most touchscreen infotainment systems nowadays, the Creta comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Not having those connectivity options can sometimes break a potential sale which speaks to how important they have become in recent years.
What I didn’t expect, however, was the fact that both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the Creta are of the wireless kind. No longer will you have to worry if you left your cable in the other car, or at home unless you need to charge your phone. For a feature that’s usually reserved for more premium vehicles, it’s refreshing to see Hyundai actually making it available to mass-market cars like the Creta.
Also worth mentioning inside the Creta is its automatic climate control. Despite not having any window tint whatsoever, it was able to keep the cabin cool even on the hottest of days. In fact, I only keep the temperature between 22 to 23 degrees Celsius and the fan speed at just 2 because it's doing a really good job.
While it seems I’m all praises for the Creta, there are several points of improvement Hyundai can work on. For starters, I find it strange that there is only one USB charging port for the rear passengers. That means those seated at the back will have to take turns. Hyundai could have put an additional port or installed a 12V power socket that can accept a power point with two USB ports.
The gloss black trim pieces are nice to look at and further liven up the already stylish interior. However, I did notice that they’re prone to scratches if one is not careful. For those who don’t like having scratches inside their car, this might become an issue in the long run. While the spec sheet says the GLS comes with leather upholstery, the unit we drove only came with fabric seats. We're unsure if Hyundai made a typo or the Creta we had lacked the leather seats.
Under the hood of the Creta is a 1.5-liter Smartstream G four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels. It makes a humble 115 PS and a respectable 144 Nm of torque. If those figures and displacement look rather familiar, that’s because this is the same engine in the Stargazer MPV. It is then coupled to an IVT or what Hyundai calls an Intelligent Variable Transmission, the automaker’s version of a CVT.
It may not have forced induction, but the way the powertrain responded to my input was surprising. With just a prod of the accelerator pedal, the Creta advances with eagerness if you're driving spiritedly. Set the IVT to Sport Mode and that powertrain becomes more responsive and holds onto the revs longer. Out on an open stretch of road, I was surprised it was more than eager to reach highway speeds with ease.
Once you've had your share of fun, the Creta becomes a smooth operator (pun not intended). With the IVT acting more like a typical torque converter automatic without the slushiness, the Creta kept its composure and doesn't slip like other vehicles equipped with a CVT.
With the IVT, the Creta was able to take sips of fuel in both city and highway driving conditions. In light city traffic, the Creta returned between 10 to 11 km/l which is impressive. In heavier traffic conditions, it was able to average around 8 to 8.5 km/l which is still good in my opinion. Out on the highway, however, it was easily able to achieve 19 to 20 km/l at a steady 85 km/h.
Mind you, I was able to achieve these fuel economy figures in Normal mode. Yes, it has Eco mode which further saves on fuel but since it was doing a good job in Normal mode, I actually kept it in that for most of my drive.
But it is perhaps the Creta's ride quality that really impressed me. While I already found the HR-V's ride supple, the Creta actually felt softer and more forgiving without being too firm or stiff.
So the powertrain may be smooth and easy on the fuel bills, but Hyundai needs to give the Creta better Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) deadening. With thin glass windows on the side, outside noise from loud jeepneys and motorcycles easily crept into the cabin. While the steering itself is light and adaptive, I do wish it had more feedback as it felt numb most of the time.
After spending a week with the Creta, I have to say I was mightily impressed with Hyundai’s subcompact crossover. Not only does it come out swinging with its sharp looks, well-appointed cabin, and fuel-efficient powertrain, but it also comes with a host of intelligent driver-aids that serve as an extra pair of eyes.
Yes, there are points to improve on as it needs better NVH, more steering feedback, and maybe adding a bit more features for the rear passengers. But all in all, the Creta will give the competition something to look out for.
At PHP 1,388,000, some might say it's steeply priced when compared to some of its competitors like the Geely Coolray, MG ZS T, and the Changan CS35. Heck, the Honda HR-V 1.5 S is just PHP 1,000 more than the Creta's price tag.
But with a solid build quality, a generous number of features, a responsive and fuel-efficient powertrain, as well a soft yet firm ride, I have to say that wouldn't mind having to pay full price for a Creta GLS if I had the money.