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Photographs by Aditya Upadhyaula

 

When the Renault Duster came out in 2012, it kickstarted a segment the Indian market didn’t even know it needed. It set the tone for what was to come from all other manufacturers. Today, we have the excellent Venue, but back then Hyundai brought out the Creta. It followed the formula of jacking up a hatchback and calling it an SUV, even though it’s more complicated than I made it sound. Like every Hyundai, it came loaded to the gills with features, and build quality was top notch. It was no surprise, then, that the Creta set the sales charts on fire like a flamethrower. Now, with the second generation of the Creta, Hyundai hopes to recreate that magic and take the top spot in its segment once again.

Before you read another word, dear reader, I urge you to spend a good few minutes taking in the remodelled sight that is the new Creta. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you try to make sense of its droopy rear end, and come to terms with its split-headlight look up front. If you look at it long enough, as I have been for some days now, you’ll get used to it, too. Fussy styling aside, the Creta is actually really well designed. Take the side profile, for example; the squared fender flares enveloping the 17-inch wheels, joined by a tasteful crease, look great when the light hits them. The proportion of the body to the glass area is near perfect, too. The dual-tone paint job on the test car I had was eye-catching as well.

Could Hyundai have taken a safer approach to the Creta’s styling? Absolutely. But that car would have been lost in the sea of other SUVs pretty quickly. To beat cars like the Kia Seltos, risks must definitely be taken. And love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that the new Creta has road presence. It gathered a significant crowd wherever I parked it. Once we all step out of our houses after this lockdown, you’ll see exactly what I mean, when those 10,000 pre-booked Cretas start to hit the roads.

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Bose audio system just like the Seltos.

Moving on to the interior of the car, the all-black interior of the turbo variant is peppered with red accents. Contrary to the exterior, the overall design of the interior is more on the subdued side of things, which is great when you want to focus on the driving experience. And focus, you will, because the Creta’s dash features a very driver-oriented design. The main 26.03-cm infotainment screen is tilted towards the driver, and all the controls, too, are placed within easy reach. New for this generation is a digital display in the instrument cluster flanked by the rev-counter and fuel gauge — and a voice-controlled panoramic sunroof!

Air purifier is built right into the centre armrest.

From cooled seats up front to an air purifier built into the front armrest, the Creta comes builds on Hyundai’s feature-prowess. Sadly, though, for everything it offers, soft-touch plastics are nowhere to be seen on the Creta’s dash, which is unfortunate for a car in this price range. For the times when you want to be driven, the rear seat offers plenty of comfort, too. Leg-room is improved over the previous-generation model thanks to a longer wheelbase. Couple that with the built-in window blinds and central armrest, and you’re looking at a very comfortable scenario indeed.

Everything about the 1.4-litre turbo-petrol variant of the Creta screams performance, from its dual-tipped exhaust, drive modes (sport, eco and comfort) to the paddle shifters for its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. So does it have the go to match its show? Yes, it does! Plant your foot on the accelerator and the Creta takes off with a little bit of wheelspin for good measure, before traction control takes over and helps put the power down. The engine provides a smooth wave of torque and the transmission seamlessly shifts gears to keep the power going. When you put the transmission in sport mode, it holds onto gears until the redline and is quick to downshift, making the Creta an eager performer. Segment-first paddle shifters are available and they are very responsive, but leaving the transmission in D or S is just as effective when you’re hustling it along.

Is it sporty, though? Well, it’s complicated. If you put the Creta in sport mode, the steering does tighten up noticeably, and you get the confidence to take it around corners at higher speeds. However, the suspension is tuned pretty softly, so any road undulations tend to unsettle it. Mind you, you do have a whole suite of electronic nannies to keep you safe so you’re never in any danger, but overall, it’s more a straight-line rocket than a corner carver. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; in Indian conditions, the ability to take on bad roads is far more important than the need to navigate extremely high-speed corners. That said, I do wish it had struck a better balance between ride and handling. Those who want fun might well be pushed towards the Seltos.

To answer the question of whether the Creta can reclaim its throne, I think Hyundai has a winning combination on its hands. The Creta’s got every feature you could ask for and then some. A choice of three engine options and a total five powertrain combinations mean that there’s something for everyone. And when did anyone ever go wrong with a Creta?

Hyundai Creta Turbo Pack
POWERTRAIN
Displacement:
1353cc, I-4, petrol

Max power:
138 bhp@6000 rpm

Max torque:
24.7 kgm@1500-3200 rpm

Transmission:
7-speed DCT

TYRES
F/R:
215/60 R17

DIMENSIONS
L/W/H (mm): 4300/1790/1635
Wheelbase: 2610 mm
Fuel capacity: 50 litres

PRICE: Rs 17.2 lakh (ex-showroom, India)