2020 Hyundai Creta 1.4 DCT review

2020 Hyundai Creta (Image: Gaurav Chandrasekhar/BBC TopGear India)

What do films like The Godfather, Back to the Future and The Terminator all have in common? They were all followed up by really good sequels – which isn’t easy at all! It takes an immense amount of research, observation and a damn good script. Compare that to the success story of the Hyundai Creta and you know the kind of pressure the engineers and designers at Namyang, Hyundai’s global R&D headquarters must have dealt with, working on the second-generation Creta. The first act was brilliant as it had a mix of everything buyers were looking for and more in a compact urban SUV. And now with the new generation Creta out, it’s time to put it under our test scalpel to see if it is the perfect sequel! You can also check out our video review of the all-new Creta.

We got the Creta a day before the PM called for the ‘Janta Curfew’ in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak and given the risks involved in stepping out, the plan was to head out early morning before daybreak, wrap the shoot up quickly and scuttle back home. Abhay had the Creta overnight and when he arrived in it, just as the sun was rising, my first reaction was that it looks a lot more mature now. The old Creta’s lines were sharper but the new one boasts sleeker, softer lines along with a more rounded shape. We instantly got discussing, as to how a lot of people have likened the new Creta’s face to the Venue’s given the headlamp design, even though it isn’t exactly the case. The DRLs sit on top, yes, but the Creta’s headlights are positioned higher and look very distinctive with the triple-LED setup.

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Abhay also felt the grille design could have been better. Overall, we both agreed the design grows on you once you spend some time with it. Wheel arches feature stronger character lines now, which gives the sides a more muscular stance. In fact, the Creta looks like a scaled-down version of a more expensive SUV now, especially when you look at it from the rear-three quarter thanks to the sloping roofline, as also the taillights and tailgate design. The 1.4-litre turbo petrol also gets dual exhaust tips which add to its stance. But will Hyundai’s relatively more radical design work with the masses as it did before? That’s something I’m curious to see, though with over 15,000 bookings before showrooms downed shutters for the lockdown, the new Creta seems to be hitting the mark already.

The premium air continues inside too. The dashboard design is a lot more upmarket now, be it the 10.2-inch touchscreen and the way it sits flush on the dash, the swanky-looking drive selector lever with its brushed metal finish, flat-bottomed steering wheel with contrast stitching in red or the brushed metal paddle shifters (the paddles are unique to the turbo petrol, which is offered only in the top two trims). The cabin design has been moved up by a couple of notches thanks to the high fit-finish levels, choices of materials and thoughtful touches like the red accents on the air-conditioning vents in the 1.4 turbo petrol.

I also liked the panoramic sunroof – it is larger than what cars a segment above the Creta offer, though with just a fabric covering the glass heat could be an issue in summers. Another thoughtful addition is the air purifier that is integrated into the central armrest and features a dedicated display, giving AQI information and more. The instrument binnacle houses a seven-inch display for the speedometer which also functions as a multi-information display and integrates a tyre pressure monitor as well. The display sits flanked by an analogue tachometer and fuel/temperature gauges on the sides. On the whole, being inside the new Creta is certainly a richer experience.

Hyundai has also upped its equipment game, stuffing the new Creta with features seen on more expensive vehicles. There’s an eight-speaker Bose audio system and Hyundai’s latest BlueLink connected technology. You can thus open that massive sunroof without lifting a finger, how cool is that? All you need to say is, “Hello BlueLink, open sunroof”. That’s not all though, BlueLink stretches far beyond that and allows you to live track your car’s location remotely, geo-fence it, set speed limits, lock or unlock it, check fuel status, turn the AC on, start the air purifier and seat ventilation or even start or stop the engine remotely. In fact, in what is a first, the remote engine start-stop function is available for the manual version too. And as a first, all functions are accessible via a smartwatch app too! The ventilated seats are my favourite though – they really do help on a hot day!

Then came our favourite part, the driving bit. We drove up towards Aamby Valley in Lonavala, one of our favourite hill roads. The virus outbreak meant the hill station wore a spooky look with shops closed and roads empty, though on the positive side it meant there was no traffic and we could give the 1.4-litre turbo petrol the proverbial stick. One of the first things you notice about the motor is its high level of refinement throughout the rev range and the mildly sporty sound. With 138 horses on tap, the engine offers quick acceleration in sync with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. But while the gearbox is very smooth, petrolheads will want its responses to be wee bit quicker. Owners of the previous generation Creta automatic though are sure to appreciate the smooth gear changes and the transmission’s alacrity both.

The turbo petrol makes the Creta engaging to drive thus, more than perhaps any powertrain offered by Hyundai in India. Sustaining triple-digit speeds is a cinch, while three driving modes – Eco, Comfort and Sport help you alter throttle response and transmission shift points. The Creta also gets three traction control settings now for conditions like Snow, Sand and Mud, though this is no all-wheel-drive SUV and altering settings will only help a little in tricky conditions. NVH levels are very impressive too, especially on the highway. While Abhay drove the Creta more in the twisties, I acquainted myself with it on the highway and in the city. The steering feels more responsive and feedback has improved, though there is some more room for improvement. The big news, thus, is that the Creta feels a lot more fun to drive than its predecessor.

But with 138 horses going to the front wheels only, there is quite a bit of torque steer in the turbo petrol. So you have to be careful with the throttle around bends, especially slower ones. The revised suspension setup helps the Creta feel a lot more confident now though – it holds its line well around corners and also feels more planted at speeds. It also feels livelier around the hills, more than the older version. Calm down a bit and drive it in a relaxed manner and you can’t really fault the Creta’s dynamics. Ride quality is impressive too as the Creta soaks up broken roads well, albeit a hint of firmness at low speeds. I can thus imagine family SUV buyers appreciating the Creta even more, especially for its comfort. More so, since the new underpinnings mean the second generation Creta is longer and wider and also has a long wheelbase along with more boot space.

The second-generation Creta is ahead of its previous self in almost every single way. It’s loaded with more technology and comes with three BS6-compliant engines and three transmission options, widening the choice for buyers. Prices start at Rs 9.99 lakh though what we drove is the top of the line turbocharged petrol that retails at Rs 17.20 lakh (ex-showroom), which is a lot of money. Effectively, there’s a wide range of variants to suit varied tastes and needs, but if you enjoy your time behind the wheel you might want to shell out the big ones for all the bells and whistles offered in the turbo petrol. We’re yet to drive the 1.5-litre NA petrol or the diesel but I’ll be really surprised if they feel anywhere as engaging. And coming back to the question of the new Creta being a good sequel, I have no doubts about it being a lot better than the original!

Words: Abhay Verma & Abhinav Jakhar

Engine: 1,353cc Kappa Turbo GDi
Power: 138bhp@6,000rpm
Torque: 242Nm@1,500-3,200rpm
Drive: FWD
Transmission: 7-speed DCT
Price: 17.20 lakh (ex-showroom)