The Prodigal Son of Santa Fe

The Prodigal Son of Santa Fe
Highlights

Large barge SUVs, land yachts if you will, occupy a special place in the male psyche. For some of us, they’re the ultimate fantasy cars. Many imagine barrelling down a highway in them, towering over low-slung sedans, parking them in front of our farmhouses, where guests can’t miss them. They’re the wheels the alpha males in The Expendables drive. These beasts are not urban runabouts.

The past couple of years have been quite affirmative for the Korean automaker Hyundai, thanks to the departmental reshuffle, which paved way to the launch of the fludic Verna or Accent in the world market.

From then on it was not only the engines of Hyundai that took the center stage but even the design, and everything went in favour for the company, and Hyundai India ate a big slice from the pie, which was earlier relished by Maruti Suzuki. What we have today is the Hyundai Creta, the first compact SUV from the automaker, and all we have to say is, it cannot get better than this…

Large barge SUVs, land yachts if you will, occupy a special place in the male psyche. For some of us, they’re the ultimate fantasy cars. Many imagine barrelling down a highway in them, towering over low-slung sedans, parking them in front of our farmhouses, where guests can’t miss them. They’re the wheels the alpha males in The Expendables drive. These beasts are not urban runabouts.

With such an aura associated to an SUV, Renault changed the scenario with the launch of Duster, making urban SUVs affable. The car wasn’t much of a shrunk SUV (compared to cars like Tuscon or Terracan- which were full-fledged SUVs), but then, it was the engine they played along with. Duster did not have the mighty two and three litre engines under its hood, but had something as much as packets of milk or a bottle of juice.

When we test-drove the compact SUV, the Duster if we wondered why Renault decided to go small; the answer was somewhere else. You probably haven’t heard that luxury carmaker Bentley ditched the massive W12 engine and opted instead for a V8 on its 2014 Continental GT. The writing’s on the wall: Downsizing is the trend – and this includes smaller engines, as well as more compact bodies. Carmakers are focusing on smaller, more efficient and cheaper rides that give you more bang for your buck.

The trend continued to keep up with India’s fetish to have big things in small packages, Ford was the next to join the line with the EcoSport, which fared well in the market. Around the same time even Nissan expressed a sisterly affection to Renault and launched the Terrano.

But when the Korean fashionista unveiled the concept called the ‘ix25’, the world screamed its guts out in desperation. And finally, the car is here, changing the fortune of Hyundai in a way how Fludic Verna and Elite i20, did. The number of bookings is preposterous and waiting period has gone up to as much as 10 months. But what made the car special that people went rogue and the automotive scenario turned haywire?

The car
Hyundai has strategically used the best of everything they have into one car. From the front Creta looks like the prodigal son of the Santa Fe who has come back grown to impress his father. It has a mother as well, the i20 Active, which pretty much inspires the rear, also expressing a lewd fondness to the Range Rover Evoque (I am doubting her chastity already). Features drawn from the lineage makes the Creta-a looker, possibly the best in the segment.
Inside
It’s a pretty sweet space on the inside. The seats in this compact SUV are snug, the riding position perched high, and from the driver’s seat (where the action’s at) all the steering-mounted controls, including the knobs and sticks behind it, are pleasingly intuitive. The large touch-responsive infotainment system that’s mounted flush in the dashboard — which also takes voice commands if you want to keep both hands on the wheel instead — is a classy piece of kit too.

The Drive
But is driving it an entertaining experience? You bet. The Creta is offered with three different engines (one petrol and two diesel variants) borrowed from the Verna. The 1.4-litre U2 CRDi produces 90PS while the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel that we briefly drove puts out 128PS. Both the engines produce as much power as the Verna.

Out on the road the 1.6-diesel is refined and is quick off the block; traction control is offered in the top variants and does intervene during hard acceleration and in between gear shifts when there is wheelspin. We however switched off traction control and found the SUV to be quite quick to hit the ton.

Expect performance to be similar to the Verna – this will make it one of the quickest vehicles in the segment. The cabin is well insulated too and very little diesel clatter actually seeps in. Gear shifts are smooth and fall in place, like in the i20. The feel could have been better though – it’s a little too soft for an SUV. Yet we could clock a top speed of 183kmph, the vehicle remained was stable and gave us enough confidence to push it further.

There’s good news for automatic transmission lovers. The Creta is also offered with a torque converter mated to the 1.6-diesel (first in segment), possibly the most booked car as well.

Verdict
With Creta being the first in its segment to offer a fully automatic, its competitors are most probably on the run to match up. In a nut shell, the premium look of the interiors clubbed with a smooth ‘driving on butter’ like experience and the feeling of driving a massive four wheeler, while it actually is a smaller perfectly designed car, defines the Creta.



By:Augustin Kurian - with inputs from Johnson Dsouza
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