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The Hyundai Creta GLS IVT delivers big surprises for its size and price

The Hyundai Creta GLS IVT delivers big surprises for its size and price

Botchi Santos

Blame it on personal schedule issues but I’ve been receiving and reviewing cars without reading up on their technical specifications. I can be quite technical but that also puts stereotypes and expectations up front and center, rather than simply being open-minded, having no pre-conceived notions and presumptions about a car. After all, why detract from what can be an all-new experience by being stuck on an idea, blinded to everything else the new experience can offer? And it’s been very rewarding, very surprising in fact.

Such is the case with Hyundai’s Creta which looked impressive when it was brought to our home. I resisted the temptation to look up the tech specs immediately but rather focused on my day of driving ahead. First order of business was to take it to work down south to Cavite and onto Batangas. And already I could tell that the Creta represented the best of the new breed of Hyundai vehicles.

Smart and stylish design, roomy yet functional, not to mention versatile interiors, and feature-packed, just like how Hyundai was when it was first introduced in the country. It offers tremendous value-for-money, without feeling cheap and disposable. The chassis felt solid, the suspension firm and stable, yet compliant enough on poorly surfaced roads. The steering felt light, in a reasonable manner which the majority of the market looks for, enhancing the feeling of ease, and therefore, confidence on the rad, and maneuvering in tight spots. The brakes were amazing: progressive, powerful and easy to modulate. About the only thing I can levy against the Creta was the wind noise: past 100km/h, the NVH isolation could be better as both tire and wind noise permeate through the cabin. And you will find yourself exceeding the 100km/h speed limit from time to time, because the Creta behaves more like a simmering hatchback (not quite a full-on ‘hot’ hatch) that’s responsive, agile and crucially, willing. You get drawn into the drive.

The powertrain initially felt lacking, but this was one of the hidden gems of the Creta. By flicking the drive mode to SPORT from NORMAL or ECO, the entire powertrain comes alive: the engine is more responsive, the transmission holds the engine in a higher RPM, and the steering weighs up to match the characteristics of the power delivery.

I initially thought the Creta I was driving was powered by a 2.0 liter engine (or bigger), or a 1.5 liter turbo, only to discover that it is in fact a 1500cc naturally aspirated lump producing a modest 113hp and 144 Newton-Meters of torque driving the front wheels via Hyundai’s IVT transmission, similar to Hyundai’s compact MPV, the Stargazer. It’s amazing how much one can achieve when modest power is deployed as efficiently (and as intelligently) as possible to drive the wheels. The Creta feels like it’s hiding an additional 20 or so ponies somewhere under the hood, and roughly 50 or so Newton-Meters more as well. That’s spicy kimchi power for you!

I also thought it was a fluke, or maybe I just haven’t driven anything interesting in a while, or maybe the driving conditions were just too perfect. A dear friend who was in the market for a compact crossover asked to set the Creta and he was equally impressed, echoing my own sentiments towards the Hyundai.

Finally, amazed at the drive, I decided to look up the rest of the specs and standard equipment. The Creta shouts class and quality. From the impressive front parametric jewel-like radiator grill, the LED headlights and DRL, to the 10.25 inch LCD instrument cluster, the 8-inch infotainment system display that has multiple USB ports, wireless Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, wireless-charging, the two-tone leather seats with 60:40 split-fold rear seats and the unique double twin-spoke steering wheel with auxiliary controls for the multi-media system and vehicle information display, there is just so much on offer.

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And as with any modern quality vehicle, the Creta also has two front airbags, ABS-EBD brakes, electronic stability control with pre-set modes for different surfaces, hill start assist, park distance warning, blind spot collision avoidance assists, forward collision avoidance assist, lane keep assist, lane following assist, high beam assist, driver attention warning, and a tire pressure monitoring system. A whole lot of tech for a car that costs a very reasonable P1,388,000 for the top-spec. Lower variants come in at P1,040,000 and make do with less niceties but make it far more accessible. In fact, why buy a B-segment sedan, when you can have something as impressive and as versatile as the Creta?

You also have 200mm of ground clearance, about an inch more than most sedans in the same category, and 433 liters of cargo space in the trunk which more than doubles with the second-row seats down.

Under a new distributor, directly under Hyundai Motor Corporation, a revitalized line-up of well-designed, well-equipped and stylish vehicles that truly match the market, Hyundai is very much back at top of mind. There is reason to believe that we are now experiencing the brand’s second wave in our country.