In our country, Compact SUV’s are as favorable as Vada Pav with chutney. Not only are they as favorable, they are in fact synonymous with Vada Pav, you get them in different flavors, suiting each one’s taste. You want a very practical and premium one, go for the Creta. You want a small and nimble vehicle, you’d choose the Brezza or the Nexon. If you’re a true petrolhead, the Ford Ecosport should be on your phone’s wallpaper. But our requirements aren’t as simple as it may sound, we need a car that does the job well on all areas, simply an all-rounder. It should be spacious on the inside, styling should impress your boss, practical enough to keep your parents happy, ample features to play around and an engine powerful enough to put a big smile on your face! Phew, that’s a hard deal to satisfy but some of the cars here are very close to this pinnacle.
Let’s start with the new 2018 Hyundai Creta. Its front end has been “inspired” by the new Santa Fe, featuring a large hexagonal three-slate grille, new bumper and a pair of horizontal fog lamps, and a redesigned silver skid plate. On the side, nothing has changed apart for the new alloys. Its the same story on the rear as well. Overall it has received a styling touch-up to look refreshed and it kinda works. The new Creta isn’t as head-turning as it used to be, 4 years ago but it is a pleasing design that will appeal to the older folk.
The Nexon is clearly a concept car that’s rolled off the assembly line. The design is on your face with its groovy edges and sharp styling. It’s a personal choice of whether you’d like the styling of the Nexon or not, but it definitely is eye-catching and will draw attention even after years. That said, I adore the design of the Nexon as finally, a manufacturer has taken the axe and made something that looks interesting.
Moving to the Brezza and you get a proper old-school design done with a ruler and a pencil. Its plain and anti-fashion but definitely not offensive. It looks very mature and SUV’ish paying homage to the Vitara name which has been around since the 90s. It’s an evolutionary design that appeals to the masses and it has the typical Maruti charm.
The Ecosport meanwhile has also received a touch-up job which is much more subtle than the Creta but manages to make it look 2018. The Ecosport has the typical American’ish, Bronco styling that makes it look bigger than what it actually is. It’s a perfect blend of an SUV with a sub four-meter compact hatchback. When compared to the others, it looks mean and imposing which is enough to impress most of the buyers in this segment. Overall its the 2018 Ford Ecosport that surges ahead in terms of stying, closely followed by the Tata Nexon and the Hyundai Creta.
Winner – Ford Ecosport
Interiors and Equipment
Step inside these urban brutes and you’ll be in for a surprise. They’ve got all the tech of a premium hatchback and space on the inside is more than enough shift your house. Jokes apart, we’ll start with the new Hyundai Creta. If you had a microscopic lens on your eye, you would notice the minor changes that this refreshed model has got, the biggest change though is the features list. The lower trims now get height adjustable driver’s seat, sliding armrest, speed sensing door locks, front seatbelts with pre-tensioners. Safety features like dual airbags, ABS and EBD remain standard across the range.
The top variants now include features like an electric sunroof, cruise control, six-way power adjustable driver’s sat, wireless phone charger (a segment first), and also a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with MirrorLink, navigation, smartphone connectivity Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The top trims get six airbags as standard along with ESC, VSM and Hill Assist Control. Overall the interior of the Creta speaks of premium quality and value for money. The Creta is spacious and comfy on the inside, rear legroom is good and the seats offer good lateral thigh support.
Things are very similar with the new Ford Ecosport. The biggest highlight inside is the new 8-inch touchscreen. It gets a crisp resolution and bright colours, and touch sensitivity is excellent which makes using it on the go a breeze. The EcoSport now gets Ford’s SYNC 3 that brings with it Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The revised centre console houses two USB slots beneath the controls for air-conditioning. As like the previous model, this climate control unit does an excellent job of cooling the cabin quickly. The revised instruments look ugly but the steering mounted controls look classier and make for a richer feel from behind the wheel. The front occupants now get a full-sized, fixed armrest that also has a really deep cubby hole underneath. The rear seat gets a folding armrest with cup holders as well.
The MSIL Compact SUV Vitara Brezza has a sharp and well-finished cabin. Plastics, fabric and other materials are subtle and classy. The material quality is fair too and there are lots of personalization options available along with a good amount of equipment on the top end models, including a cooled box, reverse camera, 7-inch infotainment system screen with navigation with Apple Carplay. The Compact SUV also brings a highlighting feature to buyers at this price point – mood lighting for the instrument cluster! There is an option of 6 colours that you can play with to change the look of the cluster – blue, white, yellow, orange, green or red. The cabin isn’t as roomy as the other Compact SUV’s in this comparison but will serve a 4 or 5 member family well. The rear seat has a lap belt for the centre passenger though, which isn’t great. The split is 60:40, and so accommodating a good amount of luggage and cargo of all shapes and sizes would be fine.
Open the doors of the Nexon and you will be welcomed by a familiar layout that we’ve seen in recent Tata cars. The steering wheel and the instrument cluster is the same from the Tiago. Along with this and you’d notice the all-new floating 6.5-inch HD touchscreen infotainment system. It is a vivid unit, easy to use and supports Bluetooth and Android Auto(Apple CarPlay will be added later). The dashboard layout includes the Jaguar-like line that runs through its surrounds. The quality of materials used on the upper part of the dashboard and door panels are about okay. Most of the buttons are centred around the dashboard and are easy to use and understand. The cooled glovebox is large and has a tray to carry around iPads and tablets. Tata has also added height adjustable seat belts for the front occupants. The front seats though have very thin foaming and don’t provide enough support but ergonomics from the driver’s seat is pretty good. The seat squab at the back is decent and there is plenty of under-thigh support along with good headroom for front and rear passengers.
Winner – Hyundai Creta
We’ll start with new Compact SUV from Hyundai’s Creta Diesel variant. The diesel engine runs quiet and refinement levels are impressive. Start moving around in the city and you will notice that there is a bit of turbo lag below 1,700rpm, post which the car starts to pull nicely, and there is enough grunt throughout the power band of the engine. Drivability is marginally better than before and even at low revs, the engine doesn’t feel dead, with power delivery being linear up until the turbo kicks in. You can get by being in a higher gear at fairly low engine speeds as well. The strong mid-range of the engine makes overtaking in town and at highway speeds considerably easy. The six-speed gearbox is pleasant and the clutch is light, but the pedal has a long travel which might be of slight discomfort in the traffic. What does come as welcome news, in these times of high fuel prices, is Hyundai’s claim of enhanced fuel economy. The 1.6 diesel engine is said to be 4% more efficient (petrol efficiency up 3%).
Headlining the refreshed EcoSport is Ford’s new, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol engine. It replaces the older 1.5-litre petrol engine and offers 123PS and 150Nm and comes mated to either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic gearbox. We drove the latter, which is a torque converter unit. Its refinement is the new engine’s biggest highlight and Ford tells us a lot of hard work has gone into eliminating the typical gruffness associated with three-cylinder engines. Being naturally aspirated the engine is quick to respond to throttle inputs. It makes light of city driving and gear changes are effected in a smooth, seamless manner. The EcoSport also gets paddle shifters, a segment first. The paddles work well though there is a slight delay before the gearbox shifts a gear when using the paddles. Claimed efficiency for the new petrol engine stands at 17kmpl.
The Brezza is powered by the engine that powers most of the Maruti fleet, the Fiat-derived 1.3-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel unit. In the Brezza it makes 90PS of max power and 200Nm of peak torque. Though according to the spec sheet it makes its peak torque at 1,750rpm but in reality the torque kicks in closer to 2,000rpm. The VGT eliminates turbo lag to a great degree but there’s virtually no torque under 2,000rpm. The engine feels smooth on the move but is quite noisy. The NVH package leaves more to be desired as there is a lot of engine noise that seeps into the cabin and past the 2,500rpm mark it can only be drowned out by loud-volume music. The gearbox though is quite nice it doesn’t feel notchy and has precise shifts with relatively short throws.
As for the Nexon, Tata’s new 1.5-litre direct injection turbo-diesel that also debuts on the Nexon puts out a healthy 110hp. A scaled-up, four-cylinder version of the Tiago’s 1.05-litre, three-cylinder diesel, the new engine fires easily with the first poke of the starter button. There is a bit of flutter at startup and some vibration is felt through the gear level but it settles down to a smooth idle. This motor is pretty refined even at higher revs and doesn’t make the same racket as the gravelly sounding 1.3 diesel in the Brezza.
What’s immediately noticeable is how usable the engine is; the Nexon pulls cleanly from as low as 1,400rpm. This tractability, due to the 260Nm of torque from 1,500rpm, makes driving in traffic quite easy and you don’t need to constantly downshift. Once you are past 2,000rpm, there’s a gentle wave of power and there’s no real spike like in the Brezza’s Fiat-sourced diesel. Post 4,000rpm, however, you hit a wall, and though the engine does rev to 4,500rpm, the drop in power at the top end is quite sudden.
Unlike the Brezza’s unit which pulls well past 5,000rpm, the Nexon’s 1.5 diesel feels quite laboured at high revs. In fact, the lack of top-end punch and an average mid-range leaves you wanting for more power, even with the drive mode in the most aggressive ‘Sport’ setting.
Winner – Ford Ecosport
The new 2018 Hyundai Creta is an excellent package with its neat styling and huge equipment list, however, it does fall short in the pricing department. It is the most expensive Compact SUV in this comparison with a gap of almost 3 lakh rupees between the top variants of Nexon and Brezza. Speaking of which the Nexon and the Brezza offer excellent value for money and are targeted towards buyers who want to move a step above from a conventional hatchback. But these cars don’t share the same buyer, the one who wants a traditional SUV’ish design with a rugged stance would pick the Brezza while those who’d want a dash in their life would choose the Nexon. Where these two lack is in their engines and driveability but that shouldn’t be an issue considering their value proposition. Did I just say value? Oh yes, take a look at the new Ford Ecosport and it would remind you of what a compact SUV should be. Clean and chunky styling, good cabin space, excellent engines, six airbags and a handsome equipment list make it a deserving winner for this comparison.
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