FIRST DRIVE | Hyundai back in the entry-level game with new Atos
It’s the season to consider a car for your teenager’s post-matric life, and Hyundai has added a contender to SA’s entry-level car league with its new Atos, a nameplate that has been revived after six years off the market.
The small hatchback is being launched at a time when a weakened economy is driving a buying-down trend in the new-vehicle market, says Niall Lynch, CEO of Hyundai Automotive South Africa, and Hyundai expects to sell about 250 to 300 Atos units locally a month.
The original Atos was a fairly popular econobox among first-time buyers and sold more than 45,000 units here, until it was replaced in 2013 by the Hyundai i10 as the brand’s cheapest car, with the slightly larger and more expensive Grand i10 later added to the line-up.
The regular i10 was subsequently discontinued, leaving the Grand i10 as the brand’s cheapest range with a starting price of R171,900.
The Atos now returns in a single 1.1 Motion derivative priced at R159,900, which pitches it directly against the likes of Renault Kwid, Kia Picanto, Suzuki Swift, Suzuki Celerio and Datsun Go in a very competitive segment.
The car is built in India where it’s marketed as the Santro, but it adopts the Atos name in export markets.
Young, first-time buyers will find much to like in the new Atos, including a segment-best seven-year/200,000km warranty. A one-year service plan and seven-year/150,000km roadside assistance are also part of the package.
The little car comes with a decent level of standard features including an audio system with an 18cm touchscreen and Bluetooth connectivity with Apple CarPlay support, but no Android. A USB port and power socket provide the charging capacity.
Other factory-fitted fare includes aircon, front electric windows, manual central locking, onboard computer and a multifunction steering wheel. Ticking the safety boxes are ABS brakes and dual front airbags, although the car has not been subjected to a crash test and doesn’t come with an official safety rating.
The exterior styling is pert and modern, with full covers over the 14” steel wheels for some street cred.
The five-door hatch has grown in size over the first-generation Atos and it’s fairly roomy for a car that’s only 3.6m long. Four full-sized adults can fit inside without unwanted intimacy as there’s reasonable legroom, very good headroom, and being the widest car in its segment the Atos has some decent elbow space too. The 235l boot is one of the smallest in the mini hatchback league, but will take a couple of tog bags.
The cabin has a modern vibe with neat finishes, and although the dashboard is surfaced in hard plastic, it’s nicely textured and avoids looking cheap.
There’s no reach or height adjustment for the steering column, and the front seats can’t be adjusted for height either, which means some people might struggle to find a comfortable driving position. The cloth-covered seats felt comfortable over the 200km launch drive, however.
The little 1.1l four-cylinder engine does a pretty decent job of wielding its modest 52kW and 99Nm. With two people on board it nipped through urban streets with an easy lope, and quite comfortably held onto the national speed limit on the open road.
Notably it didn’t suffer too dramatic a power loss with the aircon switched on, as happens with some other small-engined cars.
Official fuel consumption tested in a real-world combined cycle is a frugal 5.7l per 100km, says Hyundai.
A slick five-speed manual gearshift and light steering make it a cinch to drive. It’s also a fairly refined little car that mutes out most of the road and mechanical noise, and it feels quite solidly built.
Being a very light car the Atos was quite sensitive to strong cross winds on the launch drive, which required steering corrections, but in general it felt stable and confidence-inspiring on the road.
The Korean brand has a fairly busy time ahead of it in SA. The new Hyundai Venue small SUV will be launched next month as a rival to the VW T-Cross; the new-generation Grand i10 will go on sale around the middle of next year; and the i30 N hot hatch is scheduled for a January arrival.