Road Tests

Drive Review: Hyundai Atos is a student deal

Hyundai has a new, old name

Hyundai’s naming strategy is a jumbled mess at the best of times but with the Atos there’s a chance to rekindle fond memories of an established and successful small city that preceded the i10 and sold over 40,000 model in South Arica.

So it’s a budget i10?

There’s no room for i10 and Atos because they’re both too similar in size, specification and performance. We liked the now-retired i10 so the fact that the Atos holds parity to that model in most quantifiable regards is immediately satisfying.

Heard it’s built in India.

South Africa is India’s largest export market because we’re a little (too) lenient on crash testing as well as emission control versus other markets so at times these factors conspire to make South Africa a landfill for inferior products. It’s worth knowing that Atos’s rivals (Renault Kwid, Datsun Go and Suzuki Celerio) are also produced in India but what sets the Atos apart is the research that’s been done specifically for the South African market to meet our tastes and goes beyond expectations. No impractical colour schemes, strong whiff of epoxy or blingy chrome like you find on a Honda Brio.

It’s good for students

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are novel features in this category, which in turn bless the Hyundai Atos with a suite a connected features that would normally get tacked on the purchase price. But the Atos is roomy too and can do around 5.5l/100km. Comes with a class- leading 200,000 7yr warranty – hardly the sexiest of information unless you’re in the shoes of a student holding down a nightly waitressing job.

Quality assurance is one thing you get with the Hyundai Atos. They’ve haven’t stooped to a point that would ultimately harm the brand’s clout with other models in the premium market where the big profits are made. There’s a compelling effort with the materials, some thoughtful design patterns, a digital on-board computer.

You sit high, which is a slight problem aggravated by a steering wheel which doesn’t adjust for height and reach. There wasn’t much room above my legs and I’m not the biggest guy out there so that’s a potential bugbear to look out for on the test drive.

Under the caveat that a safety rating, despite two airbags and ABS, is still vague until something surfaces on youtube (as it inevitably does, even if it’s a few days late for Halloween) the Atos appears to be built from thicker steel than. Doesn’t rattle with cheapness if you slam a door.

 A meaty 4-cylinder

Well, that’s over-selling it a bit but in a market that’s characterised by 3-cylinders, you can’t help but feel that the Atos’s 1.1-litre 4-cylinder is good bang for your buck, even if power outputs of 52kW, 99Nm are not that indicative of its extra size. On the move it drives with a reassuring stability that’s partly down to its heavier kerb weight – by 100 kilos of material and structural substance – so it doesn’t feel like it’s going to get blown into the mielie fields every time a truck comes the other way. Not very quick but I’ll take insulation and stability over that a 0-100kph any day.


Firstly, well done for resting to the urge to here first, as is commonly the case in a low frills budget car. In this segment there’s about five marques vying for your R160,000 – it’s incredibly claustrophobic with the littlest of details splitting them. What the Atos does do is remove Kwid and GO from the process. The entry-level Picanto with less spec actually costs a bit more while the Celerio’s overall quality and tech is now a step behind. By that elimination, we’ve just crowned our new favourite sub R160,000 car.  


  • R159,900
  • 1.1 4cyl
  • 52kW
  • 99Nm
  • 5.5l/100km
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