Mzansi motorists are offered strangely budgeted product due to South Africa’s membership of BRICS – the slightly collapsing economic acronym of emerging market economics: Brazil Russia, India and China.
BRICS doesn’t work because Brazil is bankrupt, Russia fails when oil is cheap and both India and China can’t really be classed as emerging economies; when they had literate populations before America was capitalised. Our BRICS status defaults global automotive product planners to land Russian, Chinese or Indian market cars, in South Africa.
Curious products, these BRICS cars. They promise stellar value and engineering commensurate to ‘robust’ market demands. A tidily euphemistic manner of saying BRICS cars cope where roads are awful, fuel quality worse and customer expectations, well, still emerging. India. Russia. China. We might occasionally enjoy vodka, pak choi and cricket, but our automotive association with the aforementioned three BRICS partners is tenuous.
South Africa? Crisis. We’ve had most luxury auto brands present in-country since their founding in Europe. SA Inc remains the outlier to any notion of the automotive emerging market, with discerning automotive tastes, but also a road network where more ground clearance is better and a currency which trades with such neurosis, that pricing can become a quarter-to-quarter issue.
It’s why these ‘emerging’ market SUVs, engineered for India, China and Russia, are considered suitable products for us too. Duster. Ecosport. Both sell in considerable numbers and owners are profoundly loyal. Unusually, South Africa’s two dominant volume automotive brands, Toyota and VW, are notably absent in the budget SUV market.
No surprise to find Hyundai keen to exploit Toyota and VW’s oversight in all this with its new Creta, a cheaper and smaller Tucson. Engines are all 1.6s, atmospheric petrol or turbodiesel with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Of the three derivatives, two are automatic, and if you’re sufficiently ambitious in your ignorance to think a 1.6-litre petrol, with merely 154Nm, is going to be tolerable at Gauteng altitudes with a six-speed automatic, well… Just spend the additional R20 000 and get a turbodiesel, with a hundred and a bit newtons more (265Nm).
Creta’s 190mm of ground clearance and some additional suspension stroke at all four wheel corners should not create a crisis of confidence: potholes might deflect to a hindrance instead of an outright mobility issues, but its exploration ability beyond gravel travel is non-existent. Not that Hyundai’s intention is anything other than seeing Creta customers crest anything more challenging than the pavement of their local Curro during the morning school run.
With both Santa Fe and Tucson suffering rampant exchange rate related price inflation, Creta’s lower entry price is a hedge against Hyundai losing absolute SUV volume. Slightly larger than Ecosport or Duster, with the platform familiar attributes of i30, Creta’s credible, but South Africans aren’t gullible either.
Creta is a Korean emerging market car, which two decades ago was one in the same thing, but in a contemporary world of R700k Hyundais – it’s faced with a very conflicted marketing mission.