What constitutes a city car? That is the big question. Not really, but in the spirit of sounding philosophical, it felt right.
Nevertheless, Hyundai South Africa launched its all-new Atos in South Africa in October 2019. The new Atos, the first since the model was discontinued a decade ago, looks to win ground in the highly contested budget-car category.
The segment it competes in is dominated by the Renault Kwid and, to a lesser degree, the Datsun Go – of which both cars saw upgrades in 2019. In the Atos’ case, it needs to reaffirm itself as a budget offering, while at the same time lure customers away from its rivals and into the Hyundai fold. Priced at R159 900 for the one-model range, the Atos seems competitively priced against its competitors.
This begs the question: does the new Atos have enough in the bag to go up against the Kwid and Go? And following that, should you consider it if you’re in the market?
Stable at speed?
An aspect a small, budget-friendly city car will almost always fail at is high-speed stability. Like the Kwid and Go, the Atos does not have the greatest of confidence when sneaking past the national speed limit. Counting in its favour, however, is that it is a tad more stable than its rivals. Still, the slightest bit of wind can deter the Atos and see you veering out of your lane, even when the steering wheel is straight.
This can be attributed to the 14-inch wheels the car rides on, but that is only part of it. Weighing in at 866kg, the Atos is very light but still heavier than its rivals (Go = 779kg | Kwid = 736kg). The extra weight over the mentioned cars does keep the Atos slightly more planted on the road, but it, just like its rivals, have no liking to the treacherous winds Cape Town has been experiencing the past few days.
According to Hyundai, the Atos will reach a top speed of 155km/h. Though we refrained from testing that claim – given the unpleasant windy conditions – we found that the car has enough pull to possibly reach its claimed top speed. However, you might run out of road by the time you reach it.
To accommodate life in the city, the Atos needs to have certain features that play into it. In light of that, the Atos has a reasonably strong arsenal of tech and gadgets that count in its favour.
As standard, air conditioning, power steering, front electric windows, and Bluetooth/AUX/USB connectivity. The dashboard's layout is not to be scoffed at, and the readouts from the information display in front of the driver is user-friendly, too. Just take note that the electric window switches are positioned between the front seats.
Other notable additions include seats that are draped in both cloth and vinyl, a boot with 235L capacity, and an on-board trip computer. Two airbags are added as standard.
It’s fuel-efficient, right?
During our time with the Hyundai Atos, our average fuel return over seven days was 6.4-litres/100km. Granted, the Atos was often exposed to heavy-footed driving, and having to contend with Cape Town’s winds did its economy no favours. Hyundai claims a fuel return of 5.7-litres/100km, and for much of the tenure, the figure hovered between 5.9 and 6.0-litres.
In that regard, we can wholly give that nod of approval to the Atos for coming so close to its claimed figure. Who knows, perhaps a lighter foot would have seen that claimed figure being breached.
But to achieve its good fuel return, the Atos is fitted with a 1.1-litre petrol engine. The four-cylinder motor produces 50kW and 99Nm of torque, all of which are sent to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.
The Hyundai Atos’ return to South Africa is a welcomed one and should give buyers in this highly contested segment a fair bit of option. The car has its quirks, but nothing that will turn you away when you judge it objectively against its rivals. 2020 looks to be another cash-strapped year for most consumers, and vehicles like the Atos will at least ensure that you can attain a brand new car.
Watch out, Kwid and Go. There’s a new kid on the block.