Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder vs VW Taigun vs Hyundai Creta vs Honda Elevate vs Suzuki Grand Vitara: Comparison test

The Creta gets a facelift. That’s reason enough to bring its rivals together and put them up against each other
Midsize SUVs in the Indian market!
Midsize SUVs in the Indian market!Shot by Team evo India

It was one of those ridiculously early mornings. It always is in this line of work — we’ve got to get to our shoot location and clean the cars before day breaks so the photo and video team can make the most of the golden light. Not that I mind. That early, you have the roads to yourself, with the rest of the world still asleep, no one calling or messaging and no distractions. It’s just you, the car, and the open road. And on this particular day, I’m sat in just the right car for the hour-long jaunt from the city to our shoot location — the Volkswagen Taigun GT Sport Plus.

In tow is the rest of its class — the facelift Hyundai Creta, which is why we’ve convened this lot again, the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Hyryder — the former in mild hybrid and latter in strong hybrid form, and the Honda Elevate. I know this isn’t a full house, and notable absentees include the Kushaq, C3 Aircross, Seltos and Astor. We asked, but the cars weren’t available at the time. No matter though, five’s a crowd and I’m certain we would learn something about these cars.

The engine conundrum

There’s little that’s new, but the updated bits are tastefully done — a chrome delete, red badges, smoked headlamps, carbon steel roof and red brake calipers. This is VW fully embracing its sporty credentials, wearing them on the outside in addition to under the hood. The GT Plus Sport gets the same 1.5 TSI engine, DSG transmission and beautiful chassis that has always made it a benchmark in ride and handling in this segment. Driving through the night when traffic was sparse, I used as much of the 148bhp and 250Nm as I could before the world woke up. It was properly therapeutic.

VW has fully committed to turbo power — the other engine option on the Taigun line is the 1.0 TSI — but not everyone in this test has. Yes, the Creta on test — now with much more palatable styling — is also a turbo-DCT but none of the other cars here are. Heck, none of them even have the option of a turbo engine. The Grand Vitara and Hyryder have gone down the strong hybrid route to deliver more performance and efficiency alongside their nat-asp engines, while the Elevate only has the one nat-asp engine.

When it comes to performance, turbos still rule the roost. The quickest car here in our VBOX tests was the Taigun followed by the Creta. The Creta might have the advantage on paper but the Taigun uses its power much better — it revs harder, chases down the redline more aggressively and the DSG feels much quicker. That’s enough for it to stick its nose out in front. It is also bursting with character and feels more sporty most of the time, and that really makes it endearing. The Creta isn’t bad by any measure; its T-GDI engine pulls fairly strongly as well and in terms of real world performance, it cannot be faulted. In fact, I’d actually say that the Creta’s DCT is a little smoother at city speeds, but over the quarter mile, TSI power has the edge.

By now, the sun had peeked over the horizon, the photographers were strapped into the boots of their support cars and the shutters of the cameras were firing away at us. I had now shifted to the Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder. It’s appropriate that the strong hybrid on test is the Toyota — after all, all this hybrid tech is Toyota’s and has been put into the Suzuki Global C platform to create the two SUVs. The hybrid technology is truly ingenious. A small battery powers a motor that puts out 79bhp and 141Nm, while the engine powers both the wheels and recharges the battery. What it gives you is the best of both worlds — performance and efficiency. In terms of acceleration, it follows the two turbos here but still manages a respectable 0-100kmph time of 11.6 seconds. That said, it isn’t setting the hearts of any enthusiasts on fire — the CVT’s rubberband effect is very prominent and that sucks the soul out of any engine. Where it really changes the game is on the efficiency front. It can drive in EV mode when the speeds are low and you’re not asking too much from the engine, which is ideal for our congested cities. At crawling speeds, it is absolutely silent, refined and even when the engine does fire up, vibes are reasonably well contained. If you’re not looking for thrills but need something sensible and efficient, look no further. The time for hybrids is now.

That said, this segment still gets naturally aspirated options galore — price being such a huge factor to consider. The Grand Vitara and Elevate are the two options from Japan, and boy, do the Japanese know how to make a nat-asp engine. The Honda engine is the same one out of the Honda City — creamy smooth and rev happy, although the CVT does dull it down a little. The paddles that access prefixed steps in the CVT do help to some degree, and there’s no denying the automatic, any automatic, is better for the city. However, get it with a manual and I promise you’ll be grinning. The Vitara gets the same mild-hybrid petrol that the likes of the Brezza and Ertiga get. It might not be as quick and electric as the Honda iVTEC but the six-speed torque converter automatic does make it slightly more enjoyable to drive. Neither of these two engines are going to win you any drag races but they’re what most people want — that’s what the sales figures tell us!

Cabins matter

By now, the sun was beating down on us and the photographers were shrouded under hats and buffs. I jumped into the Creta — so much had changed yet so much was the same. The new twin-screen setup, the little bronze highlight around it and the lighter upholstery really elevated the cabin to make it feel more expensive. It certainly felt the most expensive of this lot. The Taigun has gotten an interior tweak as well, with blacked out seats with red stitching, along with blacked out elements on the dash. Meanwhile it was hard to overlook the fact that the Grand Vitara and Hyryder had raided the Maruti parts bin and shared a lot of screens and buttons with the likes of the Baleno and Brezza. They weren’t very old cars — about a year-and-a-half old — but their interiors felt nowhere close to as fresh as the Creta’s. The Elevate’s interiors were quite nice — clean, simple, functional with good plastics and great seats. It might not have the visual drama of the Creta’s big screens but it did have a sense of quality to it.

The Creta is still king when it comes to equipment, adding dual-zone AC (a segment first) and Level 2 ADAS to the long list of equipment that includes Bose audio, Pano sunroof, wireless charger, air purifier, 8-way electrically adjustable seats, ventilated seats and the 360-degree camera. The only feature of consequence that the Creta doesn’t get is wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a big miss in my books. The hybrid Hyryder is reasonably well-equipped as well, missing out on ADAS, dual-zone climate control and electric seat adjust while the mild hybrid Grand Vitara also misses out on cooled seats and the digital cluster. That said, my biggest grouse with these two SUVs was not the equipment but the flimsy cloth that acts as a shade to the panoramic sunroof. It doesn’t do a great job of keeping the sun or heat out, and that was very apparent on this shoot. It’s also worth noting that the Hyryder has the smallest boot here (265-litres, the same as a Swift) because it houses the batteries for the hybrid in the boot. The Elevate and Taigun focus on the important features, without going overboard — they don’t get panoramic sunroofs, 360-degree cameras, air purifiers or branded audio but they get the hygiene stuff with wireless phone chargers and wireless app connectivity. Cooled seats on the Elevate would have been welcome. What the Taigun has is probably the most important though — 5-star crash safety. It has scored the highest in the GNCAP crash ratings so far, and if safety is a priority for you, look no further.

The Creta had the most impressive backseat as well — it gets the soft neck pillows, along with sun blinds that really help cut the heat. The Taigun has the real advantage when it comes to legroom, longest wheelbase and all that, but it simply doesn’t have the width to accommodate five as the others in this test do. The Elevate could have done with better under-thigh support, and the GV/Hyryder have good space in terms of knee room and headroom but when you factor in ride quality as well, the Creta comes out on top.

In the driver’s seat

Show this lot a road that tests handling and they’ll surprise you. The Taigun is hard to fault — it feels direct, committed and willing to change direction. There’s very controlled roll and a lot of mechanical grip through the chassis and tyres. It really sets the bar for high-speed stability in the segment, as well as handling. SUVs are inherently bad handlers. The weight up high works against them, compromising their willingness to change directions. And yet the Germans have figured out how to make SUVs feel taut, composed and clinical around a set of bends. Its softer dampers courtesy the rigid platform also means ride comfort is excellent. There’s proper balance of ride and handling — an ability to deal with the worst India can throw at it, or attack a set of curves all the same. The only real complaint I have of this platform is that you can hear the suspension when you drive over bigger bumps and the steering is devoid of feel.

The Creta, on the other hand, is more softly sprung and cushions out bad roads a little better. It does a great job of soaking up bumps and keeping you cushy inside the cabin. But the Creta has always been a comfortable car. Where it makes real strides with this update is how robust this chassis feels. With this facelift, the chassis of the Creta is reinforced with more HSS used. It feels more solid under you — the suspension feels more composed while going over bumps, it wallows less at high speed and feels very… European. This generation of the Creta, when it came out in 2020, also brought with it much better handling. It can’t go around bends as hard as the Taigun but it is close. And most people won’t even come close to its limits around corners in everyday driving. That said, most of these SUVs are used around town and here, the added comfort that the Creta brings to the table is very welcome.

What was really surprising was the Honda Elevate. It takes a very different approach to the Taigun but impresses nonetheless. It feels very light on its feet — in the way it rides, the way it handles and just generally goes about its day-to-day business. It’s very similar to the Honda City in many ways, with how poised it is over bad roads, giving you the sense that you’re almost floating above them. It changes directions very positively as well. The front reacts very quickly to steering inputs and again, it doesn’t feel like there’s much inertia to overcome while changing directions, giving the sense of lightness. There’s a very vivid sense that this is a Japanese SUV, in a good way. It does roll a fair bit and that robs you of some confidence while pushing it hard but otherwise it is hard to fault.

The Hyryder and Grand Vitara have reasonably good ride quality but they did feel a tad bit firm in front of the competition here. That said, when you pick up speed, they do a good job of cushioning things out and can actually deal with bad roads more confidently than the Taigun can. They too have a sense of lightness about them, derived from the light steering, but they didn’t do as good a job of masking their weight or dealing with bad roads as the rest of the competition here does. In isolation, they remain very competent on the ride and handling front but put them against this lot and you do start to see chinks in their armour.

May the best one win

It’s hard to give a concrete verdict on this lot because they’ve all got stuff going for them. Each one will appeal to a very specific buyer and going by how well they’re all doing, there’s clearly space in the market for all of them. But you didn’t get this far for me to weasel my way out of a verdict. So here goes. I’d compare the two nat-asp cars to each other because they’re a whole segment away from the turbos / hybrids on the price front. Between the Grand Vitara and Elevate, the Elevate comes out as the better pick as it gets a better equipment list, a nicer engine and also a better price tag despite the fancy ADAS. The hybrid Hyryder remains a very competent car, and delivers better efficiency than any other car on this test. It can’t match the turbo cars for thrills but to the buyer who doesn’t care about thrills (or boot space), look no further than this — hybrids simply make so much sense. The Taigun delivers strongly on the Thrill of Driving. If you’re an enthusiast who actually cares about the sensations a car delivers to you, then this is the one to pick. It is quick, agile, fun and feels like a car that you’d want to get into every morning. And lastly, the Creta. It wins this test because it is so competent. It has such a vast spread of abilities and forces you to make very little compromise. It delivers on performance, comfort, equipment, space — every parameter that is important while evaluating a car. Doesn’t hurt that it looks miles better than the last one either.

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