When Hyundai discontinued the Atos in 2014, this did not sit well with a legion of potential entrants to the car market who saw its replacement, the i10, as being above their pay grade – this particularly in emerging markets such as South Africa, where the Atos had built up a formidable reputation.
Launched locally late last year, the Atos is back as a true entry-level offering with a whack of specification to go with it.
Some history – the Hyundai Atos is a city car that was produced by the South Korean manufacturer from 1997 until 2014. The development project for a Hyundai minicar started in October 1995 after Daewoo had already put in place the production of a compact car, the Matiz.
In just 23 months, with a total investment of $155-million dollars, the car passes from the blank sheet to production in September 1997 and is presented as the Atos, less than 3,50 metres long, characterised by a soft design, but a spacious interior thanks to the shape of the body, five doors and five seats.
Hyundai created a specific base platform, very simple in the mechanical and economic setting to produce because the car had to be sold in emerging markets and therefore have a low price list: the front wheel drive scheme was adopted, with MacPherson front suspension and a torsion-beam suspension at the rear, front disc brakes and rear drum brakes.
Fast forward to 2019 and, while the dimensions and ground clearance are on par with its rivals, it is the whole package with a complete list of features the Atos offers at a most competitive price, which will perk the interest of new car buyers.
The good looks of the new Atos, with its modern stylish ‘tall boy design’, is another aspect of the car that attracts attention. Inside the body, with outer dimensions of 3,61 m and 1,64 m, is a cabin that allows a lot of headspace and legroom, with good visibility and ergonomics that ensures a comfortable ride.
The list of standard features includes an infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen and Apple Carplay and Bluetooth connectivity, an onboard computer, a multifunction steering with remote buttons for the radio, sound system and Bluetooth-connected cell phone, a dedicated USB charging socket that also serves as a connection point for Apple’s Carplay, as well as an extra 12V power socket, air-conditioner and electrically controlled front side windows.
The safety package comprises crash bags for the driver and front passenger, anti-lock braking, EBD and ISOFIX child seat attachment points on the rear seat bench.
All round, a pretty good package – an important word in this review – for an entry-level car, along with pricing that puts it back in play in the segment it belongs and displacing the i10 as an option (now only available as the pricier Grand i10).
Built on an all-new platform with bigger dimensions than its predecessor, a spacious cabin and sporting superior ride and handling with low NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels, the new Atos has the credentials to be at the top of the shopping list of buyers in the entry-level car segment.
Having spent a week behind the wheel, the Atos surpasses expectations in all of those departments, never putting out that constricted feeling prevalent in many small cars even when filled with four adults.
It is comfortable, looks, feels modern and can stand proud in any parking lot.
The 50 kW maximum power the Atos’ 1 086 cc engine delivers at 5 500 r/min, as well as the maximum torque of 99 Nm which comes at 2 800 r/min, compares very favourably with a range of competitors in its market segment.
Emissions at 127 g/km do not quite make the zero penalty level of 120 g/km and something Hyundai will, hopefully, be able to rectify in new iterations of this engine.
Fuel consumption, tested in a real-world combined cycle, is 5,8 l/100 km and acceleration from rest to 100 km/h is a leisurely 14,6 seconds.
The Atos is available only as a 5-speed manual and this probably suits the package best, maximising both power and torque through each gear to ensure it keeps pace with traffic flow and onwards to a top speed around 152 km/h.
Good all-round visibility means ‘taking the gap’ is much less of a lottery decision and the Atos is agile enough to handle swift changes of direction without becoming unduly unsettled.
On the open road, it holds its own against all but the longest and steepest of hills where some rowing through the gearbox is required to maintain momentum. Equally, while never intended to be hurled into corners in boy racer mode, the Atos might surprise some with its neutral handling and positive stance on the road.
One of the most important features of the package is the 7-year/200 000 km warranty that goes with a 1-year service plan and roadside assistance for 7 years or 150 000 km.
Welcome back, old friend.