CAPE TOWN – Back in 2003, the Atos was one of the key models that gave Hyundai a foothold, not just in our market but globally, becoming something of a go-to model for affordable but dependable motoring. Now, 16 years and more than 45 000 units later, the Hyundai Atos has returned to our shores and looks set to build on that legacy.

Underpinned by Hyundai’s all-new K1 subcompact platform, the new Atos retains much of the previous car’s tall silhouette and is just a hair longer in both wheelbase and overall length. The one area that’s seen some notable expansion is the vehicle’s width, which has grown by 120 mm. While this may sound insignificant, it does mean broader passengers are spared the awkward bodily contact that’s often an unfortunate hallmark of compact car motoring.

With its broad grin of a grille, the new car’s styling still sits on the friendly/cute side of the spectrum but isn’t quite as po-faced as its predecessor. Bootspace remains modest, but at least the luggage bay is deep and should cope with a week’s shopping.

The generous glasshouse and a good deal of air between scalp and headliner makes the cabin feel light and spacious for a car of the Atos’s diminutive stature. As expected in a car occupying this particular price bracket, hard plastic trim abounds but everything feels well screwed together and the inclusion of an Android Auto/Apple CarPlay-enabled touchscreen infotainment system helps lift things out of the budget-car-Spartan bracket and into something that feels decent at the price.

With just 866 kg to shift, the 1,1-litre four-cylinder petrol unit’s 50 kW/99 N.m outputs are ample and its willingness to rev (and the fairly snappy gearshift) makes it easy to keep the engine on the boil. Driving with restraint, however, should make the claimed 5,7 L/100 km fuel consumption figure entirely achievable. Perhaps owing to the cavernous interior and modest degree of sound deadening, the engine does become a bit boomy as the revs start to climb. Fortunately, even two-up, the Atos’s engine doesn’t feel overly taxed but performance at altitude may be another matter.

Engaging dynamics sit some way down on the Atos’s acumen, but as a city runabout the tactile disconnect between the fingertip-light steering and front wheels isn’t a dealbreaker; it’s a doddle to pilot and park. While Hyundai claims a significant improvement in torsional rigidity – and it certainly feels less flexy than its forebear – there’s no escaping the fact that you’re piloting a very light piece of metal.

As is often the case with Indian-market carsm, the springing is soft and there’s plenty of suspension travel. Consequently, the Atos, with its high centre of gravity, will exhibit a good deal of lean under fast cornering but rides over pockmarked roads with remarkable composure.

The previous Atos traded heavily on its status as a great value proposition, and with a R159 900 sticker price that sees the likes of air-con, electric front windows, the aforementioned touchscreen infotainment system and the all-important ABS and dual airbags thrown into the mix. Furthermore, Hyundai also includes a one-year/15 000 km service plan (read: the first service), which will be a boon to buyers on a tight budget.

Of course, there’s precious little choice in the sub-R180 000 bracket, and as such, the Atos, with its likely bulletproof mechanicals and generous-for-its-price standard specification, stands out as a strong value proposition.



FAST FACTS

Model: Hyundai Atos 1,1 Motion
Price: R159 900
Engine: 1,1-litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 50 kW @ 5 500 r/min
Torque: 99 N.m @ 2 800 r/min 
0-100 km/h: 14,4 seconds
Top Speed: 155 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 5,7 L/100 km
CO2: 127 g/km
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Service Plan: One-year/15 000 km