With prices starting at R69 900, the new Hyundai Atos (no, not Atoz) manual is still a cheeky, funky city runabout, but cheaper than the model it replaces.

The name may have been changed slightly (was Atoz, now Atos) but the character remains. A cheeky, funky city runabout is the essence of Atos and the overall shape is immediately recognisable to those who knew the first model.


But don’t be fooled into thinking that nothing has changed… Some very significant improvements can be spotted. At the front, the lights and grille have been modernised to fit in with current trends and are now squared off with indicator and parking-lights incorporated under the polycarbonate lenses. At the rear, the high, C-pillar mounted tail lights have been dropped to the flanks of the hatch and also incorporate double circular reflectors.


The Atos’ four-cylinder engine has now grown from 999 cm3 to 1086 cm3, producing 45 kW at 5 500 r/min with 87 N.m of torque at 3 000 r/min, and is mated with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.


The car’s power delivery is nothing to write home about, but sufficient to help the Atos keep up with the flow of traffic. If allowed to rev, the Atos’ mill emits a sporty buzz that adds to the fun of commuting. Gear shifting is quick and easy, if a bit rubbery. Steering too is easy and luckily not too light, otherwise the car may have been twitchy during lane changes or in strong wind.


The suspension has been set up for ride comfort and not for bolting around corners - a sensible choice - and we found the ride to be very acceptable for such a small and light car. Well up to the poor road conditions found on some of our “maintenance-challenged” stretches of tarmac.


Only two optional extras are available - a front-loading CD system (about R1 750) and alloy wheels (about R2 000). Most of the nice-to-haves in an entry-level car are, surprisingly, already fitted as standard, including: Air conditioning, central locking with remote, electric front windows and power steering. Other standard items are front fog lights, rear window wash/wipe, rear spoiler with high-level brake light and 50:50 split rear seats which can be double-folded forwards to free up a reasonable amount of utility space. One more important feature is the presence of a full-size spare. What is not included at this price level is ABS or airbags.


The interior trim looks pretty much the same as the model that we tested back in June 1999, with zooty eyeball vents and concave sections on the facia for item storage. Many other storage pockets are provided but, in line with the compactness of the car, these too are small in size. A standard fitment is map pockets behind the front seats.


No rev-counter is fitted. Interior space is adequate in the front with lots of headroom, but passengers could do with a bit more rearward seat travel. In the rear, legroom is fair, if passengers are not too tall and headroom is restricted due to the rear seats being positioned higher than the front ones, the so-called “stadium seating” design, aimed at allowing children in the rear to also be able to see where they are going.


That fits in with the intended market of the car, which is a first time car for youngsters and students or for older folk, as a purchase for the retirement years, when the need for loads of space has disappeared and a light, manoeuvrable car (with power steering) is required.


While the Atos is no toy, look out for a humorous tongue-in-cheek TV ad suggesting otherwise.


Prices (old prices shown in brackets):

R69 900 (R71 900) for the manual

R79 900 (R86 900) for the automatic