Reliably informed that Hyundai, ever in pursuit of Euro-connections, has named its latest crossover after the beautiful Basques commune of Bayonne, Iain Robertson is disappointed by its uncharacteristically bland stance; after Tucson, he expected more.
A few years ago, I had reason to relate with the CID, after my car had been burgled and several thousand Pounds’ worth of video and stills cameras were removed from it. My cause was helped by the fact that I had gained sight of an individual lurking in its vicinity earlier in the day. Additional support was provided by the ‘Photofit’ department that was able to take some of the features I described to translate them onto an ingenious art program at the police station’s office. The problem arose, when I could scarcely recognise what I had described.
Such is the frenetic behaviour of the motor industry, to fill every available niche in the crossover, SUV and 4×4 lookalike scene that any manufacturer’s CAD/CAM renderings are bound to suffer from a similar fate…they all look alike! When being knocked over by a vehicle, despite the instant shock, being asked by a policeman to describe the make and model will result in (probably) a crossover, SUV, or 4×4 lookalike, regardless of its actual dimensions, or degree of purpose. My recommendation for collision preference is to seek out the saloon, or estate car alternative, as they are far easier to brand recognise and, if you are a miscreant, opt for the SUV, nobody will know.
So it is with the latest Bayon. It could have emerged from the same programme that created the format of a Mitsubishi, or a Toyota, or a Ford, or a Citroen, or a Vauxhall…you get the message. Considering that the latest Hyundai Tucson developed a small amount of personal bilious reflux, with its glittery front-end that bore zero family relationship with anything else from the same South Korean stables, and either I was comprehensively wrong in my assertions, or painfully correct, leading Hyundai to seek a more anodyne style for its not-quite-baby (B-segment) crossover.
While wishing that I could agree with Hyundai and write that its newcomer is both distinctive and eye-catching, instead I find it difficult to discern it from any number of the previous paragraph, aforementioned brands. Although it is fantastic that it will blend in with other similarly shaped models, its value as a contender in the most hotly-contested market segment is lost on me and, even with a heightened sense of commercial responsibility being shown by Hyundai, I believe it will be lost on that company as well. While its designer, Luc Donckerwolke, is being heralded as a ‘Person of the Year’ at present, I believe that he may be overtired and in desperate need of break away from motorcars!
It is an issue exacerbated when peering at the interior of the Bayon, which Hyundai believes to be clean, roomy and airy. While there is a strong focus on making the most of its packaging, with decent front and rear occupant comfort and a modest boot (411-litres), it is furnished in a choice of either all-pervading grey, or funereal black. Oh boy, how it could do with a shot of colour, rather than look like a Japanese interior of thirty years ago. Accepting that Hyundai is the less exciting owner of Kia does not excuse its conservatism in the class.
Needless to state, the cabin is packed with a range of connectivity equipment that includes a customary 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver and a 10.25-inch audio, vehicle status and navigation touchscreen at the head of the centre stack (or 8.0-inch Display Audio in cheaper variants). Occupants can marvel at the LED ambient lighting technology that is integrated into the front passenger foot wells, door pockets and front door pull handle areas, as well as the storage zone beneath the centre console.
Hyundai is actually proud of its ‘carefully selected, neutral range of interior colours and materials’, which are said to provide maximum compatibility with the exterior colour range…has Hyundai learned nothing about a sense of fun? To be fair, you can take a view of its main rivals and only Citroen adds some flair. While BOSE, the name on the speakers, seems to have sold out to the automotive sector, which you can reckon will be price dominated, there is always a hope that an owner’s music selection might add some vital pizzazz.
Yet, Hyundai is keen to emphasise Bayon’s status as a ‘true SUV’. Poppycock! It is a compact crossover powered by a choice of 99, or 118bhp versions of the firm’s excellent three-cylinder petrol-turbo engine that drives the front wheels through either a six-speed manual, or seven-speed automated-manual gearbox, complete with the added excitement of rev-matching on downshifts. Its class leading ride height of 183mm (when opting for the 17.0-inch diameter alloy wheels) is totally unnecessary and will be entirely reliant on chassis ‘electrickery’ to maintain top-heavy stability. It is just as well that it has more ‘SafetySense’ features than you can shake a stick at, because Bayon buyers are going to need them. Oh Lord! I give up!
Dimensionally, you are looking at a car that complies with compact hatch classification. It is 4.18m long, 1.77m wide and 1.49m tall; as such, the Hyundai Kona is a bigger proposition, as are both Nissan Juke and Ford Kuga…much larger. Mild hybrid (48v) technology provides the ‘stop:start’ facility and a gentle start-up boost that allows the wee Bayon that tips the scales at a modest 1.1-tonnes to scorch from 0-60mph in around 10.2s (with the punchier of its two engine options), onwards to a maximum speed of around 115mph, which is all par for the course, while emitting around 118g/km CO2 and returning around 46mpg. My personal Suzuki Vitara 1.0 SZT does all of that, only better.
Conclusion: In a ‘same-old, same-old’ format game, Hyundai had a chance to break a few moulds but it elected not to do so, instead preferring to reside with a much-copied style that is as painlessly bland as it could be. What a waste of an opportunity!