We’re road-testing the latest addition to Hyundai’s growing family – the Bayon Baby SUV…
I feel some sorry for the Hyundai Bayon. Not only was it saddled with a name* which means nothing to most UK buyers, but it was introduced around the same time as the highly acclaimed Hyundai Ioniq 5 EV and Tucson SUV.
In other words, this worthy compact crossover – which will do battle with the likes of the Nissan Juke, Seat Arona, Ford Puma, Renault Captur and Skoda Kamik – missed the spotlight at launch.
Mixed first impressions. Let’s be charitable and describe the design as bold. A massive grille sits under the thin headlights, there are sharp creases down the side and it has an angular rear end with tall taillights and a thin horizontal light strip.
Inside, it looks a lot like the i20 hatchback, the car the Pioneer is based on. The dashboard is attractive enough and reasonably designed with the higher versions getting a pair of crisp, clear 10.25-inch digital screens – a digital driver display behind the steering wheel and a central touchscreen that takes care of media, navigation and vehicle settings.
Naturally, it is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while Hyundai’s BlueLink smartphone app allows owners to connect to the car remotely, check its location and condition and send routes to the satellite navigation system for their next trip.
The Bayon kit is priced at £20,530 and there are three trim levels on offer: SE Connect, Premium and Ultimate.
Only one engine is available – a 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbocharged petrol (99 hp or 118 hp) with a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic transmission.
The engine has a 48-volt mild hybrid assist, and the more powerful version paired with the automatic gearbox can hit 0-62 mph in 10.4 seconds and a top speed of 115 mph. Fuel consumption is up to 53.3 mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 119 g/km.
My 118bhp Ultimate test car came with a six-speed manual transmission and had a ticket price of £24,780.
Top trim means there’s plenty of instrumentation, including gloss black door mirrors, a two-tone black roof, keyless entry and a Bose audio system, over the rear view camera, privacy glass, heated front seats and the entry-level steering wheel in the models.
There’s plenty of safety and driver assistance equipment too including AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking), Blind Spot Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, and Automatic High Beam. Ford’s record is the record, achieving four out of five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.
The Bayon is surprisingly spacious inside with room for two adults in the back, although legroom under the front seats is limited. Trunk is a reasonable 334 liters, expandable to 1,205 liters with the rear seats flipped down, and there are smaller storage spaces scattered around the cabin.
My only gripe is that there is a lot of rough, tough plastic used around the cabin.
I’m glad I was able to try out the Intelligent Manual Transmission, which is marketed as an Intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT).
Apparently, there is no physical connection between the clutch pedal and the clutch and it allows the engine to pause while cruising, reducing emissions and saving fuel.
The system seems to work well enough on the go, although there is an occasional hesitation with the shutdown when engaging in first gear in slow-moving traffic.
However, the clutch is light, and the gearshift has a nice short throw, even if it’s a little grooved at times.
The engine is more powerful than the performance numbers suggest, and more importantly to many, it’s smooth and refined when it gets up to speed.
You can choose from three driving modes (economy, normal and sport). The Eco is fine for cruise-control highways (50 mpg can be achieved), but the Normal mode is best multi-level and will do just fine, because the Sport adds weight to the steering.
With its lighting controls and elevated driving position, the Bayon is a logical crossover choice.
It would be wrong to describe its firm passenger as sophisticated, but comfortable enough.
It’s light up front, so grip is moderate in wet places or on a loose surface, but overall it handles well with decent body control. So, while driving isn’t as attractive as some of the competitors, it ticks a lot of boxes for most buyers.
Verdict: Hyundai Bayon is an honest, competitively priced and bold newcomer in the busy compact crossover segment. Well-equipped, easy to drive, practical and economical, it comes with an attractive five-year unlimited mileage warranty.
*Just as you know, the name Bayonne is inspired by Bayonne, the capital of the French Basque Country in southwest France.