The Little Car That Could
SA Country Life|June 2020
The Little Car That Could
The new Hyundai Atos is proof that budget-friendly vehicles can be fun
Stephen Smith

When I first met my curly-haired wife, Emily, she was living in Joburg, as was I, and she would regularly drive home to her parents’ farm in Winterton in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg for weekends. She did this 800-kilometre round trip in a silver Hyundai Atos that had tiny wheels and weighed less than my first mountain bike. Aurelia was her name, and she was Emily’s first car. Aurelia and Emily had traversed the country together, driving from the Berg to Cape Town every semester while she was studying at university, propvol with clean clothes and homebaked goodies. She was loved, that little car.

Emily was reunited with the Atos recently, when I test drove the latest generation, and her strong feelings for Aurelia came flooding back. I too was enamoured with the updated model. Unpretentious and simple in its appearance, the Atos doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. It’s a small, entry-level hatchback for city commuting; it’s not trying to be an SUV crossover, or hot hatch. The steelrimmed wheels are 14 inches with 165/70 tyres and hubcaps, so it’s cheap to replace the tyres, and there is a decent amount of rubber between you and the road for comfort and pothole resistance.

The cabin of the Atos is practical, fitted with hard plastic that feels as though it won’t wear in a hurry. Attention has been paid to all the interior features used regularly – the seats are comfy and covered in durable cloth and vinyl, the steering wheel has controls for the sound system and phone, there’s a USB port, and the audio system works from a 7-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and CarPlay. To get the price as low as it is, some corners have been cut – the rear windows are manual, only the front wheels have disc brakes (drums on the rear), the mirrors are manually adjustable, and the seats are not height adjustable.

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June 2020