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Hyundai's Bayon offers yet another option at the more affordable end of the small SUV segment. Jonathan Crouch takes a look
Small SUVs used to cost relatively small amounts of money. Most of them no longer do. Which has created a vacuum into which budget priced Crossover models can enter the market - cars like this one, the Hyundai Bayon. Basically, it's a Crossover version of the brand's i20 supermini. The previous generation i20 included an 'Active'-spec model in its line-up to meet this need, but that was nothing more than an i20 with roof rails and a bit of body cladding. The Bayon is a proper purpose-designed SUV positioned in Hyundai's line-up just below the Korean brand's most well established small SUV, the Kona. With this Bayon, you can own this kind of car at close-to-supermini pricing. If that sounds attractive, read on.
As with the i20 supermini, the range is primarily built around a 1.0-litre turbocharged T-GDi petrol turbo three cylinder engine offering either 100PS or 120 PS and equipped with 48V mild hybrid electrification. This powerplant can be matched either with the brand's clever 6-speed 'iMT' Intelligent Manual Transmission or a 7-speed dual clutch DCT automatic gearbox. Both versions of the petrol engine have the same torque output - 172Nm. The 100PS variant takes 10.7 seconds to reach 62mph with manual transmission - or a second longer as a DCT automatic. The 120PS derivative is three-tenths of a second quicker to 62mph with either transmission fitted. As usual with mild hybrid technology, the difference this makes out on the road is difficult to feel; there's a fraction more mid-range throttle response; and the start/stop system cuts in a little earlier at urban speeds. That's about it. Whatever your choice of engine, you get three selectable driving modes - 'Eco', 'Normal' or 'Sport' - with the latter offering a rev matching function for the iMT manual gearbox. That iMT set-up allows the car to enter into two possible levels of coasting depending on the conditions, the first leaving the engine idling and the second turning it off completely, though it will of course spring to life again the moment your foot touches the throttle.
The Bayon is much closer in size to a supermini than its Kona SUV showroom stablemate. At 4,180mm long and 1,775mm wide, its dimensions are certainly compact, making this Hyundai slightly smaller, not only than the Kona but also than obvious rivals like Ford's Puma and Renault's Captur. The so-called 'Sensuous Sportiness' design language used here ensures for a reasonably overt dose of pavement presence though and a higher than average ride height of 183mm means the Bayon looks a little more SUV-like than some of its competitors. There are sharp creases on the flanks and lighting is a key theme, with angled headlamps placed below slim running lights, with arrow-shaped tail lamps at the back. Contrasting skid plates front and rear and black lower body cladding provide the necessary crossover cues. Inside up-front, a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel is standard and a centre dash touchscreen of the same size can be specified as an upgrade over the normal 8-inch display. The rear seat reaps the benefit of a relatively long 2,580mm wheelbase, which allows back seat folk 882mm of legroom. As for the cargo area, well there's a 411-litre boot, which can be extended to 1,205-litres with the split-folding rear bench pushed right flat.
Prices start at just over £20,000 and range up to just under £26,000. The Bayon comes in three specification levels, 'SE Connect', 'Premium' and 'Ultimate', with a choice of 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Customers opting for 'Premium' or 'Ultimate' specifications also have the choice of a higher 120PS output combined with either transmission option. Even base 'SE Connect' trim gets you quite a lot - specifically16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a rear spoiler, interior mood lighting, air conditioning, cruise control, rear parking sensors, a rear view camera and a 'drive mode select' driving modes system. There's also a 10.25-inch 'Driver's Digital Supervision' instrument cluster screen. And infotainment's taken care of by an 8-inch 'Display Audio' central screen with a DAB audio system, plus smart device integration including Bluetooth with voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Mid-range 'Premium' trim adds to that with 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, heat for the front seats and steering wheel, automatic climate control air conditioning with auto windscreen defog, an automatically dimming rear view mirror, LED headlamps with multifaceted reflectors, LED rear combination lamps, electric folding door mirrors and a bigger 10.25-inch 'Touchscreen Satellite Navigation' central display. Top 'Ultimate' trim gives you a two tone black roof, smart key keyless entry, a BOSE premium sound system, Blind Spot Collison Warning (BCW) and Lane Follow Assist (LFA).
The Bayon's efficiency figures are very little different to those of the i20 supermini it's based upon. So, for the volume 1.0 T-GDi 100PS variant, that means WLTP-rated readings of just over 50mpg on the combined cycle and around 120g/km of CO2. As we said in our driving section, the three cylinder petrol engine in use here has been embellished with the brand's latest 48-volt electrified mild hybrid tech. Unlike a self-charging full-Hybrid engine, the sort of thing you'd get with the brand's only slightly larger Kona Hybrid, mild hybrid engines of the sort fitted to this Bayon can't ever run independently on battery power. Instead, with this kind of set-up, a belt-driven integrated starter/generator replaces the standard alternator and enables the recovery and storage of energy usually lost during braking and coasting to charge a tiny 48volt lithium-ion air-cooled battery pack. The starter/generator also acts as a motor, integrating with the engine and using the stored energy it harvests to provide extra pulling power during normal driving and acceleration, as well as running the vehicle's electrical ancillaries and helping the powerplant's stop/start system in urban traffic. A strong buying incentive is the five year unlimited mileage warranty that comes as standard. It's backed up by breakdown cover that last the same length of time and free annual vehicle health checks over this duration. True, rival brand Kia claims to better this package by offering a similar seven year deal, but there, you're limited to 100,000 miles.
With the recently revised Kona small SUV in the showrooms, you might question whether Hyundai really still needs this car. It does - and the brand is far from being alone in offering a pair of very compact Crossover contenders in this segment. At the time of this test in Spring 2021, Vauxhall, Fiat, Ford, Honda and Toyota were all also taking much the same approach - which works fine providing the two products in question are fundamentally different, as is certainly the case here. The Bayon manages to make good use of its i20 underpinnings and engineering while remaining very much its own car; we'd certainly expect it to out-sell its small hatch showroom stablemate. Styling Chief Luc Donckerwolke has certainly produced more memorable designs than this, but most of them were far more expensive. This car delivers just enough design flair to satisfy its fashion-orientated target audience and keep pace with an increasingly talented set of rivals. Will that be sufficient for long term success in this rapidly evolving segment? It'll be interesting to see.