If we’ve written about the expanding crossover and SUV market once in the past few years, we’ve written about it a thousand times. Manufacturers are constantly finding new ways to join this ever-growing market.
The latest is Hyundai, which has introduced the Bayon as the smallest SUV in its line-up. On the face of it, it appears to be directly competing with the firm’s own Kona model on size and space. The Bayon’s a bit more practical and a fraction cheaper though, so can it carve out its own niche in the market?
The easiest way to think of the Bayon is as a taller, more practical version of the Hyundai i20. In fact, it shares much of its cabin design with the supermini, which means it has decent technology levels even if it’s a little unexciting to look at.
It also gets a distinctive exterior that has hints of other Hyundai models but brings a unique overall appearance, impressive levels of safety assistance and connectivity for the class, and a mild hybrid petrol engine.
It’s a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a 48-volt mild hybrid system that’s available with 99bhp or 120bhp as well as a choice of six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed dual clutch automatic.
Neither transform the Bayon into anything particularly brisk, taking over 10 seconds to get to 60mph, though on the efficiency side they have CO2 emissions ranging between 118 and 130g/km depending on specification, meaning they’re pretty clean.
Jumping behind the wheel, the Bayon feels like the perfect size for British roads. It might share much with the i20 supermini but it feels a lot more spacious inside while also remaining compact enough to offer a relaxing drive down a country road. It’s also easy to dart about in urban traffic thanks to its small dimensions and higher driving position.
The engine feels a little gruff but nothing too intrusive, pulling well throughout the rev range. The Bayon is also very comfortable, soaking up road imperfections with little fuss, yet it corners with composure, resisting the urge to roll about every time the steering wheel is turned.
The Bayon is a bit of an oddball, with the rear in particular having that curious nondescript look you see in video games where they haven’t paid the fee to license real cars. The boot is black with boomerang-like lights at each side, while the lower lid is body-coloured flowing into a chunky black bumper with a silver skid plate… it almost looks like three different cars in one.
The front end is more conventional, with the combination of slim running lights and chunky headlights combined with a large grille echoing styling touches seen on other Hyundai models.
Your first impression of the Bayon will be that it’s impressively spacious, considering the exterior footprint. The driving position is decent, with a good amount of adjustability in the driving position, which is set high enough to give excellent visibility without feeling like you’re perched high in the car.
With the central touchscreen there’s a fairly minimalist design that feels impressively tech-focused given it’s a small, affordable crossover, but it feels like this has been compensated for by using some cheaper materials. Our test car was the top-spec Ultimate trim, but it didn’t inspire the same near-premium appeal as other Hyundai models.
There are three specifications, starting with the SE Connect. Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a black cloth interior upholstery. On the technology front, there’s an 8.0-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a digital instrument cluster.
Finally, Ultimate models get a two-tone black roof, black and grey interior, keyless entry and a Bose sound system, as well as some upgraded safety kit.
The Hyundai Bayon is excellent at what it’s trying to be – a practical and affordable family car. There are absolutely no driving thrills to be had and while the on-board technology is decent, it’s not enough to excite.
But if you’re looking for something spacious for the school run that will also prove comfortable over longer distances, the Bayon makes a fantastic case for itself. The Kona has a little more pizazz, but if sensibility is high on the agenda this is a fantastic all-rounder.