The Santro might have been out of sight, but definitely not out of mind. The iconic family car makes a comeback in a new form that may compel buyers to sit up and take notice. Here is how our first drive went off
The latest coming of the Santro promises a lot and, more importantly, delivers too
I ‘’VE NEVER MENTIONED THIS BEFORE, BUT BACK IN 2014, I WAS VERY depressed because the Santro was discontinued from the Indian market,’ revealed superstar Shah Rukh Khan in an interaction with Car India. After all, the actor has been the Hyundai brand ambassador for the last two decade; many even refer to him as the “Santro- wala”.
Over the years, the Santro has become a household name for Indian families who wanted a small but reasonably spacious and, more importantly, reliable and fuel-efficient car. So, it came as a surprise to many of us when the company decided to pull the plug on the Santro after 16 years of its existence. The focus then was on the made-for-India Eon, which, sadly, hasn’t been able to garner similar popularity.
Fast forward to the present and the Santro is back again, making its global début in New Delhi at one of the most-awaited launch events of the year. That, too, on the very day the first gen was introduced in India: 23 October.
The new Santro has been developed at Hyundai’s Korean R&D centre, obviously with inputs from the Indian centre, and it is being made locally at Hyundai’s Indian manufacturing facility from where it will also be exported to international markets. Unlike the Eon, which was based on a built-for-price platform, the new Santro gets the K1 platform which was seen on the Hyundai i10. This gives it tauter body rigidity which, in turn, makes the car better to drive than the Eon.
That’s why the new Santro is positioned above the Eon and below the Grand i10, with its price starting at Rs 3.90 lakh for the base, non-airconditioned D-Lite model and at Rs 4.25 lakh for the entrylevel Era with a-c. Yes, there’s the option of a factory-fitted CNG version which costs between Rs 5.24 and Rs 5.65 lakh. We got to drive the AMT Sportz variant that has been priced at Rs 5.47 lakh, though the top-end manual is available in the Asta trim as well, priced at Rs 5.46 lakh (all price exshowroom, Delhi). And these, Hyundai say, are introductory prices for the first 50,000 customers. So, within another six months, we may expect a slight hike in the price. One can’t avoid some amount of cannibalization between small car siblings, but with this pricing, the Eon, being the cheapest Hyundai, still remains relevant and the Grand i10 more spacious and a smidgeon more premium than the new Santro.
It’s not the most affordable car in its segment, but for the price, the new Santro has quite a lot to offer. For instance, the new model has taken the goodness of a tall boy design and merged it with the styling of a conventional hatchback, steering clear of the usual boxy shape. The large grille with five simple
slats and a chrome ring around highlight the front design. The fog-lamps have been positioned higher than usual, just below the tear-shaped headlamps which, along with the cascading grille, give the car a “happy face”.
The side profile has interesting boomerang-inspired creases around the front and rear wheel-arches. I also like the slight dip in the window-line, the two-tone OVRMs with integrated turn indicators and the rear spoiler on our top-end Sportz. Even our high variant test car doesn’t get alloy wheels, but it does get larger 14-inch steel rims with wheel-caps (lower variants gets 13-inch wheels). The conventional rear design with a narrow trunk and small tail-lamps resembles some of the other cars in this segment. It does get a rear wiper with washer and even a defogger. Hyundai haven’t gone radical with the design of the new Santro, keeping it simple and safe, and it looks like an evolution of the i10. And those expecting a more stylish Elite i20 inspiration might feel underwhelmed.
Overall, it has grown in size and, compared to the first-gen model, this has helped in improving the carpet area; a USP Hyundai hope to cash in on. Not just space, the well-finished cabin is also ahead in its segment. The neat layout of the beige-and-black dashboard with champagne gold highlights give it a premium edge. The dash also has a ridge carved out where one can keep tit-bits. If you don’t like two-tone dashboards, then you can get the optional all-black dashboard with sporty green inserts.
The propeller-shaped a-c vents have been clearly inspired by premium cars coming from Europe and look cool. To charge your phone, the car has a USB port and a power outlet at the bottom of the centre console. It takes a while to get used to the unusual position of the power window switches near the gear lever. This is especially true for the front passenger, as one is so used to having them near the
door arm-rest. Passengers at the back, thankfully, won’t face this issue. Hyundai have smartly designed the cabin to make it comfortable for all the occupants. So, you’ll find bottle-holders on all four door-panels and a much-needed a-c vent for the rear passengers, which is another segment-first.
Being a tall boy, getting in or out of the car is convenient and it also offers a high seating position which gives the driver good all-around visibility. The shapely seats, for an Indian of average build like yours truly, are supportive and seemed fairly comfortable during our short test drive. The fixed head-rests on the front seats do manage to do their job, but the those on the rear ones seem a little low. The space for the rear-seat passengers is impressive for a car of this size; one can actually feel the difference in size between the old and new Santro. The shape of the front seat leaves enough knee-room at the back and there is absolutely no shortage of head-room. The rear a-c vents leave little room for the one on the middle seat, though, which makes the rear bench ideal for two grown-ups. The 235 litres of boot space isn’t really massive and the trunk opening doesn’t help matters either, though you can store larger luggage by toppling down the single-piece rear-seat back-rest.
It’s good to see safety features such as driver-side airbag and ABS with EBD offered as standard on the new car. The Sportz gets dual front airbags and the top-end Asta additionally offers front seat-belt pre-tensioners and speed-sensing auto door lock. Higher variants also get steering-mounted controls, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, rear camera, and parking sensors. A small multi-information display is standard across variants and offers basic info, including time, trip meter, range, and average fuel economy. The second-gen Santro is also
IT’S NOT THE MOST AFFORDABLE CAR IN ITS SEGMENT, BUT FOR THE PRICE, THE NEW SANTRO HAS QUITE A LOT TO OFFER
the first car in the segment to introduce Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, voice command system, and an a-c system equipped with Eco Coating technology to provide cleaner air in the cabin.
Hyundai have made sure that the Santro is on the ball in terms of cabin quality and features, just like all their other car models. Entry-level hatchbacks priced competitively often struggle when it comes to engine and performance. That’s why practically every other model in this segment comes with a small-capacity three-cylinder engine which is tuned more for efficiency. To emerge on top of the game, the Korean manufacturers have equipped the new car with an updated version of the 1.1-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that powered the first-generation car. This is one of the most refined motors in this segment and now comes with a new five-speed gearbox.
Power figures still aren’t shattering, but 69 PS and 99 Nm are adequate for regular city use. Power delivery is as smooth as butter and the lightest tap on the accelerator results in an immediate response. As mentioned, we drove the AMT version and this inhouse developed system did give us a pleasant surprise.
Compared to the other AMT cars available currently, the Hyundai unit has the most seamless shift. And we’re not just comparing it to the cars in this segment, but even a few segments above. There’s hardly any tossing and nodding during gearshifts that you’d expect of an automated manual transmission. As you feed more gas, the car surges ahead effortlessly and power flows in uniformly and in an uninterrupted manner. The AMT, like the manual version, claims to return 20.3 km/l, though in city driving we may expect 10 to 12 km/l.
This really makes the Santro AMT perfect for the congested cityscape. You might not enjoy it as much if you tend to drive with a heavy right foot because shift-downs take a mite longer than you’d expect. That’s why there’s the option of slotting the gear lever into the manual mode which gives the driver the control of the gear-shifts. There’s enough juice from low to mid-range which keeps the performance upbeat in traffic and during the usual overtake manoeuvres. Being a small, family car we weren’t expecting it to blaze the highway tarmac, but it is reasonably quick to gather speed and comfortably maintains the highway speed limits.
The AMT with the light steering ensures hours of effortless driving, though enthusiasts might desire more weight and communication from the electrically powered unit. But something that everyone will appreciate is the great suspension set-up and plush ride quality: probably the best in the segment. The soft set-up soaks in road undulations and potholes alike without being bouncy or losing composure. We didn’t spare a single opportunity to test the ride quality and it took it all in its stride, leaving us rather awestruck. For its size and price, this is impressive indeed.
Saying that the new car is a massive improvement on the first-generation model will be an understatement. The small car segment has evolved and now has strong products such as the Tata Tiago, Maruti Suzuki WagonR and Celerio, and Renault Kwid. It’s evident that Hyundai are not getting into the price war, but hope to cash in on the new feature, cabin quality and comfort, refined engine, and, like a superstar blockbuster, make the most of the powerful brand name. “Santro” is a name which, for over 13.2 lakh Indian families, is a synonymous with “peace of mind”.
( Above) The refined 1.1-litre four-cylinder petrol comes with a new five-speed gearbox
( Above) It has grown in size than before, which improves the carpet area
( Right) The neat dashboard layout with champagne gold highlights look upmarket ( Left) Power window buttons are positioned near the gear lever
( Right) Higher variants get a seven-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
( Above) Propellershaped air-vents are inspired by premium European cars
( Below) The 235-litre boot space is decent but not the best in segment
( Left) The space for the rear-seat passengers is impressive for a car of this size
( Left) First car in the segment to offer a-c vents for the rear passengers
( Left) No alloy wheels, but higher trims get larger 14-inch steel rims with wheel-caps