Hyundai santro

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

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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


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

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