Twenty years back a small car won everyone’s hearts when it was first launched. The Santro was an instant success as it garnered 15,000 booking within the first week, back in 1998. The market size since then has grown and how but the competition has also moved on beyond just the Maruti Zen. The new Santro is now launched starting at Rs 3.89 lac and has generated enough buzz that everyone is talking about it. But has Hyundai delivered a quality product yet again? We tell you in the next few minutes.
They’re still calling it the “tall boy” but isn’t as tall as it used to be. But yes it has gone both longer and wider which means more space inside. It looks premium too with the cascade design grille and the nicely integrated fog lamps within the grille. In comparison the profile doesn’t look as appealing in terms of design. The wedge shape on the front fender and the rear bumper does make it look a little better though. The rear presents a premium picture, the dual tone bumper looks nice and the spoiler adds good value too. But overall the new Santro just falls short of being a design benchmark in a segment that desperately needs some fresh visual appeal.
The dash design inside the Santro looks like an elephant’s nose, to make it look more Indian perhaps. The quality of plastics is satisfactory but it is the finish that impresses. The 7-inch touch screen system finds a place here too and is compatible with Apple car play and Android Auto. And it also gives a rear camera feed. The power window switches are placed between the front seats so that will take some time in getting used to. Some things really stand out including nice ergonomics and the propeller shaped AC vents. The car also gets rear AC vents along with Eco Coating tech that prevents unpleasant smell to develop in the AC Evaporator. But the Santro misses out on adjustable headrests on both the rows. Boot space is decent at 235 liters but is the access that worries. A lot of time to slot the luggage in you’ll have to lift the parcel tray.
The new Santro runs on a 1.1 litre petrol engine that churns out 69 PS and 99 Nm. It is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission but Hyundai is also offering an AMT option here. Unlike its rivals this gearbox is developed in-house by the company and the good thing is that they’re offering the same fuel efficiency on both manual and AMT variants, that of 20.3 kmpl. The AMT gearbox is a great tool to use in the city as there are hardly any jerks here and the creep function also comes in handy in many situations. And in case you’re looking for even better mileage there’s also a CNG variant that is promising 30 km/kg. Use of 4 cylinders results in lower vibrations and a more refined performance as we experienced during this drive in Bhubaneswar. The 5-speed gearshift is butter smooth just how it is on every Hyundai car and there is enough torque and power to aid you well especially in the urban conditions.
Ride & Handling
The new K1 platform on which the Santro is based clearly provides superior handling. The car gives a lot of confidence even at high speeds or while taking corners. Ride quality is good as long as the car is not loaded with passengers because then it tends to become a bit bumpy but only at really high speeds. Inside the city it’s difficult to find faults with the dynamics. One aspect which reminds you of the first tallboy Santro is the high seating position that provides a good view of the road ahaead. 165 mm of ground clearance helps in the car dealing with those big speed breakers with ease and getting in and out of the car is easier. A height adjustable driver seat though would’ve made the story even better.
The new Santro has already garnered 30,000 bookings in just over three weeks, that’s highest ever for any brand in this segment. And that is because it is an all round product the scores well especially when it comes to design, features and ergonomics. It also gets ABS with EBD as standard across all the variants. But the company is also facing some flak for not putting two airbags as standard as barring the top Asta variant, all other trims get just a drivers’ airbag. With the Santro Hyundai is promising lowest cost of maintenance and 3-years road side assistance as a part of Santro first care program. The comeback kid does tick the right boxes to carry forward the legacy of this iconic brand in a very positive way.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars