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Can New Santro bring back the magic of the original?

S Muralidhar | Updated on October 11, 2018 Published on October 11, 2018

Second-gen Hyundai small car attempts Big Bang return after gap. Ups the game with feature packed new model

Compared to 1998, when the original Hyundai Santro was first launched, today’s car market is a very different landscape — one that is populated with many more brands and small car choices, and is a reflection of the depth and maturity that the Indian market has gained over the last two decades. Hyundai will launch the second generation Santro in this market this month and hope to rekindle the magic of the original.

The second generation Santro has been built on a new platform. It retains the original’s tall-boy stance and profile, albeit with a modern twist, So, the roofline now mildly tapers towards the rear and the smaller bonnet now slopes down to a pert nose embellished with an extended, wide cascade design grille. Thin chrome elements at the front attempt to elevate the premiumness of the design. The fog lamps gets a practical position at the two corners of the front fender and just under the headlamps.

 

 

 

The design seems to have shades of other Hyundai hatches in it, especially the erstwhile i10 at the front. It does look like Hyundai has also dipped into the parts bin of the i10 and picked out a few compatible ones for use on the new Santro. Though it has no real connect with the original, the exterior design is still crisp and fresh; aggressive too, and represents a big leap from the original Santro. The new Santro has grown in proportions on all sides. And that reflects in the significant increase in the space available in the cabin, including shoulder room, which is now up 95 mm compared to the previous generation Santro.

 

 

 

The rear of the new Santro is much more new from the perspective of what we have seen in the past wearing the same badge. The tail-lamps are nearly square units that sit just at the haunch of the car. The rear glass is large and curved, wrapping around to merge into the C-pillar. And the rear fender is tall, and sticks tight to the line leading down from the tailgate, giving the side profile that classic tall-boy profile. In fact, viewed from the side, the new Santro looks very much like the rendering sketch that Hyundai had shared a few weeks ago. Overall, the exterior design and build quality feels like that of a B-segment car; shut lines are tight and the individual elements come together nicely to give it a segment-above look.

Cabin

In place of the spartan light grey interior of the original Santro, the new model gets a big boost in quality of the cabin trim both in terms of the materials used and the spread of trim choice. Inserts in colours matching with the body paint, or in beige, manage to boost the premium feel of the cabin. Small details like the texture of the plastic parts, the four-blade turbine style aircon vents, the fit and finish of the inserts and the choice of upholstery for the better-bolstered seats make the cabin much more interesting than the average entry-level small car in the market.

Hyundai hasn’t confirmed details regarding the number of trim variants that will be launched, but the ones we test drove at the Sriperumbudur plant test track will be the top-trim variant. The cabin sported a 17.6 cm-touchscreen audio/video system. The seats offer better support than most other cars in the segment. The roof height is enough to accommodate six-footers with just a bit of headroom to spare both in the front two seats and the rear bench. Legroom too was sufficient for tall passengers at the rear to sit comfortably enough if not with their legs stretched out. Hyundai engineers have also chosen to fit a larger 135 cc compressor for the air-conditioner. The new model also gets rear aircon vents for improved cooling performance for rear passengers (segment first). Manual transmission variants had reversing cameras, while the AMT versions only had proximity warning sensors.

During the short preview test drive, I missed seat height adjustment in the new Santro, which still may have been tolerable if at least steering tilt adjustment had been offered. Yes, you still get a nice raised seating position with a good view of the road, but since in India one-size doesn’t fit all, at least one of those adjustment options should have been provided.

The other slightly irksome point is the position of the power window buttons, which are placed below the gear stick console, making it an unintuitive position. That will take some getting used to.

Powertrain

The new Santro gets a 1.1-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine. While we await more details about which series unit this was derived from, the performance numbers for this mill are very encouraging. It also feels like one of the most refined small engines that has ever been offered in the entry-level small car segment. In fact, the new Santro’s engine feels as refined at the current Grand i10’s 1.2 Kappa. With 69 PS of peak power and 10.1 KgM of torque, this engine also delivers enough punch to feel adequately powered with four adults in the cabin. Driving around the test track is not the most ideal condition to experience even a small output engine such as this, but it does set the tone for judging the start up acceleration and cruising abilities of the powertrain. NVH levels were also lower compared to the competitors in this segment.

The engine is paired to a five-speed manual, and for the first time (for Hyundai) an automated manual transmission too. The AMT has been completely developed in-house. Shift feel is good in the manual with a clean, but mildly notchy short-throw shift. The AMT, featuring a motor-driven clutch actuator, manages to almost eliminate shift shocks that is a standard feature of many not-so-refined AMTs. There is also a triptronic style manual gear selection possible, which too is quite quick to engage with every toggle of the gear stick.

Hyundai engineers have also chosen more modern engine technology for improving performance with features like low-friction engine oil and electronic throttle, etc. The fuel efficiency is rated at 20.3 kmpl for both the manual and the AMT options. Also being offered from the time of the launch is the option of a factory-fitted CNG kit. The CNG version gets a slightly stepped-down performance profile for the engine, which generates 59 PS of power and 8.6 KgM of torque.

Bottom Line

The new Santro is also being offered with some safety features as standard, such as ABS with EBD and a driver’s airbag. Structurally, the new model is also said to be capable of reducing fatalities to pedestrians due to impacts. With the higher application of advanced high strength steel, the structure is also said to be inherently more rigid and safe.

Overall, the new Santro is looking like a compelling package that will give nightmares to the competition. It will also inevitably lead to cannibalisation from potential buyers within Hyundai’s own portfolio. The new second-gen Santro will be positioned between the Eon and the Grand i10. Expect prices to range from ₹3.5 lakh to ₹5 lakh (ex-showroom).

Published on October 11, 2018
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