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Hyundai’s Santro is back in a modern, mature avatar

S Muralidhar | Updated on October 25, 2018 Published on October 25, 2018

Does the new model have what it takes to set the kind of benchmarks that the original did?

Hyundai has resurrected the Santro, the car that helped establish its presence in the Indian car market, and given it a new position between the Eon and the Grand i10. In terms of its design and package, the new Santro has evolved significantly compared to the original model, very similar to the evolution in the expectations and preferences of the Indian small car buyer. A few weeks ago, we gave you a taste of the Santro’s performance after driving it on the track at Hyundai’s plant near Chennai. Here is the full drive report after driving the car extensively in Bhubaneswar during the national media test drive.

Design

The new Santro’s design will get mixed reviews because of its i10-like, familiar looks. But, while it’s design is not stand-out, there is nothing to complain about. The front is fresh with the huge cascade design grille giving it a pleasant face. The fog lamps get a more practical high-set position, just below the headlamps and on the edge of the front fender. The design is a mix of tall-boy and that of a conventional, low-roofline hatch; capturing the essence and advantages of both body styles. Hyundai says that the new Santro has been built on what is called the K1 platform. The side profile captures this best with the lower roofline and yet sports a fairly high shoulder line with a kink at the rear window. The new Santro gets more design character with the combination of a boomerang line that merges with the body side line to form a reverse ‘Z’. With a carved-out arc over the rear wheels, the Santro also seems like it has a mild, sporty haunch.

 

The rear gets a dual-tone fender with reflectors and the tailgate itself is slightly reminiscent of the Grand i10 as are the tail-lamps. The gawky door mirrors in the original have been replaced with shapely, aerodynamic units that again resemble the Grand i10’s unit. They get electrical adjustment, but are not auto-folding.

Cabin

The new Santro’s cabin is a big jump in quality from the rather plastic-y interior of the original. Mild references to the first model are the circular aircon vents in the new one and the rather straight profile of the door panels, which is meant to maximise space for the occupants. But the rest of the cabin is very different and, according to Hyundai officials, the dashboard design has been inspired by the elephant. While material quality and finish are much better than most of the cars in the segment, it is still just a notch below the Grand i10. The most modern and attractive addition is the seven-inch infotainment system with voice recognition and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The AMT variants however get only a monochrome two-DIN audio system (in picture).

 

The moulded steering wheel looks like the Grand i10’s unit and it sports audio and Bluetooth controls (top MT variants only). The primary air conditioner works well already, but except for the base variant, all the others also get rear aircon vents. The seats are quite comfortable, wide and with a sort of grippy upholstery, which also looks like it will wear well. Hyundai officials also mention that the radiator gets a proprietary eco-coating technology to keep odours at bay. A lot of storage options in the cabin, including some nifty spots for keeping cellphones and loose change. The rear bench is a single unit and doesn’t offer a 60:40 split, though it has a lap belt for the middle occupant. The cabin itself is surprisingly spacious for a car this size and there is no dearth for headroom even for tall occupants. Some niggles include lack of seat height adjustment or steering adjustments and the power window buttons are placed at an unintuitive position at the base of the gear stick console.

Performance

The 2018 Santro’s engine is a new 1.1-litre, four-cylinder petrol unit that surprised me with its level of refinement and consistent performance characteristics. With almost no vibrations, you don’t get the feeling of this being a compact 1,086 cc mill. The engine revs freely and offers a very linear power delivery with the 69 PS of peak power coming in at 5,500 rpm. Peak torque is 10.1 KgM. The engine is offered with either a five-speed manual transmission or an in-house developed automated manual (AMT). The manual’s shift feel is clean, if a little bit notchy; and the ratios are well spaced to offer a balance of frugal and sporty powertrain character. The AMT is the more interesting gearbox to use, because it manages to nearly eliminate the usual problems one faces when using AMTs. Shift shocks are minimal; felt only under hard acceleration. There are spots in the algorithm when the AMT gearbox seems a bit undecided about which gear to choose, but that is mostly when using part throttle after hard acceleration. The AMT’s gear selection is also quicker than most other AMTs already in the market. Manual +/- selection is also on offer.

Ride quality is another area where the new Santro scores big. With a suspension that almost feels like the Grand i10’s, the Santro rides over bad roads with an unexpected level of confidence and poise. Even at the rear seat, the ride quality is excellent for a car in this segment. The steering feel is predictably light and focussed on easy maneuverability in the city.

Bottom Line

The new Santro’s pricing strategy must have come as a surprise to many. That will be due to the following: One because the Santro was Hyundai’s entry small car for many years before the Eon took that position. The Santro is not being pitched as an entry small car any more. We are also so used to getting much better value from Hyundai’s cars compared to the competition. So, Hyundai should have avoided launching the non-AC D-Lite variant in keeping with the image of a Santro that has grown up with the times.

But an increase in price would have also become inevitable due to the increase in safety features that are standard across all variants now. Driver airbag, ABS with EBD and rear parking sensors are standard fitment. The prices that were announced earlier this week are supposed to be introductory; if revised, the Santro will start at over ₹4 lakh. You still get a lot of car in the new Santro, though it may now seem equally convincing to instead seek an upgrade to the Grand i10. The real price and feature comparisons will happen when the competition too is forced to upgrade the safety in their new models in keeping with the new regulations that come into effect next April.

The Santro has a lot of novelty going for it, and will be the new benchmark in the ₹4-5 lakh segment. In terms of build quality, engine refinement and suspension character, the new Santro feels like it belongs in a segment above. For now, prices start at ₹3.86 lakh. There is also the option of buying the Santro with a factory-fitted CNG kit.

Published on October 25, 2018
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