Car Review : Hyundai Santro

Hyundai Santro review (By Nitesh Kumar)        Home

The newly launched Hyundai Santro, Hyundai's latest entry into competitive entry level hatchback market available in petrol & CNG, has only one thing in common with its older generation i.e. the name itself. Otherwise , there are no similarities between the old and the new car. The car gets a brand new skin, a new engine under the hood , design which is far from the original ‘Tall Boy’ design which used to be the USP of the car when launched in the late 90s almost 20 years ago.The new car can be called a ‘Wide & Tall Boy’ car, if Hyundai wants to take some cue from the old car and make an association with the first generation car. Hyundai had discontinued the old Santro in 2014 when the last car rolled out of its Sriperumbudur plant in Tamil Nadu. It look Hyundai engineers good four long years to re-launch the car in a brand new avatar. A brave decision was made by Hyundai to vacate the entry level car segment in 2014 where Santro was their strongest product competing with Maruti Suzuki Alto, the market leader. The Hyundai  Eon in the entry level segment couldn’t strike a chord with the Indian buyers where Alto was a runaway success due to its low cost of ownership &  deep rooted dealer network. But, it has not been an easy run for Alto as well, as it has been given stiff competition by Renault Kwid and Tata Tiago. Both the cars have been able to get some hold in the entry segment through their feature loaded (read Infotainment systems, LED headlights, automatic  transmission) value for money offerings. The upward sales movement of these two cars has prompted Maruti also to go for a complete overhaul of its largest selling car – Alto, the new car is expected to get launched in 2019.

Coming back to Santro, the car promises to be a very good overall package. Starting with the front ,  hexagonal shaped grill, triangular headlamps which staunchly follows the new design philosophy  of Hyundai, being seen in recently launched VernaXCent, gives the car a bold and stylish look. The front fog lamps are disproportionately big in size with shape similar to what is there in Creta. Looking at the side profile , we get to see wide and large doors for easy ingress and egress of passengers. The boomerang shaped impression on the front fenders gives a distinct style statement to the car. Wide windscreen in front and rear gives good  visibility of the road and makes reversing the car much easier. This should be appreciated by the customers , specially the first car buyers which form a major target segment for Santro.

Slight kink in the rear door breaks the linearity and also makes way for broader windows. Infact the car inspite of its large rear windows also has a reasonably sized quarter glass, which goes to show that the car’s rear seats are quite wide. The rear of the car houses a very practical but modern looking  tail light cluster, rear fog lights though is a miss. The hatchback’s rear door has a uncanny bend at the back . The car has decent storage space , but due to tall stance has a high loading lip which can make loading & unloading of luggage a bit difficult.

The car gets a well designed dashboard in which the 7’’ touchscreen infotainment system acquires centre stage and supports Apple Carplay and Android Auto. The large AC vents on both sides of the infotainment screen and circular spoke AC vents on the sides give a modern look to the car. The quality of plastics is good , not excellent though , but is better off than most other cars in this segment. A noticeable change, is placement  of power window switches which are there in  between the front seats , and not at their regular position on the side  door handles. I like this clever design change made in this car to make way for additional shoulder room for front passengers, though at the cost of compromising on the ergonomics of the car. The front seats though well contoured lack a bit of cushioning making them uncomfortable in long journeys. The rear seats can easily accommodate two people, third person would be a bit of a squeeze. The car gets rear AC vents which is a segment first feature. This coupled with a powerful AC compressor makes the cooling faster and effective.

The new Santro gets a 1.1 Litre 4 cylinder petrol engine which produces 69 BHP power @ 5500 RPM. The engine is well suited for the car of this size , with good low end torque , ideally suited for city driving. The car though lacks punch when taken out on highways where its performance is a bit sluggish. Also, a light steering wheel which is quite responsive enabling easy manoeuvrability in the city, makes highway rides difficult due inability of keeping the car steady at higher speeds.

Hyundai claims that the car gives mileage of 20.3 kmpl under ideal test driving conditions. The car with its well refined 3 cylinder engine  gives 18 kmpl in highway and 15 kmpl in city driving conditions and can give 16 kmpl in city+highway driving conditions.

The AMT variant of the car is quite impressive. The AMT gearbox meshes well with the engine and powertrain providing optimum performance at all speeds.  The AMT uses electronics instead of hydraulics for shifting of gears and engaging/disengaging of clutch which is different from other AMTs available in the market which are all hydraulic based. The gear shifts due to electronically managed AMT give a smooth ride with well calibrated gear shifts. Santro has good structural rigidity and a suspension which makes it traverse the undulations on the road with ease.

Santro gets only driver side airbag and ABS from the second variant onwards. Not giving the co-passenger airbag is a big miss for the car and should have been provided. In the AMT trim (only single model), only driver side airbag is being  given which deprives people looking for driving effort to miss on the safety feature.

On the whole, Santro is a well designed car which will give stiff competition to its rivals. It is better off then its rivals in many aspects and therefore , will require lot of catching up from them. It should help Hyundai  resurrect the lost market share in the entry level hatchback segment , which has eluded India’s 2nd largest carmaker after their exit  from this segment in 2014.

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