Hyundai Santro Expert Review

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Introduction

The 2018 Santro is one of the most important cars for Hyundai India. It was the brand’s first step into the Indian market when introduced in October 1998. Launched at a price of Rs 3.0 lakh back then, the Santro name managed to rake in nearly 2 million sales in various iterations. The Santro offered multi-point fuel injection (MPFI) when its rivals stuck to carburetors. It made features like power steering and air-conditioning a must instead of a luxury. The Santro Xing was discontinued in 2015 and come 2018, the Santro is back! Today it faces tough competitors like the Maruti Suzuki WagonR, the Maruti Celerio and the Tata Tiago. Here’s how it plans to tackle the competition.

Pros
  • Quality: The 2018 Santro is capable of setting a new benchmark in terms of its material quality on the inside
  • Spacious: The 2018 Santro is based on a new platform that boasts of a wheelbase of 2400mm, which is 20mm more than the Eon. At 1645mm, the 2018 Santro is wider than the Celerio. Its cabin appears roomy, with enough space to seat two six-footers one behind the other in comfort. Front and rear headroom isn’t lacking either, even for the above mentioned six-footers
  • Powertrain options: The 2018 Santro will be available with a 1.1-litre petrol engine with both manual and automated manual transmission (AMT) options. It will also come with a factory-fitted CNG option, which will only be available with a manual transmission
Cons
  • No dual airbags as standard: The 2018 Santro will just get a driver-side airbag as standard. Dual airbags will be on offer only on higher variants
  • Fixed headrests for front and rear seat
  • Could have had more features: Alloy wheels, electrically foldable ORVMs, tilt-adjustable steering wheel and automatic climate control could have been offered on the top variant

Stand Out Features

  • Rear parking sensors with parking camera

 

    Rear parking sensors with parking camera

     

  • Rear AC vents

 

    Rear AC vents

     

  • 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink connectivity

 

    7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink connectivity

     

CarDekho Verdict

"There's very little to complain about the Santro at the moment. It appears to be very well put together."

Importantly, since it's a new generation, it has managed to better existing products like the Wagon R in terms of interior quality, and is capable of giving buyers a premium car feel at a more affordable price.

Exterior

On first impressions, the new Hyundai Santro comes across as a mixed bag - distinctively Hyundai in its styling, yet unique. Up front, it sports a design that’s in line with the brand’s new design language, wherein the grille sits quite a bit lower than the bonnet shut-line. It also features fog lamps that are placed quite high up in the bumper. The new look, while quirky, isn’t too polarising (like the Xcent facelift). At 3610mm in length and 1645mm in width, the 2018 Santro sits right in between the Eon and Grand i10 in terms of size. It’s also 1560mm tall and has a 2400mm wheelbase. It’s road presence is very similar to Grand i10’s and while it is a tall-boy, it doesn’t pull off the look in a way that’s as obvious as it is in the WagonR.

The side profile integrates some interesting touches like a kink in the rear window line and two creases in the sheet metal, which is a contrast to the traditionally clean panels Hyundai cars sport. The 14-inch wheels with full wheel covers look quite size appropriate underneath the Santro. However, unlike the Tiago, the Santro misses out on alloy wheels.

Walk up behind the Santro and this is the car’s most understated yet attractive angles. It comes across as a combination of the Grand i10 and Maruti A-Star with its squared-off tail lights, large metal panel and bumper that sports a large blacked insert with reflectors. The rear camera bulges out from underneath the Hyundai logo and you will also spot a rear washer and wiper along with two rear parking sensors.

Quality is decent but nothing to exclaim about. The door’s open/close action is more like the i10 rather than the Grand i10, in that it doesn’t have the same sense of weight or solidity. But that isn’t unexpected in this segment. However, the paint’s “orange peel effect” is very evident, which does cut away from its appearance a bit.

Interior

Step inside the Santro’s cabin and prepare to be surprised. The first thing you notice is how open and airy the cabin feels. Hyundai has stuck with the tried and tested dull beige-black interior and it certainly looks nice here. But looks aside, what stands out is the quality here. The choice of plastic trim is smooth, the matte finish centre console looks tasteful, all of the switchgear feels great to touch and operate, and even the fabric seat upholstery feels top-notch. Step out of the Grand i10 and then step into the Santro, the difference in experience, in terms of quality, isn’t all that different and there are no tangible signs of cost cutting either.

The layout is also interesting. The front power window controls, for example, have been placed behind the gear lever and not on the doors. This frees up a little more cabin width, although the front occupants still get door armrests. The central AC vents in the Santro have been inspired by the ears of an elephant, while the side vents, much like they are in new-age Mercedes-Benz cars, feature rotors that look like jet turbines.

It’s a thoughtful cabin too as the Santro gets a proper slot to place knick-knacks in the centre console, well-sized door pockets that can hold 1-litre bottles at the front and rear, along with a glove box that has an open storage slot above. Occupants also get a 12V power socket and a USB port just ahead of the gear lever. Interestingly, the Santro will be available in a variant with colour coordinated interiors. In this grade, not only will the AC vent, gear lever and centre console surrounds be body-coloured, but seatbelts will be too!

But looks and experience aside, what really gets a thumbs up is the cabin space. The cabin feels very roomy and there is space for a six-footer to sit behind the other. Rear seat legroom and headroom are very impressive and even someone who is 6.5ft tall can sit in the rear with about an inch of headroom to spare. The rear seatback angle is set at a relaxed angle and second row occupants have a good view ahead too. Much like the front seats, though, it gets two non-adjustable headrests, which won’t be of much use for taller occupants (read: around 6ft in height or more).

Sit in the driver’s seat and you get a nice view of the road ahead. Unfortunately, there’s no tilt steering. There’s no driver’s seat-height adjuster either. But the default seat height is quite tall, so shorter drivers won’t have an issue with usability.

Performance

The 2018 Hyundai Santro is powered by a 1.1-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine that can also be powered by a factory-fit CNG kit. In its petrol guise, this engine (a reworked version of the old Santro’s “Epsilon” engine), produces 69PS @ 5500rpm and 99Nm of torque at 4500rpm. When powered by CNG, it makes 59PS @ 5500rpm and 84Nm of torque @ 4500rpm. The petrol-powered version delivers a claimed mileage of 20.3kmpl, while the CNG manages around 30.5km per kg. While a 5-speed manual transmission comes as standard, the petrol variant is also available with an automated manual transmission (AMT) developed in-house by Hyundai India.

What strikes you first while driving the new Santro is that this is a purpose built city car and it’s typical Hyundai fare. All the floor pedals and the steering are super-light to use, which will help in making driving in traffic a hassle-free affair. It’s a similar story for the power delivery as well. It offers easy driveability and predictable responses. No matter how hard you floor the accelerator, the performance gains are gradual. There’s never any sudden spike in acceleration and speeds increase very calmly. Simply put, the power delivery stays flat whether you’re at 2000rpm or twice that. It’s also got a decent amount of low-rev torque. Even with a full load of passengers, slot up to 5th gear and hover around 1200rpm - the engine doesn’t knock. However, you will have to downshift to pick up speed again and overtakes in the city will also need some planning.

Our pick of the two transmissions would have to be the AMT. The tuning of this transmission is spot on and it’s easily one of the smoothest AMTs we’ve ever used, irrespective of the segment. Go easy on the throttle and gear changes are almost imperceptible, which will make city commutes a smooth affair. Even when you push it a bit, the upshifts or downshifts don’t get jerky and this Santo automatic is quite a joy to drive. It also gets a manual mode and the gear lever itself looks like its been derived from the Verna automatic!

Safety

The new Hyundai Santro comes equipped with a driver airbag as standard, along with ABS (anti-lock brakes) with EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution). Higher variants add a front passenger airbag. Other safety features include front fog lamps, rear parking sensors, rear camera and a speed alert that rings at 80kmph. Hyundai has confirmed that the 2018 Santro is compliant with the upcoming Indian crash test norms.

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