The highlight of the package has to be the fact that there's no evident sign of cost cutting
Hyundai has just showcased the 2018 Santro, pre-launch bookings for which will start from 10 October and its prices will be revealed on 23 October. We've just sampled the 2018 Santro at Hyundai's test track in Chennai in both petrol-MT and petrol-AMT guises. Apart from these, Hyundai will also offer a CNG version, paired with a manual transmission only. Here's a short first drive experience of the 2018 Santro.
While we've seen the car completely, it was for a very short duration and the test car was still camouflaged. So I'll reserve my opinion on how it looks for the final reveal. What's apparent, though, is the fact that the cascade grille on the black plastic cladding at the front is a welcome change, and the Santro looks quite wide because of this design element. The two creases on the side -- one on the front door and front fender and other on the rear door and fender -- are not to my liking though.
Interior - Hyundai has not officially revealed the Santro's variant list, but it showed us three different versions of the car. These are as follows:
1. Top-spec Santro MT - This variant sports a dual-tone beige-black interior. It includes features like a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with rear parking camera, rear parking sensors, dual airbags, ABS with EBD, electrically-adjustable ORVMs, fog lamps, full-wheel covers and rear wiper and washer.
2. Top-spec Santro AMT - Yes, the Santro won't be available with an AMT in the top variant. So, we expect the top variant with AMT to be the penultimate variant (feature-wise). It would miss out on rear wiper and washer and rear parking camera. We're not sure if it would get fog lamps, since the test car was camouflaged. All other features that we could spot on the top variant were present here as well. Here too, the interior sports a black-beige colour scheme.
Pictured: Not an official image
3. An unknown, but sporty looking variant - Hyundai had a manual Santro in a striking green colour as well, the kind of green that's available on the Kona. And this variant had an all-black interior, green stitching on seat covers, green inserts on the dashboard and, most noticeably, green-coloured seatbelts! There will be very few people, if there actually are, who won't like the colour-coordinated seatbelts. Youngsters looking to buy their first car should delay their purchase until they see this one.
Moving on to some of the common things inside. Interior quality is something that you would instantly appreciate when you get inside the Santro. The matte plastic around the infotainment system, the quality and feel of the centrally-placed power window buttons and ORVM adjustment buttons, and plastic finish overall appears to be from a segment above. The steering is typically Hyundai as far as its appearance is concerned. It gets a beige insert (not on the one with an all-black interior), and large controls for infotainment system, which seem easy to get used to. The Hyundai logo (on the steering) in all the variants was finished in black; if it's been done intentionally to make it look sporty and youthful, we have to say Hyundai has certainly got it right. Use of chrome on the inside as well as the outside is minimal, and that, again, is a welcome departure from the trend. Another sporty, but purely cosmetic feature has to be the round turbine-like air vents on both ends of the dashboard. Functionality-wise, however, I might not give these a thumbs-up just yet as I myself couldn't manage to shut these off. But I have to say these are a treat to the eyes (more Mercedes-Benz like design-wise; certainly cheap thrills, but well executed).
Getting in and out of the car is easy and the seats feel comfortable as well. Anyone of average built is likely to appreciate the under-thigh and lower back support on offer at the front. The front seats get integrated headrests. These seem to have been designed appropriately for average-sized adults and you might not feel the need for adjustable ones.
Like the front seats, the rear seat also has integrated headrests. As far as initial impressions go, we feel it would have been better to have adjustable ones to enhance rear seat comfort. This is because the Santro seems to offer enough legroom at the rear for you to even consider being chauffeur-driven in it. It also gets rear AC vents, so don't think of it as a car for just a small family. Tushar Kamath, our 6-and-a-half foot tall colleague, managed to sit comfortably at the rear with me, 5'8" tall, at the passenger seat in front seated in comfort.
Powertrain and dynamics - The 2018 Santro will be powered by a 1.1-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine paired with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed AMT. On our short drive on the track, it was noticeable that the engine has been tuned to make city drives comfortable. It doesn't pick up pace with eagerness, but it does show progress on the speedometer even when driven at revs as low as 1500rpm.
Hyundai will offer this engine with an indigenously developed AMT (automated manual transmission). The head-nod in the AMT is barely perceptible under normal driving. Under hard throttle, however, you do feel the upshifts. There are manual +/- modes as well, should you want to take charge of the gear shifts. We'll be driving the Santro more thoroughly by the end of this month to give you a clearer idea about how it drives.
First impression: There's very little to complain about the Santro at the moment and it appears to be very well put together. Importantly, since it's a new generation, it has managed to better existing products like the WagonR, in terms of interior quality, and can give the buyers a taste of what more premium cars feel.
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