9th Oct 2018 5:13 pm
We drive Hyundai’s latest car, the all-new Santro on the company’s test track. Here are our first impressions.
WHAT IS IT?
The Hyundai Santro, much like its brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan, is a car that needs no introduction. It’s the car that started it all for Hyundai in India. Although it wasn’t very attractive to look at, it had a peppy responsive engine that was light and easy to drive, and it came with many segment-firsts.
Now Hyundai has brought its tall boy back; well, sort of. With the new Santro, the brand wants to pick up from where the previous one left off. While the Santro’s bigger and more upmarket successors such as the i10 and the Grand i10 have seen a fair measure of success, the Eon – the car which the new Santro should eventually replace – didn’t.
The new car looks more attractive than the Eon. Gone are loose, flowing ‘fluidic’ lines and in comes a sharp, almost sculpted look. Hyundai’s ‘cascading’ grille, replete with chrome piping, takes centre stage on the front bumper. Placed in a black surround, it gets a pair of neat-looking fog lamps and a sporty ‘V’ shape. What’s particularly interesting, however, is that the headlight and badge (in particular) have moved to the top of the bonnet, and this results in a sporty look. The sharply cut headlamps are swept back and the slight kink in the window line helps give it a bit of an edgy look too.
While the Santro carries forward the ‘tall boy’ DNA (like the Grand i10), it doesn’t seem particularly lofty thanks to the increase in length and width, and the cabin doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb. There are stylistic cuts on the front and rear fenders, as well as the doors, and the sculpted lines work well around the rear too. The tail-lights don’t extend onto the hatch ( a cost-cutting measure), and this does add a bit of bulk to the rear, but the frameless rear windshield, that hint of a rear spoiler and the nicely done cutline along the base make it look neat.
Based on the same platform as the Grand i10, the new Santro is 3,610mm long, 1,645mm wide and 1,560mm tall. The 2,400mm-long wheelbase and a wide track also mean Hyundai has made sure there’s plenty of space for passengers. The front has a McPherson strut suspension and the rear has a non-independent torsion beam axle.
Under the hood, the new Santro is powered by Hyundai’s updated 1.1-litre Epsilon petrol engine. It makes 69hp at 5,500rpm and 99Nm of torque at 4,500rpm, against the Eon’s 1.0-litre unit that makes 69hp and 94Nm.
The Santro is the first Hyundai to feature an AMT gearbox. The engine can be mated to either a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed AMT, both of which are claimed to deliver 20.3kpl.
WHAT’S IT LIKE ON THE INSIDE?
As with most Hyundais, the cabin of the Santro is well appointed. It gets a dual-tone look with a premium beige-on-black colour scheme. The dashboard’s key attraction is the 7.0-inch touchscreen, which is a responsive system that comes with a suite of connectivity options such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Mirror Link and Voice Recognition. There’s a single USB port at the front along with a power outlet. A rubberised strip of buttons is housed below the screen, with traditional knobs on both sides. The buttons work well and feel nice to use.
The instrument cluster houses a speedo in the middle, and is flanked by an rpm meter and a multi-info display. The speedometer features a chequered-print, grey plaque design.
Also on offer is a first-in-segment reverse camera and rear air-con vents. There are audio controls on the steering, and in a cost-saving measure, the front power window switches are placed at the centre rather than on the doors. The cabin gets only one dome light.
The centre console and HVAC controls feel plasticky to touch, but the finishing on the other surfaces is decent and they also have good texturing.
In terms of storage, what you get is decent space. You get a large glovebox with a small storage tray above it. There’s also a storage shelf below the air-con controls, and a storage box in the centre console, which also doubles up as a cup holder. All the doors get pockets with bottle holders (the front passengers get larger ones).
The front seats feel comfortable with decent side bolstering and good thigh support. Broader passengers, however, will find the top to be narrow because of the lack of shoulder support. The seating position for the driver is quite elevated, which is a good thing as you don’t get height-adjust, and the steering column isn’t adjustable either. There is, however, quite a bit of travel to help with legroom.
At the rear too, the seat is comfortable. The backrest feels slightly upright but thigh support and legroom are good. The sides are also contoured slightly.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Start the engine up and the Santro feels smooth at idle for a car in this class. Although 69hp seems sufficient on paper, the initial surge when you tap the accelerator isn’t very strong. The engine, however, pulls in a linear manner from 2,000rpm and picks up pace smoothly after that; so keep the Santro in the mid-range and it will move along smartly. If you need a bit more power though, you’d rather go down a gear. It feels sufficient for city driving but may feel out of breath on open roads. Also if you extend the engine to the last 1,500rpm or so, it sounds very thrashy and quite loud.
What also helps is that the clutch is light and the gearbox feels easy to use. The Santro also comes with the option of a five-speed AMT gearbox – Hyundai’s first in-house-developed unit. Unlike other AMTs, you don’t feel that long pause before a sudden shift in gears. The shifts are blended quite nicely, and as a result, there is less head nod than other AMTs. However, they do feel a bit protracted, especially if you’re in a hurry. There is a manual mode as well, and here too, Hyundai seems to have done a good job. First impressions clearly point to this being one of the slickest AMTs yet. As for the ride, we can’t go into much detail as we drove the Santro on a track.
The steering has a nice weight to it, is pretty accurate and also centres well. Also, around corners, the new Santro felt stable and sure-footed enough, but we’ll reserve judgment for when we have an opportunity to drive it out on the road.
Hyundai has certainly thrown a lot into the new Santro. The cabin is large and well appointed, it comes with a host of first-in-class features, and the quality levels are impressive. While the engine may not be particularly responsive or peppy to drive, the car’s light controls and nicely setup steering make it something that’ll be well suited to city driving. And what’s particularly good is that the smooth AMT automatic could be the best one yet. Expected to be priced in close proximity to the Maruti Celerio and the WagonR, the new Santro could carry on from where the older Santro left off.