The Santro was Hyundai’s very first offering when they entered the Indian car market 20 years back in 1998. The car single-handedly became the face for the Korean car maker in India and helped it takeoff to a massive start and made a very good and trusted name for the brand right from the word go. The Santro was also the very first car model to be endorsed by the upcoming superstar Shah Rukh Khan a.k.a King Khan back then. Both Shah Rukh Khan & Hyundai made it very big in their respected fields since then. Hyundai sold the Santro in huge numbers till 2015 and then ended its life abruptly. Come 2018, the Santro comes back to life in an all-new avatar and rightly so, launched again by none other than the Superstar Shah Rukh Khan in its latest innings. We drive the All-New Santro, Hyundai’s best seller ever in its newest avatar, in and around some amazing roads and countryside of Bhubaneswar, Odisha. Here is our detailed take on what could once more become India’s favorite family car.
Food For Thought
Hyundai Santro was also sold as the Atoz/ Atos and Amica in a few global markets including the UK, South Korea, Mexico, and Malaysia etc. The Santro sold in India in various versions like the Zip Drive, Zip Plus, and Xing etc. The Santro was the original Tall Boy design car in India and also sold with the tagline ‘The Sunshine Car’. Hyundai has sold more than 1.32 Million Santro’s since its launch in 1998. Hyundai has invested more than Rs.700/- crore in the All-New Santros development. The All-New Santro was code named as AH2 until it was re-christened as the Santro after a long naming competition that the carmaker ran for it. Bollywood Superstar Shah Rukh Khan has been the most loyal brand ambassador for the Santro right from 1998 to date. This car becomes the very first Hyundai that comes equipped with an AMT automatic transmission. The 5-speed AMT transmission is fully designed and developed in-house by the engineers at Hyundai.
The All-New Santro retains the basic tall boy design that it has always been known for, but it’s the width of the car which is more noticeable now. The latest version stands tall, wide and handsome, it has changed with time and the car now looks sharp and trendy. The basic styling also reminds of the i10, which is perfectly ok as it hails from the same family. The Santro also shares the i10s K1 platform, so has all the right to remind you of the good old i10. The front profile looks strikingly different thanks to the high placed bumpers, sloping rounded bonnet and the wide air dam with large angular shaped fog lamps placed at a very high position right below the headlamps. The bumper has a large area on it that is finished in matte black and the center of it houses five horizontal slats in cascade design with a slim chrome strip running around it highlighting the styling.
The edges of the bumper come with sharp character lines defining its shape. The bonnet comes with a set of soft character lines running towards the A-pillar. The headlights are neatly flushed back into the body and come fitted with normal halogen bulbs. The side profile is what reminds most of the old i10. The waistline runs across the lift type door handles and there’s also a tiny kink on the rear windowsill. The biggest highlight on the sides is the boomerang-like character line running from the front fender into the front door and an arc-shaped body line running from the rear fender into the rear doors. These three design elements make the sides stand out. Wing mirrors come in body colored housing and can be electrically adjusted from the inside. The roof gets a micro radio antenna mounted in the center right above the front windshield. The car that we drove was the top-end Asta and one variant below the top variant, the Sportz trim. Both the variants come shod with 165/70 tubeless tyres mounted on 14-inch steel wheels and are covered with progressive sun style wheel caps in silver.
The rear styling is mainly highlighted by the modular styled tail lights and the angular styled bumper. The tailgate comes with a nicely rounded rear windshield with integrated defogger and wash/ wipe feature on it. The tailgate also gets an integrated spoiler and stop lamp. The rear bumper adorns sharp design lines complementing the front bumper along with the area in the center which again is finished in matte black. The neat looking slim stop reflectors are placed horizontally on either side of the license plate completing the overall look.
Hop inside the New Santro and you are instantly greeted by a very spacious cabin as it was the car’s hallmark always. The dashboard and door-pads come in dual-tone color, the top being black and the lower section finished in beige. The AC vents on the extreme corners are round sporting Mercedes-Benz three-pointed-star like design on them with a light-bronze finish. The instrumentation is simple and extremely easy to view. You get analog tachometer along with the Speedo with orange needles running on them. The MID display on instrument cluster reads out all the needed information like the trip-meter, fuel-gauge, distance to empty, average fuel consumption etc. The dashboard also gets a flat surface area in the middle which is for placing the idols of various deities which is a common trend followed in India. The center dash as per Hyundai is elephant face inspired and rightly so as the angular mounted AC vents resemble the ears of the elephant and so on. The center dash is highlighted by the 7-inch touchscreen color infotainment system that comes loaded with a long list of features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, USB, Bluetooth telephony and music streaming, pre-loaded apps.
This screen also doubles up as the reverse camera display. You can use Google Maps on this system once you pair your Smartphone’s to it, so yes the infotainment system is also navigation compatible. The single zone climate control comes with rotary type control switches but the USP here is the rear AC vents for the rear passengers placed between the front two seats. The steering is a three-spoke design with soft silver inserts and control buttons for Bluetooth and audio placed on it. The power window switches are placed behind the gear-shifter stick, yes it does take time to get used to the placement as your reflex takes your hand to the door pad searching for them and what makes it even worse is the fact the switches are not backlit. The seats get integrated headrest for the front and the rear. Front seating is generous with the good amount of under thigh and back support.
The rear seats are also very supportive with the backrest placed at a near to perfect angle only gripe being the fixed headrests which are mounted way too low for our liking. Loads of headroom and shoulder room inside the cabin. The seating in here is at a height which allows easy ingress and egress to a large extent. There are tons cubby holes and storage areas all across the cabin, just above the glove box is an intelligently scooped out storage space that you can rest your Smartphone on, cup holders behind the transmission shifter, door pads, ahead of the shifter and so on. The boot space on the all-New Santro is 235 liters which is more than adequate for 1 large suitcase and two backpacks as we tried during our drive. Luggage can be loaded/ unloaded easily into the boot due to the low and wide opening on the tailgate.
You also get special body-colored inserts on the new Diana Green colored car, around the AC vents, gear shifter, green stitched seat linings and also green seat belts for the front occupants. This car also gets an all-black dash and upholstery to make things look sportier.
Excellent quality of plastics and interior materials, switchgear, upholstery are used in the car. The interiors look and feel very premium and upmarket taking the Santro to a very plush level in its segment.
Engine – Transmission – Gearbox
The All-New Santro comes powered with the tried, tested and trusted 1.1L (1086cc) 4-cylinder petrol engine making 69PS of power @ 5500rpm and 99Nm of torque @ 4500rpm. The engine belongs to the Epsilon range in the Hyundai family. This engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission; you also have an option of a 5-speed AMT automatic transmission Smart Auto as Hyundai likes to call it, a first for Hyundai and Santro. This AMT box is totally developed in-house by Hyundai. You also have an option of a CNG powered model which makes 59PS of power.
We drove both the manual and automatic transmission cars; let’s talk about the manual first. Start the engine and the 1.1L 4-cylinder settles into a dignified style with not much fuss or noise. Shift to first and you notice the slick and precise shift level of this gearbox.
Power builds up quickly and in a linear fashion. The transmission and the engine are both tuned well for traffic situations aiding stop and go drive style. On the highway the car cruises well, we touched almost 150kmph on the open Puri highway. The Santro drives extremely well at high speeds and never did it put us in a spot of bother. Clutch action is soft and progressive complimenting the gear shifts. Steering feedback is positive and lively and is well weighted and precise. The Brakes offer just the right bite and come aided with ABS with EBD as standard and welcome feature across the lineup. The suspension is set for our road conditions and it did soak-up the bad roads, speed breakers and bumps rather well. The overall drive feel on the Santro is very positive and you tend to forget that this is a small car thanks to the good drive that the car offers.
Coming to the AMT Automatic, we were floored with this transmission from the start. The typical AMT jittery shift feel is at its minimum or nearly absent, power delivery is very positive and the shifts are quick and smooth. It a boon in traffic conditions where it performs flawlessly making upshifts and downshifts cleverly and rather unnoticed. This can easily be the best AMT transmission currently on the market. In fact, this AMT feels more like a CVT transmission by its shift virtues, it is that good and slick. The AMT’s creep feature also does a fine job when asked to.
You have to accept the fact the Santro is a family small car and not a performance car, the engine has been tuned for a fuel efficiency claimed of 20.3kmpl and rightly so in today’s real-world scenario.
The All New Hyundai Santro comes loaded with safety features like standard driver-side airbag across all models, the top models get dual front airbags. ABS and EBD are standard across the lineup. You also get front seatbelt pre-tensioners, keyless entry, speed sensing door lock and impact sensing auto door unlock feature and yes the rear parking camera with park sensors is on the list.
The Santro is back and how! As per Hyundai’s tradition and protocol, they have loaded the Santro with a long list of safety, comfort and tech feature many of which is a segment first. Hyundai has retained the original USP of the earlier Santro in terms of tall boy styling and spacious cabin. The car offers excellent drive character and feels premium in its segment. The AMT transmission is a real boon in daily driving condition. The car is compact from outside, spacious from inside and fun to drive at all times. The Santro does look and feel a lot trendy and in-tune with today’s time and age, so we may agree and say, the legend is really back!