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First Impressions : Hyundai Santro
#1
2018 Hyundai Santro

   

What's Nice :
  • The right size for our crowded Indian roads, neither too big nor too small
  • Top notch interior build and finish
  • Tractable mid range and refined 4 cylinder engine
  • Mature steering for an entry level car, rides well too
  • Many nifty segment features-rear AC vents, touchscreen navigation with apple carplay/android auto, full MID, eco coating on AC
  • Decent build quality
  • Easy ingress and egress and excellent seating position
  • Hyundai's vast service network
What's not :
  • Pricier than many of its rivals, esp Asta MT, AMT and CNG variants
  • Engine is not eager on initial throttle
  • No passenger airbag on any except top trim, competitors offer them as standard or as an option
  • Missing essentials-no seat height adjust, no steering adjust, no adjustable head restraints, no aux in port or in built navigation
  • Dynamics need tiding up on high speeds. Not meant for open highway. Grabby brakes.
  • Rear bench width and legspace not in the league of wagonR
  • Hyundai's after sales costs are higher than many of the competition. Workshops known to inflate bills with unnecessary add ons.

The launch of the year.

   


This is billed as perhaps the biggest launch of 2018, so much so that the global MD and CEO of Hyundai Motor, the head of Asia Pacific, the evergreen brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan, the design head and the Indian team were all present to lift the covers at their most important family city hatchback till date-The all new 2018 Hyundai Santro.
The importance of this car cannot be ignored. For once, it has bought back the very famous name plate which established the brand Hyundai on the Indian turf and made it a solid household name among Indian families. Second, its about the volumes game. Ever since the old Santro was phased out in 2014, The mantle of Hyundai's hatchback market was left to the Grand i10 and i20. The Eon hasn't been able to get the volumes that Hyundai aimed for, and the old i10 was phased out in favour of refreshing of the lineup in line with the global practices.
With the Santro, the car is positioned in the upper A segment, with many features of the lower and upper B segment. Hyundai is targeting a 10,000 unit per month production, and the pre launch online bookings of 23,500 and counting only indicates that. In their speak, they have accumulated their 3 months of production volume. 
The car was launched with much fanfare yesterday, and what raised eyeballs was the pricing. The car is surely priced in premium compared to its immediate rivals-The Tiago, Celerio, WagonR and Datsun GO and to a certain extent, the Nissan Micra active.
The premium charged is for many first in class features like rear AC vents, reverse camera on asta, touchscreen stereo,on sportz and asta, eco coating on AC cooling coil etc. While the car is fairly decently loaded, basic safety equipment like passenger airbag is given a miss on all the lower variants except asta, parking sensors are given amiss on the bottom 3 variants, also conspicuous by the absence is the aux-in jack, in built navigation (we can overlook that since mirrorlink, android auto and apple carplay is on offer to use real time google maps), no height adjustable seat, no adjustable steering, no chrome logo on steering wheel, no adjustable head restraints either.

   

Clearly, its a mix of form taking over function.

Exterior

   

There have been polarizing opinions on the car's forced and excessive styling when the original Santro was launched, and the same is bound to continue with the new car also. The car does have its fair share of quirkiness and there is not a single angle where styling is overboard.

   

The front is dominated with a huge monkey grin like beard on the front bumper, with Hyundai's cascading mesh grille been given the chrome surround. Fog lamps are placed higher than usual and to comply with pedastrian safety norms, the front bumper extends all the way up till the headlamp area. The triangle shape headlamps and overall front profile does remind of many Peugeot designs which follow a similar pattern.
The side is even more overdone. 
The kink on the rear window line lacks the cohesiveness of the flowing design from the front beltline, the blocky C pillar meeting the curvy roof, the 2 Z inspired crease lines on the fender and the rear quarter panel and the stone age flap type door handles all indicate a design that has been multitasked upon. 

   

   

   

Things at rear are more convectional but plain jane. The taillights seem out of sync and unimaginative, the two character lines on either side of the boot do lend a stylistic touch but the dual tone rear bumper continues to disappoint, with its artificial grin inspired outline. Its more of a cheaper version of Grand i10 than giving its own identity. The numberplate mounts do help reduce the visual bulk, though.

   

The build quality of the car is on par for the segment is positioned for. Shut lines are uniform, the paint quality is fairly good and orange peel is much less than you expect from today's standards. Top marks on that aspect. The layer of clear coat is thin though and easy to create swirls. The doors shut with a hollow thud and are above average, so is the bonnet. We can only comment on the star rating once the G-NCAP performs the crash test. As for now, Hyundai claims to have used 65% high strength steel which gives excellent collision protection from front, offset, side and rear. Still, its the segment norm that the car has to be on the lighter side since fuel efficiency and ease of driving takes precedence over everything.

   

   

   

   
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#2
The insides.

   

The insides carry all the traits that we have come to Expect from Hyundai over the years. High quality plastics, with quirky stylistic touches. The dashboard for the segment looks good and is practical also. Though, the "elephant inspired" centre console eerily reminds of the Jeep Compass and the propellor designed AC vents are a direct lift from Mercedes design school.
There are two interior colour options on offer-the Dual tone beige seen here, and black with green inserts for Diana green shade, the latter what I prefer. Gives sporting feelz yo.

   

What you will like about the interior is its user friendliness and ease of operations. The ingress and egress, a known trait of the old santro, is carried over and the doors open wide open which also enables elderly to get in and out easily.
Once inside, the car has storage spaces abound. The door pockets can take 1L bottles, the glovebox is pretty deep, an additional shelf is placed above the glovebox and there is storage area underneath the handbrake also. Centre mounted single cabin light, no vanity mirror on any grades except asta, the placement of front power window switches behind the gear lever along with controls for the rear and rear window lock do hint at the cost targets that the car was positioned at.

   

The seating and overall interior volume are good for 4 average sized adults.

   

Climb on the front seats and what will impress is the optimal placement height. Sans height adjustment, average sized drivers should not have visibility issues associated with low placed seats. The squab is well designed but do remember that since this is an entry level car, comfort is only above average. While under thigh and lower back support is excellent, lumbar support was lacking and also, we would have appreciated additional side bolstering. The non adjust front head restraints are another downer, and the thin back does raise concern on the safety aspect, but do remember that its a mass market oriented city car and view it as that, it does its duty well.
Legspace is par on course and the old santro's issue of poor legroom at front is resolved.

The rear continues to disappoint a bit, and legroom and width is not in the league of its immediate tallboy rival-the Wagon R. The Maruti has more space but the Santro does have better contoured seats of the two. Two adults are welcome and the comfort will not disappoint.  The seat base is flat and that means just average thigh support. The inclination angle is good though and its easy to sit on a comfortable posture. Bring a third person and lack of width is apparent. Also, the cushioning is a bit on the softer side, which can be a problem for long journeys. But again, the positioning of the car makes it up for the average comfort levels.
Legroom is surely better than the older Santro, but the seat placement is not "ambassador like" high that the older Santro was famous for. Its more in the league of the older i10. Legspace is above average and pushing the seats back, there is still an inch of empty space left.

   

Whats also a plus is the positioning of the rear AC vents. Its low but has two dedicated vents and on hot summers, this will help in faster cabin cooling. The AC in this Hyundai runs a 135 cc compressor and cooled the cabin effectively but the dry weather in Delhi is not the correct time to comment on its full effectiveness.

   

   

Boot space is at 235 litres and only good for a single suitcase or 3 medium sized bags, which a normal nuclear family uses. The loading sill is high and you need extra effort to place the luggage inside the boot. The rear seat folds down in case you need additional boot space. Double folding and 60:40 split not on offer.

Engine, gearbox and the go.

   

   

The car is powered by an evolved version of the acclaimed epsilon engine, the lineage of which dates back to the original 1998 Santro. The engine is reworked for BS-4 norms and is said to be BS-6 ready. Displacing 1086 cc, the two intake-1 exhaust valve per cylinder in line 4 cylinder produces its peak power of 69 ps on crank at 5500 rpm and peak torque of 10.1 KG-M at 4500 rpm, again on crank.
What the car surely has an advantage over its immediate rivals is its 4 cylinder layout, which gives excellent balance as far as NVH and refinement is concerned. The engine can only be started by engaging the clutch and is extremely silent on idle. You need to look at the tacho to see if the engine is running or not. 
The characteristic throaty note is missing and muted. Sit in the seat, the pedal space and placement is good enough and engage the first gear, and what will be immediately apparent is the totally opposite character of the epsilon compared to the previous Santro xing.

   

   

   

Efficiency and tighter emissions oriented tuning along with linear power delivery have taken away the razor sharp low rpm response that was present in the previous Santro. You won't find much of a problem in launching the 4 pot compared, to say the cars powered by 3 pot K10 engines. But, its after ages I drove a small engined BS-4 car displacing under 1.2 litres. To my surprise, the car does feel hesitated for the first 1-1.5 seconds before it gathers speed. I think this can be put to the fact that the engine was barely run in and felt tight. But, again, on shifting to second gear, there was a hint of hesitation before power came in.  City slickers will like the tractable nature of the engine and its matured power delivery towards the mid range. 2500-4000 rpm is where the engine is performing at its best and post that, the motor feels strained. Whats more impressive is the constant torque delivery on 3rd and 4th gears above 2500 rpm with speeds of 80-90 kmph. Since majority of the Indians will spend time in the city, the tuning has been done accordingly. Its just that the low end characteristic of the epsilon is gone which made the previous Santro a hoot to drive. We will have to wait on owner's feedback once the cars clock in kms and undergo their first 3 services.

The placement of the gearbox is ergonomically sound and gearshifts are fairly slick. The gates are well defined and on par with what today's cars have in terms of shift quality. Does feel a tinch notchy but ain't a deal breaker.

   

The car's brakes did feel grabby. Pedal feels overservoed and one can feel the early kick in of the ABS system.

Steering and suspension

   

This is one car which for an entry level hatch is tuned to be with the demands of the mass markets, but at the same time, is fairly well balanced in terms of ride. One can appreciate Hyundai over the years working on fine tuning the suspension in accordance with the Indian conditions and the Santro does ride decently. Low speed ride is above average cushy and suspension does iron out road imperfections well. There is some undulations felt but you wont get tossed around like it was a problem on the old Santro and old i10. As speeds build, the ride becomes flat and consistent. But again, the lower variants on 13" wheels and 155/80 R13 wheels will ride better than top spec models running 165/70 R14 steel.
Steering feel is on the lighter side as of a typical Hyundai, but there is a new level of maturity that Hyundai has got tuned in this entry level car. At parking speeds, the overlight feel is no longer there and the "connectivity to the axle" feel is present and you do know that in which direction the car is moving.

   

Handling wasn't tested for much but in few turns that we took, it was fairly neutral but again, some inconsistency with self centering feel was there.

The first impression is the last impression.

   

The car is launched in 5 trim levels, one alternate fuel option and 2 transmission options-MT and 5 speed in house developed Automated manual gearbox. 
Carrying a 3 year/1,00,000 kms warranty, Hyundai India is promising one of the lowest cost of maintenance in its class. What we do understand is while Hyundai has a vast network of showrooms and workshops across many cities of the country, many workshops are known to inflate bills by adding unnecessary add ons which are not required on a simple old school petrol engine. Its always good to enquire and go through the owners manual before plunging to the SA's estimate on the job card. Since this is a proven and reliable engine, it should serve its target audience well.
But what's the debatable point is its perceived high price tag.

The car is priced as mentioned below:
D-Lite: Rs. 3,89,900
Era: Rs. 4,24,900
Magna: Rs. 4,57,900
Magna AMT: Rs. 5,18,900
Magna CNG: Rs. 5,23,900
Sportz: 4,99,900
Sportz AMT: Rs. 5,46,900
Sportz CNG: Rs. 5,64,900
Asta: Rs. 5,45,900

The D-lite is a bare bones non AC model and only meant to bring people in the showrooms. And its still expensive for the kit on offer.
The car is effectively placed between the upper A and lower B segment and at this price, many competitors offer better overall packages if the discounts from the lower B segment cars is to be taken into consideration. The magna AMT is a good Rs. 60k dearer and Sportz is a good 46k. On road prices in different cities will make it even more expensive. Its "fairly decent" pricing but no way this is an "exceptional value for money". What will effectively make it sell is the "H" brand and the brand "Santro" that many people have placed trust on.
While Hyundai surely has had a fair start with 23,500 and counting bookings, it will be an interesting battle to see in the coming months when Maruti brings back its wagonR with a full model change soon.

   

The battle is about to get interesting, and the end winner will be we, the consumer.
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#3
Doesn't come as a surprise to me. It's exactly like I had expected. However I think it is too bland for what it is. In this aspect, the Tiago wins it.

Also with the Tiago coming at a very similar price and having better quality, build, option of a diesel and a better AMT, it would still remain my top choice in this segment
"If you're too open-minded, your brain will fall out" 
- Lawrence Ferlinghetti
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#4
Sid, that's a fab first drive review, happy to say, as usual it is on par with our official review standards. I would say, yet another stellar car from Hyundai. While I agree that the D-Lite version to miss air conditioning as standard, is a bummer from Hyundai India.

Also, once again Hyundai misses an opportunity of getting the AT versions in top end spec. 

But I must say this, I saw the car briefly at the nearest showroom to my office, the fit and finish even in this car is top-notch. Few tit bits definitely feels upmarket and from cars of one segment above. Even though Hyundai operates in mass market segments, their ability to keep the control on their quality standards is top-notch.

I have been using an Grand i10 for the past 2.5 years, and there is not a single rattle from any part of the car. And the car continues to perform flawlessly.
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#5
Great report, Sid! Such detailed report in such a short time is truly amazing. Considering the limited time you had this car for, this review has covered almost all the details required.

Now coming to the Santro, Hyundai surely has missed the opportunity with the pricing. Also the fact that the AMT doesn't come with the top-spec Asta trim. I'm sure Hyundai India has realized that it's only going to pump up the prices which are already a bit on the expensive side. The pricing as such isn't VFM but the price isn't exorbitant by any means. Considering these are the introductory prices meant only for the first 50,000 customers, I seriously hope they don't increase the prices too much.

Next up are the looks. Hyundai has surely messed up in this aspect (for me atleast). The front end is a bit too agressive. The side profile with the window kink is too bland. The rear is probably the better of the rest. I'm sure this would fetch the volumes what Hyundai is expecting. The name "Santro" and "Hyundai" are well established in the Indian market. 

Can't believe an Upper A-segment hatch costing almost 7-big ones! The top-spec Asta is costing a whooping 6.6 Lacs OTR Hyd! Time surely flies.
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler" - Albert Einstein
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#6
Saw the Santro for the first time in flesh today. The one I saw was in silver and frankly, it does not look as bad as in the pictures. However that's not to say that it's beautiful.
"If you're too open-minded, your brain will fall out" 
- Lawrence Ferlinghetti
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#7
Driving the Santro Sportz Smart Auto (AMT)

   

We got a chance to properly get behind the wheel of the Automated Manual Transmission variant of the Santro.
Power comes from the same 1.1L epsilon 4 cylinder engine mated to a 5 speed automated manual gearbox.

It's available in magna and sportz variants which means crucial additional safety features like passenger airbag, speed sensing door lock, impact sensing auto unlock, ISOFIX, rear wiper is absent. Also, at over Rs. 6.15 lakhs on road Delhi, the Sportz is not exactly what you call VFM.
But, what you do get is a very well caliberated engine-transmission combination. 
We will easily rank this engine and transmission combination for an entry level city car as the best in class, its that good.

The AMT comes with a creep function, which means that the car can go coast-to-coast on stop go traffic without the need to press the throttle pedal. Secondly, the throttle response compared to the stalling issue we found in MT was absent. The car responds instantly to the throttle input and Hyundai's in house 5 speed AMT has almost none of the low rpm hesitation or jerkiness which is associated with AMTs in launch. There is a delay in input while the shifts are done but they are masked pretty well. Any person who has driven competitor AMTs will appreciate that this is as good as a torque converter. Even on manual mode, the engine responds to the shifts in a smooth manner. 
Again, the low rpm hesitance or hesitancy while upshifting or downshifting is present, but not much as its there in other small AMTs. 

Plus, the volumetric balance and refinement of being the only 4 cylinder in A2 segment is a big bonus. What city communters will also like is the well laid out ratios and torque spread. This car is best enjoyed in a relaxed driving manner and its sound ergonomics, comfortable cabin and placement of gear lever all aids in user friendly experience. 

We just wished that pricing was a tinch more competitive or equipment levels were given a boost. Also no seat height or steering adjust is shocking at this price.

   
No change in exterior appearance except for "smart auto badge on the right fender.

   
Comes in magna and sportz trim only. misses out on rear wiper which is available in asta

   
Very convenient placement of gear lever just like the i10 and grand I10. Touchscreen with android auto and apple carplay standard on sportz. Placement of power window switches behind the gear lever takes getting used to.

   
Comes with manual shift mode also.

   
Engine is 1086 cc, inline-4 cylinder with 2 intake and 1 exhaust valve per cylinder. Legacy dates back to 1998. Well laid out engine bay makes easy to work on.

   
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#8
Useful, great, and detailed review as usual. First thing I didn't like about new Santro is its design, secondly price. I might consider Santro for its amt, 4pot engine, and nothing else.

I think Hyundai want ride on the laurels of old Santro and it worked to an extent for them but it will fade over time. At the time of new Santro's launch, I came across a person in my locality selling off his existing Alto just because he wanted to buy the new Santro, that's the pull Santro brand had and Hyundai is riding on it.
Gold is gold, no matter whoever gives it.
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