Nearly two decades back Hyundai began their Indian innings with a small hatchback called the Santro. This little car eventually turned around the fortunes of Hyundai in India and made it a household name. Over the course of time, the Santro changed and became the Santro Xing. With the advent of the Hyundai i10, sales of the Santro Xing started dwindling. It had become old in comparison and Hyundai pulled the plug to this ever popular brand name. But in 2018, Hyundai has decided to bring the brand name back.
But let us begin by saying that apart from the brand name, there is nothing common between the older cars and this new 2018 version. The new Santro is based on the K1 platform and is longer and wider than before. However, as compared to the original 'Tallboy', this new hatch is 30mm lower. Suspension duties are taken care of by McPherson Struts up front and a coupled torsion beam axle at the back. On the looks front, the new Santro sure looks quirky. The cascading grille takes up generous space on the front bumper and it also houses rather large fog lamps.
In profile, the Santro looks quite a bit like a 'Tallboy.' Top of the line Sport and Asta variants get 14in steel wheels while the rest are shod on 13in tires. There are no alloy wheels available even as an option. At the back, the tailgate comes with a design line much in sync with the Grand i10 and the tail lights are large and clear to view. Top of the line variants also get a rear wash and wipe function as well as a parking sensor and camera.
Hyundai has become a company which loves to load up their cars with best in class features and the Santro has got the same treatment. The dash looks smart and the quality of plastic and switchgear are excellent. The top variants also come with a 7in touchscreen infotainment system which features Apple and Android support systems apart from Bluetooth connectivity. If you notice, our car here comes with funky color coordinated accents across the cabin and this is a feature you will get if you opt for this quirky shade of green! The instrument panel is also loaded and offers quite a lot of data including fuel efficiency etc. Then there is a tacho too.
Hyundai is also offering electrically adjustable ORVMs on top variants. However, the AMT version we are driving surprisingly does not get a reversing camera. The power window switches are placed on the gear stick console and are easy to reach. The steering too gets controls for audio and telephony. There are plenty of cubby holes around the cabin to store stuff and that is a great thing. The seats are comfortable and offer generous support. Space is found aplenty both up front and at the back. The window lines are pretty low and this means rear passengers won't feel claustrophobic. Rear passengers also get their very own AC vent at the back. The only drawback we found was that the B-pillar is too close to the seat and this means one has to turn around first to step out of the hatch. The boot is decent in size and can be opened from the cabin and by using the key.
The Santro is available with a 4-cylinder, 1.1-liter petrol engine which offers 69bhp and 99Nm of torque. Hyundai claims a fuel economy of 20.3kmpl and that's quite a lot we must say. Then there is a CNG variant available as well which is slightly less powerful. The petrol variant can be had with a 5-speed manual transmission or an AMT. This is the first time Hyundai has offered an AMT and quite a lot rides on it. The AMT box comes with electric motor driven clutch actuators, gear shift and select operation and Hyundai claim that this makes the shifts seamless. To try out what they were claiming we got our hands on the AMT version on this drive.
The engine feels pretty refined at idle. There is ample grunt in this four-pot motor to get up to high speeds and by that we mean an indicated 140kmph. Even at such high speeds noise levels and vibrations are kept well under control. However, it is the AMT gearbox which is the star of this show. The box shifts through the cogs smoothly and with a light foot, shifts happen at around 2,000rpm. However, keep your foot pinned and the shifts are held till 4,000rpm. This means that overtaking on the go is a breeze and there is no jerks felt. In manual mode too the gearbox shifts down relatively quickly and this makes driving the new Santro fun. The manual gearbox version at the same time is surely faster as gear changes are done manually. The box is slick and clutches light. A perfect combination for city driving.
The Santro also sports a taught suspension set up. The car handles bumps and ruts with ease and little is felt within the cabin. This is especially the case when you encounter those tyrant tarmac creases. There is also ample ground clearance on tap and even the biggest humps near Konark couldn't touch the underbelly of the Santro. The steering is set to light in true Hyundai guise. Driving in the city is a breeze and making three-point turns even easier. However, at high speeds, you do feel the need for a little more feedback.
The 2018 Santro, to begin with, has nothing to do with the original Santro launched decades back. However, traits like generous interior space, quirky design and loads of features remain same. While there is ABS and driver side airbag standard across all variants, we would have loved to see two airbags as standard instead of one. The engine is smooth and the AMT box excellent. So put together the new Santro is a proper all-rounder.