Hyundai features

20 years of Hyundai: Looking back at what makes it the second largest carmaker in India

From being just another Korean upstart to the second largest carmaker in India, Hyundai has come a long way

Gaurav S Thombre

A glimpse in the past of Hyundai India

Hyundai Motors India Limited will celebrate its 20th birthday in September this year. And that reminds me of my childhood days. Back in 1998 Indian car buyers had very few choices. And my father, like everyone else, had an 800 that we wanted to upgrade from. Although I was just ten years old, I did have some knowledge of cars thanks to various auto magazines and my love for go-karting. Two Korean challengers had just rocked the small car segment with their practical and stylish hatchbacks and my father faced a dilemma.

Long story short, dad bought a Matiz, because I asked him to. On a go-karting championship round in another city, I drove a friend’s dad’s Santro (within the confines of a parking lot) and realised we had made the wrong decision. What an idiot I had been! The Santro was miles ahead and proved itself for the next 16 years as it became a cash cow for Hyundai, accounting for staggering numbers. It also took on the mighty Zen and came out tops!

“HMIL is the second largest carmaker in the country today and is a household name. But what is its formula for success? Let’s go back in time to find out”

HMIL has been constantly reinventing its products and bringing the latest technology to India. Leaving no stone unturned Hyundai have been pioneers, bringing international tech to our shores, be it in terms of comfort, safety and even emissions compliance. Back in 2000, when the government of India announced the implementation of Euro II, Hyundai upgraded their cars to the new emission norms, showing what a responsible corporate citizen it was. With the Santro Zip, Hyundai did what the market leader did not. In the early 2000s, when body coloured bumpers were an optional extra along with power windows and central locking, Hyundai went ahead and offered power steering in all their models, unlike its rivals who gave it as an option only in the top-of-the-line variants. It set the stage for mass adoption of power steering, what with it being just Rs 18,000 more than the non-assisted versions.

Ahead of time in terms of technology and features

On the tech front, HMIL introduced a CRDI diesel in the Accent way back in 2002, a revolutionary technology back then and only seen on Mercs! It made the Accent Viva a rocket and introduced us all to the joys of a quick and torquey diesel. Hyundai was also among the first to bring variable valve timing on a petrol engine with the Sonata Transform, and later gasoline direct injection, pushing the boundaries of technological excellence while forcing other manufacturers to follow suit in bringing the latest tech to our shores.

“On the tech front, HMIL introduced a CRDI diesel in the Accent way back in 2002, a revolutionary technology back then and only seen on Mercs”

HMIL also has its finger on the pulse of the market. Since 2000, both the company as well its cars have been topping the charts in the J D Power Asia Pacific customer satisfaction surveys. Every Hyundai owner appreciates the after sales experience and speaks very highly of the quality. Not just that, Hyundai has understood the Indian customer’s mindset really well. All its cars score very high marks when it comes to features, quality of fit and finish, space and now even dynamics. There’s a reason why its cars have won the ICOTY four times, the first three in a row. And to find out why, we caught up with six owners who’ve had Hyundais in their garages for years, and continue to upgrade only to Hyundais.

Imtiaz risaldar, Gen 1 Santro

Imtiaz’s first generation Hyundai Santro has come a long way and still seems like it has many years left in it

Parked among a slew of vintage cars and bikes, you’ll spot Imtiaz Risaldar’s grey Santro standing tall in Pune’s upmarket Boat Club Road area. Imtiaz has driven it exactly how a city car is expected to. Having clocked more than a lakh kilometres on the odo, the 20-year-old hatch has been to all the nooks and corners of Pune city while spending a few monsoons in Mumbai. And this car has some provenance, having been bought from his neighbour – the editor’s family.

Hyundai service experience has been faultless so far

This MY 1998 car bought while the editor was still in college still runs well and the secret behind this is Imtiaz’s love and care. “Servicing the car every six months has worked its charm. I have been regularly servicing the car at Hyundai’s authorised service outlets. It has been a faultless experience so far. I take it to work and then drive it back home, it’s a great city car.” Imtiaz is keen on getting a new car. But as they say, cheese, wine and friends must be old to be good. And the Santro has aged well! Who knows what will be its valuation 20 years from now?

Ajay Adhiya, Gen 1 Accent

Ajay is all gung-ho about his prized 2001 Hyundai Accent and treats it like his best friend

Ajay Adhiya is a lawyer by profession but a petrolhead at heart. He’s an avid driver and loves exploring new places and routes. This travel bug hasn’t taken a toll on his 2001 Accent though. “It has an excellent suspension. Even though it is softly sprung, it doesn’t bottom out at all. I have taken it everywhere, including frequent trips to my home town, Dahanu where the last 10km stretch is unbearable in any other car. But not in the Accent at all.” He also loves the mid-range and its comfortable interiors.

Ajay is all gung-ho about his prized 2001 Hyundai Accent and treats it like his best friend

Even after driving it for over two lakh kilometres, Ajay doesn’t get tired of munching miles. Sometime he even does 1300km in a day, without fatigue. “Its hydraulic steering is something I cherish. I hate the electric power steering units which have no feel.” Ajay, like everyone else is all gung-ho about Hyundai’s after sales experience. “The thing with lawyers and doctors is that it’s good to have them, but make sure you never need to visit them. Same applies to service centres. It has been an excellent experience. I even owned a Getz from 2006 to 2012 and did more than 80,000km in it. But the Accent feels really special so it’ll never go.”

It is one of my dearest friends and will stay with me as long as I’m alive

He has overhauled the suspension on his Accent once and lived through four sets of tyres. “All the hose pipes are original and there’s hardly anything that I have changed in my car.” He believes that not many cars can come close to the ride of the Accent. “The current generation Verna is excellent. It has sorted dynamics and looks good as well. In fact, I’m contemplating getting one for myself. But this Accent will never go, that’s for sure. It is one of my dearest friends and will stay with me as long as I’m alive.” Ajay even took us out for a drive to demonstrate how the Accent still feels nippy around corners. Guess what, that’s what the Thrill of Driving is all about.

Ramona Bell Ohol, Santro Zip Plus & Creta

The Santro Zip Plus, doing what it does best

Trust Hyundai to come up with some memorable tag lines. The Santro Zip Plus has certainly brought sunshine to the Bell family. Ramona’s father, Peter Bell bought this beige coloured hatch way back in 2002. The Santro has always been treated like a trusted family member and has been handled with a lot of love and care. “Dad was very particular about the car and he never let anyone drive it, unless he knew the person. He used to scold people if they closed the door with a slightly heavy hand!” The family went on many weekend trips, even all the way to Goa. “I remember, it was packed with five adults and yet we all were sat very comfortably.” Ramona also has a nice story about her mother to tell. “Mom used to drive the 800 and was used to its dull responses. One day, she chose to drive the Santro.

Dad was very particular about the car and he never let anyone drive it, unless he knew the person

However, it didn’t go as expected. Thanks to its 1.1-litre engine and a very responsive throttle the Santro literally zipped through, leaving mom zapped.” And since then, Ramona’s mother has preferred the back seat of the Santro. The family swears by the Santro and says it has been a ‘complete family car’ like Hyundai claimed it to be. But where do you go after the Santro? “We thought the Creta offers a very similar package. It is a modern family car with ample space, features and style. It is my daily driver and I adore it. It’s effortless in traffic and even though it is large on the outside, it wraps around you really well. For metros, I don’t see any other car that is as easy to drive and practical.” Looks like the sun is still shining on this Hyundai family!

Amirreza Mirhassani, Santro Xing & Elite i20

Will the i30 be coming to India? When was the Santro Xing launched? Amir has all the answers

Amirreza is a true blue Hyundai fan. He has been a keen follower of the Korean carmaker since its inception in our country. He keeps tabs on all things Hyundai and is aware of everything that HMIL does. And with a Santro Xing and Elite i20 in his garage, he walks the talk. “It has been one and a half decades with Hyundai. The cars are extremely reliable, comfortable and low on maintenance. The Santro is like a peppy dragon. It’s ultra responsive and behaves like a puppy – happy to play at all times. The i20 on the other hand is very stylish and premium. It’s big enough and comes loaded with features.”

Having lived in Mumbai, he understands the value of an empty parking spot. “I always ended up smiling while parking the Santro in the tiniest of places where others couldn’t even think of putting their cars.” He also says that Hyundais have improved drastically over the years. “They are literally the best cars in their respective segments when it comes to the aesthetics – both on the outside as well as the inside.” Amir is very particular about servicing his car. “I always drive the cars to the workshop on my own. I think, men have a special connection with not just their lady but their car too. And the service centre guys know that. They never stop me from watching my cars being serviced.”

They are literally the best cars in their respective segments

What next Amir? “I think I’ll get the Tucson next. Its handsome looks and outstanding ride quality has won me over.” Amir knows his Hyundais well we must say.

Mahesh Khandelwal, gen 1 tucson

More than 3.6 lakh kilometres on the odo and yet the Tucson refuses to give up

Mahesh, A Pune-based hotelier swears by his 13-year-old Tucson, even today. A true workhorse, the ahead-of-its-time SUV has clocked a staggering 3.6 lakh kilometres on the odo. Mahesh believes that it still has quite a lot of horsepower left in it. “The way it glides over potholes and bad patches is simply amazing. I haven’t yet sat in a more comfortable car till date.”

Like a true blue businessman, Mahesh prefers to be chauffeur driven and the Tucson has taken care of his basic requirements: safety and practicality. Mahesh is all praises for Hyundai’s dependable service. He’s never had issues with sourcing parts for such an old car. “I think Hyundai has understood the Indian customer well. That’s what makes them the second largest carmaker today.” Like everyone else, once a Hyundai-ite, always a Hyundai-ite, Mahesh is looking for an upgrade as well. And what better than the current generation Tucson, we say!

Jitendra Chillal, gen 1 i10

This is how it all starts on four wheels

Each one of us has a special connection with their first car. Similar is the case with Jitendra Chillal and his i10. Although, bought as a used car, Jitendra loves the i10 with all his heart. “Even being a used car, it never felt old to me. The interiors have a certain air of freshness about them. It keeps my family comfortable and is light on the pocket, thanks to affordable service and low consumption.”

Jitendra is no more a ‘L’earner, however, he likes the spot on the windscreen. “I’m proud to have the sticker on my car. It reminds me of all my learnings. But the best part is, the i10 made it easier than ever for me.” Having mastered the art of driving himself, Jitendra hopes his daughter will take driving classes and take charge of the i10. “I know it’ll be easy to drive the i10 than any of the other cars in its segment.” We cannot disagree with Jitendra.

Read our feature on Chasing the Sun in a Hyundai Verna here.

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