Car Reviews

All new Hyundai Santro first drive – Quick driving impressions

Hyundai Santro AH2 Maruti Suzuki

We have had a very quick drive in the new Hyundai Santro that will take on Maruti Suzuki Celerio, Renault Kwid and Tata Tiago

  • Hyundai Santro AH2 Maruti Suzuki
  • Hyundai Santro AH2 Maruti Suzuki

20 years after the original Santro put wind in Hyundai India’s sails there is a new one! Code-named AH2 the new small car from Hyundai has been officially confirmed as the Santro, bookings for it have opened at Rs 11,100, and we have had a quick drive in it at the Hyundai test track at their Chennai manufacturing facility. Set to slot in between the Hyundai Eon (it is still being sold) and Hyundai Grand i10 in the Hyundai India line-up and set to take on the Maruti Suzuki Celerio, Maruti Suzuki Wagon R, Tata Tiago, Renault Kwid, and more, the pricing of the all new Hyundai Santro will be announced on October 23 with deliveries to commence on that date.

“The overall styling is rather pleasing and certainly distinctive, the new Hyundai Santro will not escape your attention on the road”

Styling of the all new Hyundai Santro

It’s an attractive looking car, the new Hyundai Santro, and the face is dominated by the massive grille-cum-airdam combination that gives it a gaping mouth. Hyundai officials were keen to point out that it is a big wide smile on the face of the Santro, and you are free to make up your mind. The profile has two interesting creases aft of the front wheel arch and over the rear wheel arch that are styling highlights but the good thing is nothing is over done. It is all tasteful. The rear reminds me of the Maruti Suzuki A-Star but it is much taller in keeping with that tall boy image of the Santro. The overall styling is rather pleasing and certainly distinctive, the new Hyundai Santro will not escape your attention on the road.

Interiors of the Hyundai Santro

No pictures have been officially released of the interiors but we had a good look at it and it is as well executed as the exteriors. The seats are one-piece units with the headrest integrated into it like on the old Hyundai i10. The highlight is the touchscreen infotainment system borrowed from the Grand i10 which is a big plus point in this segment. The system is the best designed and most responsive unit you will find in this class and not just that it comes complete with Apple Car Play and Google Android Auto. And with Google Maps now integrated in Apple Car Play there’s no need for navigation on the unit. Unique touches are the power window switches are on the centre console to free up space on the front door pads, though at the rear, the power window switches are on the doors. And Hyundai also have a trim where you can get the centre console inserts and even the seat belts in the body colour – we assume this will be offered on the brighter colors like green and yellow.

Hyundai Santro is spacious

This is not a tall boy in the traditional tall boy sense – to give you a sense of perspective of proportions this is almost exactly like the old Hyundai i10. That ensures no tall boy weirdness to the proportions but at the same time there is good space management.

The front seats are mounted a touch too high for my liking and with the steering not having any height or reach adjust it feels too low, like the steering wheel is in your lap. There is enough headroom for the front seats but not abundant headroom that tall boys give you. The rear seats are positioned considerably lower than the front seats and that means the headroom is more generous at the rear though your knees are bent slightly upwards when you are sitting because of the lower H-point. The seat back recline angle is very good at the rear and the best part is two adults both measuring 5 feet 10 inches in height can sit front and back without the knees digging into the dashboard or the front seat back. It is a narrow car and so three abreast at the rear is difficult but the all new Hyundai Santro is a spacious car for four.

“The damping quality is also excellent with no annoying or tinny thuds and thumps entering into the cabin and in that respect it is very grown up”

Comfort of the Hyundai Santro

Also impressive is the suspension tuning of the Santro. Running the new HA platform with McPherson struts at the front and torsion beam at the rear the ride and handling setup of the Santro is excellent. The damping and behaviour of the car on a small rough patch on the Hyundai test track was excellent and we can conclude that it will be very comfortable over regular Indian roads taking broken patches easily within its stride. The damping quality is also excellent with no annoying or tinny thuds and thumps entering into the cabin and in that respect it is very grown up.

“Grips levels when throwing the Santro into the skid pad were par for the course for such a car, the setup obviously more inclined towards understeer”

Handling of the Hyundai Santro

The Hyundai test track has one skid pad and at the other end a tight U-turn where we could get an initial impression of the handling. It runs on 165/70 14-inch tyres and our test cars had a mix of MRF and Hankook tyres. Grips levels when throwing the Santro into the skid pad were par for the course for such a car, the setup obviously more inclined towards understeer. But most importantly it feels safe and secure and clearly much, much better than that of the original Santro. Only thing the electric power assisted steering feels too light and while that is a boon in city traffic it will be too light and vague at speeds.

“It gets to 80kmph rather quickly in second gear, the manual gearbox has short if a little notchy shifts, and it does 100kmph in around 15 seconds”

Peppy little performer

The Hyundai Santro gets  the 1.1-litre engine from the old i10, obviously with tweaks to improve the performance, efficiency and refinement. It now makes 68bhp of power (69PS) and 99Nm of torque and together with the kerb weight that should be well under a tonne it makes for eager and enthusiastic acceleration especially in the lower gears. It gets to 80kmph rather quickly in second gear, the manual gearbox has short if a little notchy shifts, and it does 100kmph in around 15 seconds. In fact the composed handling and quick take off can also make it a fun little car for the city.

The Santro will also come with a factory-fitted CNG kit that makes 58.2bhp and 84.3Nm of torque. No diesel engine will be offered on the Santro, an obvious move to avoid too much cannibalization of Grand i10 sales.

Hyundai’s first AMT Transmission

The Santro debuts Hyundai’s first ever automated manual transmission. This gearbox has been completely developed in-house by Hyundai and is also made at Hyundai’s Chennai manufacturing plant, not by an outside supplier. And the gearbox is excellent.

“This is the best AMT gearbox and is sure to be a big part of the Santro’s appeal”

The Santro’s AMT automatic gearbox is the best AMT I’ve driven thus far. Remarkably they’ve very nearly eliminated that annoying head toss you get in all AMT gearboxes as it cuts the power when going up the gears under full acceleration. The downshifts aren’t lazy and don’t take forever. They’ve also managed to engineer a very good creep function so this AMT actually feels nearly like a conventional automatic gearbox. To repeat ourselves, this is the best AMT gearbox and is sure to be a big part of the Santro’s appeal.

Santro launch on October 23

Prices of the all new Hyundai Santro will be out on the 23rd of October but it will slot in between the Rs 3.3 lakh Eon and Rs 4.7 Grand i10 – both starting prices. We estimate the Santro to be launched at just under Rs 4 lakh, a price that is sure to make the new Santro a definite winner and continue in the best-seller tradition of its illustrious predecessor.

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