The name Santro automatically reminds of the 'sunshine' car.

The new Santro is now bigger, modern and more feature-rich than its predecessor. It holds a promise of being way better than before and up-to-date against the competition. It’s slotted between the Eon and the Grand i10 in Hyundai's line-up and is offered in nine variants, including CNG, petrol manual and automatic trims. We've sampled the top-end Asta petrol manual and Sportz AMT variant here in this road test, to find out if the car still has the potential to attract a first-time car buyer. 

For starters, it needs to be said that the 2018 Santro is not based on the i10. In fact, this car is underpinned by the chassis of a heavily modified version of the Grand i10. On the design front, the Santro retains the signature tall-boy design even if it isn't as tall as the old Santro. But the styling has evolved to a modish one with a new front end, swept back headlights and a cascading grille that merges into the fog lamp bezels. The bumper is nicely sculpted, but the black cladding doesn't really help in making a very fashionable statement. On the sides, the absence of alloys again make the car look ordinary, but the creases around the wheel arches add some variation. Thankfully, the kink on the beltline doesn't look odd, but we would have appreciated if the rear design with simple tail lamps had been made more interesting. 

It’s a tastefully designed cabin that greets you upon entry into the Santro. The entire layout and the dual tone of black and beige looks pleasant, especially with a touch of champagne gold for inserts. Do note that the Diana green Santro gets an exclusive all-black interior with green accents that looks funky too. The rubberised buttons below the music system, smooth knobs and plastic buttons also feel nice to hold/touch. Furthermore, the part-analog and part-digital instrument cluster, high placement of a large touch screen, Mercedes-styled air vents, etc., all of these make the Santro an interesting car to be in.

Needless to say, the tall-boy design helps in easy ingress and egress from the car. However, the absence of seat height and steering adjust might be a deal-breaker for prospective buyers who are very tall. Average-sized adults might like the high seat position with great frontal visibility, however, tall guys won’t be able to find the perfect driving position especially with the steering set low. Nonetheless, the large rear windshield has good rear visibility and the kink on the rear window has helped clear a good view of the road for rear occupants.

The new Santro is also wider than the older model, so shoulder room has been well taken care of, and this is evident now with three individuals easily fitting onto the flat bench in the second row. The cabin is spacious with good legroom and headroom, while the slim seats have helped in liberating more space. Mind you though, despite being slim, these are well padded and contoured to provide adequate back and thigh support, thus also adding to comfort. Interestingly, these are part faux leather and fabric which serve both purposes – practicality and feel-good factor. The Santro also takes care of all your storage needs efficiently with a well thought out stowage slot on the dashboard for phones, a large glove-box, big bottle holders etc. The boot space at 235litres remains average, but it can be expanded thanks to the rear seat falling almost flat. However, loading luggage becomes tedious due to the high loading lip and an intrusive parcel tray without strings attached to the boot-lid.

Hyundai has used a fair amount of high strength steel in its construction. This makes the car ready for the crash norms that kick in this year. It already meets the pedestrian safety norms and every trim is equipped with ABS with EBD and a driver-side airbag as standard. In fact, the top-end Asta trim also gets an additional passenger side airbag. Other safety features like an immobiliser and child safety door locks are standard, but only the top-end variants benefit from central locking, rear defogger, keyless entry, speed sensing and impact sensing auto-door lock/unlock.

Unlike the competition (read as Tiago, WagonR and Celerio) powered by a three-cylinder engine, the Santro uses a 1.1-litre four-cylinder mill producing 69bhp and 99Nm of torque. Hyundai intended to provide better performance, drivability and low vibrations, which we must say they have majorly succeeded at. This 1,086cc engine is silent at idling and builds revs quickly. Our only gripe here is about how the engine makes itself audible at high revs even though it is so refined. But then, one wouldn't be revving more than 3,000rpm as there's enough torque on tap to march along with the traffic or sprint ahead of vehicles. Matching the punchy mid-range is a good low end grunt which allows the gearbox to lug in the same gear without the need for it to constantly downshift.

The Santro gets a McPherson strut in the front and a coupled torsion beam axle at the rear. This suspension is nicely set up to soak up small bumps, potholes and ruts with ease. This is the case especially at slow speeds where the ride quality is absorbent and pliant and keeps all the occupants comfortable. However, one just has to be a little careful with bigger bumps and sharp edge potholes, especially at higher speeds as the jolts are not only audible in the cabin, but they might also unsettle the car. Having said that, the high speed ride isn't exactly flat, as even small undulations make the ride bouncy (especially at the rear). So expect passengers to complain about the springy ride out on the highway.

The 2019 Santro, then, is indeed a massive jump from its previous generation. Right from design to features, engine performance and dynamics, all come together to make it a better car that should live up to the Santro’s legacy. Sure, its quirky styling might be a hit or miss and its pricing isn’t as competitive as other low-priced entry-level cars. But then, it offers a spacious cabin, good quality interior, some segment-first features, is easy-to-drive and economical to use within the city. With so many plus points, you may be sure that this car is likely to lure in a first-car buyer.

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