By Harneet Khurana
I bought my Santro in the year November 2010 after a lot of contemplation. Launched in 1998 with
Shah Rukh Khan as its brand ambassador, South Korean Car giant Hyundai Santro has been its
bread & butter model for a long period of time giving strong competition to the likes of WagonR & the
now defunct Zen & the Estillo. At the time of purchase, I had shortlisted two cars, namely, Wagon R &
the Santro. I went for the Santro as I somehow did not like the Boxy shape of Wagon R. Three years
& 30,000 kms down the line, it still does not fail to impress me once a while.
In the Exterior department, it has a tall boy design with good headroom which is suitable for tall
people. Starting from the front, the large round Headlights are chic with a chrome strip in the middle
housing the Hyundai badge & the well-designed rear tail lights make up the end.
As far as engine & performance is concerned, mine has a petrol eRLX Epsilon engine of 1.1 litre
churning out 62 bhp@5500revs and 96 Newton meter torque @ 4000 rpm. In the real world, what it
means is that in the city driving, the low end torque is good & comes handy when overtaking making
city manoeuvring a breeze. However on the highway, it feels out of breath over 140 km/hr. & one has
to really push the accelerator hard to make it go its top speed of 160 km/hr. The gearbox is a little
tacky & slotting the gear into 2nd sometimes seems an achievement. On the positive side, the clutch
is light & the Santro’s legendary 3rd gear has quite a wide power band with which one can idle around
at speeds of 20 km/hr., push the accelerator to make it go to up to 80 km/hr. The engine is smooth but
can’t match to its big brother Kappa present in the i10 & the i20 specially the recent one’s which have
Variable Valve Technology (VVT) called VTVT by Hyundai & for that matter the Maruti’s highly
acclaimed K series which also now have the VVT in the New Swift.
Coming to the Interior look and feel, it takes quite a beating, especially when compared to the interiors
of its rival today like the new Stingray (perhaps a WagonR with a cosmetic facelift) & its own sibling
i10. The model which I own has a tan brown dashboard along with beige interiors which is better than
the previous generation’s plane Jane grey colour. The air conditioning events have a silver finish to
them & does the job. The Instrument cluster is easy to read but a tachometer is sorely missed
especially for a car aficionado like me. The AC is top notch & cools the small cabin quite easily with its
4th blower speed which was not there in the older Santro models. However with the AC on, the
performance goes for a toss & the car feels heavy. In the other cars of its class also this heaviness is
prevalent but seems more pronounced in the Santro. The Interior Space is decent with good
headroom & enough leg room at the back. However, three people at the back is quite a squeeze
especially in case of my Punjabi Family. For Long Journey’s, two at the back is best.
Switching to Ride & Handling, which is considered as Hyundai’s Achilles heel, is evident in Santro
also. At corner’s it rolls quite a lot and the ride is on the bumpy side. The reason for that being that it
has a Tall Boy Design and hence the aerodynamic down force is not that much, so the suspension
which has MacPherson Strut at the front & the Torsion Beam Axle at the rear is stiff. The turning
radius is good for city manoeuvring. The hydraulic steering although not as silky as the Electronic one
present in car’s like i10 & the Stingray, the driving feel it gives is unmatched. As speed builds up,
especially in triple digits, the steering does not weigh up as it should & feels a little wobbly. Another
small niggle would the Big A Pillar which causes a blind spot on the driver’s side.
Moving focus to the most important part, i.e., Fuel Efficiency, the ARAI claimed is 17.92 km/litre.
However, the average fuel efficiency which I have managed to achieve is around 11-12 Km/litre (With
AC on) & on highways we can expect around 15-16 km/litre (With AC on). The figures are not that
impressive especially considering the ever increasing fuel prices today & the prolific fuel efficiency of
new cars. The fuel tank capacity at 35 litres is enough for a one side journey from Delhi to Shimla.
In one department, where it can hit others where it hurts the most is the maintenance department. In
my case, it required a service every 6 months costing around 2K. The only major service which I had
made was recently when the car crossed 30,000 kms, which costed me Rs. 6,000.
With around 15 years under its belt & the sales reaching an all-time low, Santro is soon going to be
phased out next year with hopefully an equally reliable replacement expected to be announced in the
next year’s 12th Auto Expo. But what I can say to Hyundai is that they have found a loyal fan for their
car Santro as no other car provides a bang for your buck which Santro does.