Exactly two decades and a month after it started its journey with the original tall boy car in India, Korean auto major Hyundai Motor India Ltd on Tuesday brought back the Santro in its new avatar. Priced at Rs 3.9-5.46 lakh, the Santro will be available in 5 variants including an automatic manual transmission version, a first in a Hyundai. The automatic option is available in two of the variants and are priced at Rs 5.19-5.47 lakh. Hyundai is offering factory fitted CNG kits as well on two variants at Rs 5.24-5.65 lakh.
Powered by a 1.1 litre petrol engine, the car has a peak output of 69 PS at 5500 rpm and torque of 101 NM at 4500 rpm. It has a rated fuel economy of 20.3 kpl. While the engine size is the same as before--the original Santro had a four cylinder 999cc engine that was later replaced with a 1086cc unit in 2002, the new car has 6 PS more power and marginally more torque. The fuel economy has also gone up by 2 kpl. So has the price. The original was launched in three variants priced at Rs 2.99-3.69 lakh.
The new car is a modern rendition of the tall boy concept that became such a rage in the late 1990s. It is longer--3610 mm from 3565mm, wider--1645 mm from 1525 mm, has a bigger wheelbase--2400 mm from 2380 mm and hence roomier, and is shorn with bigger 14" wheels against the original's 13" tyres. It is also shorter by 30 mm that makes it more universal if a tad conservative in its appeal and less gawky than before.
The success of the Santro had prompted market leader Maruti Suzuki to launch its own tall boy Wagon R that continues to be among the top five best selling cars in India. Hyundai had phased out the Santro in 2015 due to falling sales and to avoid cannibalisation within its brands like the Grand i10 and the smaller entry level hatchback Eon.
As one would have expected in keeping with the times, the car has seen a sea change from the inside. While the outgoing version of the original car had a simple single din music system with AUX and USB connectivity, the new Santro gets a 7 inch touchscreen unit with AppleCar play, Android Auto, bluetooth and AUX-in connectivity. It is much safer too. Though the standard version gets only a driver airbag--dual airbags are offered in the top trim, other safety features like ABS and EBD are standard. The older Santro never had any of those.
The new Santro comes at an important juncture for Hyundai. The company has made major inroads in the Indian market graduating from just making small cars to premium sedans and SUVs like the Verna and Creta. While that has helped it keep pace with the industry, it has struggled to increase its marketshare, which has remained range bound at 15-16 percent. The success of its premium offerings has merely helped offset the lack of growth in its mass market products like the Grand i10, compact sedan Xcent and Eon.
Infact in the first half of this fiscal year, Hyundai's share is at a five year low 15.72 percent. This at a time when arch rival and market leader Maruti Suzuki has fashioned a renaissance in the last 6 years increasing its dominance from under 40 per cent in 2012 to over 50 per cent today. Like in 1998 when the Santro made Hyundai a household name in India, the new Santro is expected to help the company upshift to a higher gear ahead of strong competition next year when its sister company Kia Motors makes its debut in the country.