We have just driven the new Hyundai Santro around the company’s test track here outside Chennai and the initial feedback is impressive. The new Santro gets the same old 1.1-litre four cylinder petrol motor that is now tuned to meet the latest emission norms. It puts out 69 PS of power along with 99 Nm of torque and comes with a rated economy of 20.3 Kmpl. For the record, the Maruti Celerio puts out 67 PS of power along with 90 Nm of torque and gets a certified economy of 23.1 Kmpl!
While a new 5-speed gearbox is standard on the new Santro, it will also get an in-house developed AMT that will only be offered on the mid level Magna and Sportz versions. For the record, the new Santro will be offered in five versions of Dlite, Era, Magna, Sportz and Asta.
Fire up the engine and the new Santro does feel very smooth : unlike rivals, this sports a four-cylinder unit and hence those typical 3 cylinder vibes are missing. Shift into first and you are impressed with the shift quality – it is easily segment best in my opinion, something Hyundai is known for. Tap the throttle and the Santro moves ahead with enthusiasm. Within minutes, I was beginning to like this new Hyundai.
Even though power delivery isn’t as peppy as say the Celerio, given the stick, it does pull hard to 6000+ and in the process sounds great. There is a pronounced engine boom inside the cabin from 2500 to 3500rpm and this could be annoying, especially for those sitting at the back.
Low engine speed response is good, if not excellent but what we really love is the handling part. The Santro drives and feels like a mature car, much bigger than it actually is. The steering is light, visibility is excellent and road noise well controlled. Moving onto the AMT variant, the creep function on this one is definitely better than my personal IGNIS AMT. Slot to D, lift off the brake pedal and the car rolls forward smoothly, without jerks. Shift action, as you move up the RPM band is better than expected and yes, you can take over manually by shifting the lever to the right. One thing that I noticed is that while upshifts from 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 3rd are easy and can be done intentionally (when you are accelerating and lift off the accelerator pedal), the same does not happen that quick from 3rd to 4th.
I think this is intentional so that in moving traffic, the driver retains control by being in 3rd. The shift to 4th eventually happens, but after a second or two, once the AMT control understands that you are no longer accelerating and do not need to be in a lower gear anymore. The final shift from 4th to 5th does not happen under 1900rpm, even manually. We feel the Santro should deliver about 14-15 kmpl for city runs with the air-con running.
Our quick five minute drive around the track was too short for a final judgement but does give us a fair idea about the Santro. Surprisingly, there is no adjustment for both the steering and the driver’s seat : we weren’t expecting this, given that the car is otherwise loaded with features. We do love the fact that the rear window is larger than the front one, thus making the cabin airy and helping rear passengers in terms of visibility.
To summarise, the design is neutral, it drives well, handles brilliantly and the engine offers decent poke. In my opinion, if Hyundai prices this from around Rs 3.7 – Rs 3.9 lakh mark, their dealer friends will be busy managing walk ins. While the launch is scheduled for 23rd October, we will be during it on 27th in and around Bhubaneshwar.