What makes you say that a particular car has had an immensely successful run? It is when you still see the first-gen of the car which came out 22 years ago blazing down the highway. Yes, the Hyundai Santro is amongst the few cars in the Indian Market which have had such a phenomenal run. A typical Indian car buyer has always looked for something which could stick around for decades and could still hold utility for them, the Santro sure has been one such name in the Indian Automotive scene. We are taking a trip down the memory lane with the quintessential “tall boy” of India, The Hyundai Santro.
It was the late 90’s, just like the whole world, India was also ready to enter into a whole new era in the shape of the 21st century. But the late bloomer as the Indian auto industry was back then, it didn’t have a diverse range of cars on offer to propel the industry into the new age. The passenger car market had very few conventional options, especially in the most popular small hatchback segment.
It was around this time that a South Korean auto brand named Hyundai Motor Company set up camp in 1996 at Tamil Nadu in India. This marked the beginning of the development of the Santro and incepted its long journey spanning through ages.
First-generation Hyundai Santro (1998)
The first-generation Hyundai Santro was showcased at the 1998 Auto Expo. Hyundai had come in strong, setting up manufacturing units in the country, producing the Santro locally and capitalizing on the opportunities the Indian car market had on offer.
The Santro was a pretty unconventional looking car as compared to what was on offer in the segment before Santro. Cars like the Maruti zen or the Maruti 800 had that compact and low-rise design. The Santro felt like a whiff of fresh air with its unique exterior proportions, high roofline, and a more significant stance earning it the ‘tall boy’ badge and starting a trend in the later years for car designs in India.
Under the hood, the Santro came with a powerful 999cc engine capable of 56PS of power with new tech like MPFi (Multi-point fuel injection). This made the Santro a much better performing car than its rivals in India.
Soon the new Hyundai came with a mid-life update in the shape of the Santro ZipDrive. This updated version came with an even more powerful 1.1 Litre engine producing 63PS of power and 98 Nm of torque. It came with a 5-speed manual transmission as standard with the option of a 4-speed auto box as well. It got segment-first features like power steering and exterior styling updates like a revised front grille and a rear spoiler.
In its initial run in the Indian market, the Santro was able to put a dent on the sales of the reigning leaders of the segment and was doing numbers close to around 60,000 units in each of the first two years it had been on sale.
The Santro Xing (2003)
The Santro was turning out to be a phenomenal success in the Indian Market, achieving commendable sales figures and gaining popularity, especially amongst the Indian middle-class car buyers. We all remember the association of the Santro and Hyundai with the Hindi movie star, King Khan himself, Mr Shahrukh Khan. A relation that has been maintained and evolved even till now, this also played a significant role in making Santro such a popular moniker not just in the country and rather around the globe.
But now it was time for adding “Xing” to the car’s success in the country and hence the Santro Xing was unveiled in 2003.
The Santro Xing was the first most radical update to the Santro since its launch in 1998.
Santro Xing came with various updates in and out. Firstly, it came with an even bigger and boxy stance. With a completely new front and rear design, the Santro Xing was a much-needed update for the brand to stay ahead in the game during the time. The powertrains remained the same with the addition of new features like the front and rear power windows and fresh upgrades to the interior.
Like the ‘Santro’ moniker became such a brand in the country, the addition of the ‘Xing’ moniker took the baton further. With the ‘Xing’, the Santro achieved a milestone of 10 lakh sales. To celebrate that, the Santro Xing came with various limited edition variants, and somewhere around 2007, the Santro came with a company fitted CNG as well, having dual fuel options.
The Hyundai Santro Discontinued (2015)
After a milk-run of almost 17 years, Hyundai Motors India decided to give the Santro a hiatus. Hyundai over the years had evolved into a brand having a diverse range of cars and Santro after such long service to the company just didn’t seem to fit in the portfolio anymore. So, in order to make room for newer models like the Elite I20, Hyundai Motors India decided to pull the plug on the Santro for good.
Suggested Read: 5 Hot Hatches We Wish Would Make A Comeback!
2018 New Hyundai Santro | The Re-Emergence
After a long sabbatical for the moniker, Hyundai India realised that they have a spot in the entry-level hatchback segment vacant and in what better way could a car in this segment be launched than wearing a badge that has been reminiscent with the segment ever since.
2018 saw the ‘Santro’ badge make a comeback with the all-new Santro. Visually this particular car doesn’t carry the styling DNA of the ‘OG’ Santro, under the hood it uses the revamped version of the same E-epsilon 1.1 Litre engine churning out a healthier 69PS of power and 99Nm of torque.
The new and current Santro comes with all the new-age features, like a 5-speed AMT transmission, dual airbags, 7.0-inch touch screen infotainment audio system with Bluetooth connectivity to keep up with the contemporaries.
While some say that the new-age Santro is a true-blood sibling of the previous one and is more of a rebadged car, also the slightly premium pricing ranging from Rs.4.57- 6.25 Lakhs ex-showroom Delhi further adds to that opinion. Despite that, the emotional connect of the public with the ‘Santro’ name is boding well for the new car and doing respectable numbers in the sales charts.
With around 1.32 million examples of the original Santro sold in India and the current generation also performing exceptionally, the Hyundai Santro will definitely go down in history as the most successful names in the Indian Automotive History.