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Hyundai Santro: The Journey Of A Legend

After 24 years of long service, Hyundai has decided to pull the plug on its debut vehicle, the Santro. Let us take a trip down memory lane and honor the legacy of a car that successfully managed to emboss its name in the Indian family culture.

It all began in 1996 when the Korean automaker established its first plant in India at Sriperumbudur near Chennai. At that point, it was Hyundai’s largest plant outside South Korea. Hyundai was in its infancy in the country during that period, and they knew that they had to introduce a product that will shake things up in the segment.

The Santro was the brainchild of that idea, showcased first at the Indian Auto Expo in 1998, it offered a tall boy stance with a high roof, funky curved body shape, and spacious interiors. In a segment where the Maruti Suzuki Zen enjoyed dominance with its longer body and smaller stance, the Santro brought about a fresh change with its more towering stance.

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The original Hyundai Santro was not only much more expensive than Maruti Zen, but its 1.0-liter petrol engine with 5-speed manual transmission was much more powerful in comparison with its rivals, and having superstar Shah Rukh Khan, fresh off the success of DDLJ as the company’s brand ambassador only sweetened the deal. Hyundai’s bet with the Santro paid off, as they were racking up nearly 60,000 units sold for the initial two years of its launch. 

In 2000, the entry-level hatch received its first mid-life update, featuring various visual changes as well as the segment’s first power steering and a more powerful 1.1-liter petrol engine with an optional 4-speed automatic transmission.

Journey of Hyundai Santro: 1998 to 2022

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In 2003, to keep sales numbers floating, the company introduced the Santro Xing, a much boxier version of the original Santro with a much bigger grille, improved interiors and that same loved tall boy stance. The Xing was a huge success, carrying the Santro brand to the top of sales charts all the way till 2015. Even after 12 years of the same design, new buyers trusted the Santro name and still went for it as their first car choice.

Sadly, the Hyundai Santro was discontinued in 2015. Funny enough, the reason for Santro’s closure was Hyundai’s own products: the Eon and i10. The Eon, which sat below the Santro, was very refreshed and the i10 which sat above the Santro was a slightly premium offering. Sandwiched between two well-faring products, Hyundai thought it best to discontinue the Santro brand rather than keep it afloat as a filler.

The Santro nameplate was revamped in 2018, in an all-new avatar with modern interiors and fancier exterior visuals. But in an ever-growing market full of new choices each month, it failed to grab the attention like its predecessors.

Coming to the present time, Hyundai has once again pulled the plug on the Santro. With low sale figures and the upcoming safety norms mandating 6 airbags from October 2022, it made sense for the company to discontinue the entry-level hatchback.