All-new Hyundai Santro launched between ₹3.89 - ₹5.64 Lakhs

When Hyundai unveiled the made-for-India Santro at the 1998 Auto Expo in New Delhi, not many expected the car to succeed in India. That’s not surprising, given Hyundai was pretty much an unknown entity and the car itself, with it’s odd-ball styling and weird tall-boy proportions, looked funny. Let’s also not forget that the Tata Indica and Daewoo Matiz made their debuts at the same event. But what happened when the car went on sale in September that year is history. The Santro took the market by storm, usurped hitherto-unchallenged market leader Maruti-Suzuki and laid the foundation stone for the success enjoyed by Hyundai in India till date. 

That explains why Hyundai went all out in building up hype around the all new Santro that’s making a comeback in India after a six year hiatus. Though the car was officially launched and prices were revealed today, India’s second largest car-maker had revealed the car and opened online bookings earlier this month. The response, as one would expect, has been great. The new Santro had garnered 23,500 bookings at the time of its launch, underlying the reach and popularity of the nameplate.

Slotting in below the Grand i10 in Hyundai's lineup, the Santro will eventually take the place of Eon as the brand's entry level hatchback in India. Available in five variants - D-Lite, Era, Magna, Sportz and Asta - the Santro is priced between ₹3.89 Lakhs and 5.45 Lakhs ex-showroom pan India. The Magna and Sportz variants are also available with a factory-fitted CNG option (₹5.18 - 5.46 Lakhs) and an Automated Manual Transmission (₹5.23 - 5.64 Lakhs) developed in-house. 

These prices put the Santro firmly between cars like the Maruti-Suzuki Celerio and Tata Tiago at the lower end and the Maruti-Suzuki Wagon-R, it's big rival for almost two decades now, at the higher end. Hyundai's new hatch is expected to pull customers from all of these cars as well as legacy customers who are still holding on to their old Santros for the space and practicality it offers in a compact footprint.

Santro has always split opinions when it comes to design and styling and the new model stays true to that tradition. When Hyundai released images of the new Santro two weeks ago, the first reactions were that the car is overstyled. That's particularly true when the Santro shows off its profile where the unusual kink in the window line and the busy character lines vie for attention. Out at the front, the Santro gets Hyundai's new Cascading Grille that now extends the full width of the car even encompassing the high-set fog lamps. A pair of swept-back headlights - not too dissimilar to the old i10 - complete the front end. The rear gets a sculpted tailgate and a two tone bumper with built-in reflectors. 

One area where the Santro knocks the competition out of the park is with it's interiors. The biege and black cabin is well designed, well equipped and appears nicely put together. Smart touches include propeller-shaped side air-conditioning vents, a trendy instrument cluster with standard tachometer and champagne gold inserts that syncs perfectly with the beige cabin plastics. An array of first-in-class features - rear air-conditioning vents, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system equipped with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Mirror Link and Voice Recognition and rear parking camera with display in the touch screen - make their debut in the Santro. 

While Antilock Braking System with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and driver airbag are standard across the range, only the top-end Asta gets a passenger airbag. This is disappointing given the increasing levels of awareness and focus on safety. What's more annoying is Hyundai's stubbornness in not giving the buyers an option of a top-end automatic model. You can't get a Santro with a passenger airbag and an AMT!

Powering the Santro is Hyundai's tried and tested 1.1-liter engine that produces 68 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 99 Nm of torque at 4,500 rpm. In a segment where rivals use 3-cylinder engines, Santro's smooth and refined 4-cylinder mill will be an advantage. The engine comes mated to a 5-speed manual transmission or an Automated Manual Transmission dubbed 'Smart Auto'. Both the variants come with an ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of 20.3 km/l. If you opt for one of the two CNG variants, the power and torque figures drop to 58 hp and 84 Nm respectively.

The Santro is built on Hyundai's newer, bigger and stronger K1 platform that uses Advanced High Strength Steel at critical places on the body.

With over 1.86 million units sold in India and abroad during its first stint, the Santro has a huge customer base to build upon. And with the new Santro already off to a great start, things are looking brighter than ever for that number to swell considerably in the car's second stint in India. Let's watch this space!


BMW X7 breaks cover, to go on sale early 2019

Given the pace at which the German luxury trio - Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz - have been filling niches after niches in the automotive industry, it was quite a miss from the folks at BMW who had nothing in their range to go against Audi's Q7 and Mercedes' GLS. These two, together with Lexus' LX, Volvo's XC90 and Infiniti's QX80, have not just been popular but also very profitable for the respective car-makers. Making a belated entrance then is the all-new X7, BMW's first-ever full-size crossover SUV with three rows of seats. 

Have one good look at the X7 and we bet you'll end up being intimidated. Firstly, the X7 is huge, coming in a whole lot bigger than the X5 and measuring almost the same length as the 7-Series. BMW's flagship sedan is soundly beaten in terms of width and height as well. Secondly, the trademark 'kidneys' up front have grown in size and are massive. Their sizes are further accentuated by thin headlights on either sides. Viewed together, the X7 looks trendy and menacing at once. The profile is conservative featuring a strong shoulder line and a flat window line that appears to have clearly placed function over form. The rear gets slender taillights that are connected by a thick chrome bar and a chiseled tailgate. Chrome embellishments are used extensively with the shiny metal occupying prominent spots all around the vehicle. 

For those that want their rides to look sporty, there's the 'M Sport' package that offers bigger (and, of course, sexier) wheels, upgraded exhaust system and brakes, bumper bars, side skirts and body panels that are devoid of chrome. Some interior bits have changed too in line with the sporty theme this package is supposed to convey.    

In it's standard configuration, the X7 seats seven but if specced with the optional captain's chairs on the second row that comes complete with all the adjustments and settings that the driver and front passenger get, the vehicle seats six. Hardcore BMW fans no longer have to contend with the optional third row in the X5 to accommodate their near and dear.

The interiors, as such, are plush, classy and inviting. Though the design and layout are not very dissimilar to the X5 and other recent BMWs, the X7's cabin exudes a sense of richness unrivaled by the other cars from Bavaria. Two large screens - a digital cluster and an infotainment screen - occupy prime spots in the dashboard while the center stack that's angled towards the driver houses two single rows of neatly-stacked buttons and knobs to control the audio and air-conditioning. The two-tone cream and blue upholstery with those nice and glossy pale brown wooden trims interspersed look fabulous. A three-panel panoramic glass roof is standard as are a ton of creature comforts and safety assists.

High-end equipment on offer include five-zone automatic climate control, Ambient Air package, Bowers and Wilkins Diamond Surround sound system with 20 speakers, soft-close doors, heated armrests, heated and cooled cup holders, gesture control, Siri-like 'Voice Recognition' system that responds to "Hey BMW" command, Rear-seat entertainment and a sunroof with optional embedded LED lights to give that starry sky effect (like a Rolls-Royce, no less!). The list just goes on and on. 

Top notch safety kit on board include Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, Driving Assistant Professional with Steering and Lane Control Assistant, Lane Change Warning and Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assistant and Side Collision Protection, Evasion Aid, Crossing traffic warning, Priority warning and Wrong-way warning, latest generation of the BMW Head-Up Display, Emergency Stop Assistant and Parking Assistant. 

Powering the X7 are a pair of gasoline engines - a turbocharged 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder engine producing 335 horsepower and 447 Nm of torque and a 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V8 that generates 456 horsepower and 649 Nm of torque. In the few markets where diesel cars are still in demand, BMW offers the option of either a turbocharged 3.0-liter mill that produces 256 horsepower or a quad-turbocharged unit good enough for 400 horsepower. Irrespective of the engine powering the vehicle, transmission duties are handled by a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic gearbox that transmits power to all four wheels. 

All X7s feature a fully-independent suspension with dual wishbones at the front, a five-link setup at the rear and air springs that can raise and lower the ride height as required. Optional off-road package enables selection of xSand, xGravel, xRocks and xSnow driving modes at the touch of a button.

The X7 goes on sale early 2019 and when it does, expect this mammoth BMW to pose an equally mammoth challenge to the segment best-sellers. It's game on, then!