Unless you’re a real car expert or you’ve made a recent visit to New Delhi, there’s a good chance you’re unfamiliar with Hyundai’s Santro. That’s because the vehicle is only available in India, and it’s only recently made its comeback into the subcontinent. The car was initially discontinued in 2014 to make room for other models, but the Indian market’s Santro fans would not let the car die, talking up their vehicle’s reliability on forums and expressing dismay that it was no longer in production.

In 2018, their hopes were rewarded when Hyundai announced that it was resurrecting the Santro, bringing it back with an emphasis on both comfort and interior enjoyment, while keeping the car true to its original compact model that made it so popular in the first place. If you’ve never been to India, it might be difficult to picture just how clogged the roads can get in a country of over 1 billion people, which leads Indian drivers to prioritize a smaller vehicle that makes sharing the road with so many other cars a little more bearable.

That was part of what made the Santro a success in the first place and helped get Hyundai’s foot in the door in the Indian market. In 2018, Hyundai controlled 16.4% of the Indian car market — not a bad place to be when you’re talking about the world’s second largest country. The Santro was what started it all, and with so many fans hoping for it to make its return, it seemed inevitable that Hyundai would bring its original brand back to where it all began.

Small Size, Large Comfort

When Hyundai announced that it was bringing back the Santro, it wasn’t going to stop at simply offering the same compact car that existed in the vehicle’s second generation. After all, the Santro got its reputation based on three main things: the reliability that comes with the Hyundai brand, an emphasis on an enjoyable interior, and a large amount of space by building up rather than out. 

With extra knee room and more headspace thanks to the hatchback design, the redesign of the Santro stayed true to what made the original so beloved in the first place. So too did the car’s interior, which became Hyundai’s only model to offer full compatibility with both Android and Apple technologies, making it comfortable and fun to drive.

An Affordable Ride

Through the first two generations of the Santro, Hyundai had always marketed it as its starter car and priced it accordingly, keeping it relatively low-priced for the Indian market. But with the emergence of the Eon, Hyundai faced a challenge with the Santro, a question that took the Korean automaker three years to resolve.

In its return, the Santro has established itself as a step above the Eon: a car that’s still affordable while offering an improved driving experience. Since the Santro’s original demise, the Indian market had softened in large part because of the country’s immense traffic problem, which leads drivers to spend up to two hours on the roads at a time. With its new design and updated features, Santro’s aim became to keep drivers in a positive mood while on the road, minimizing the frustration that comes with sitting in New Delhi’s infamous traffic snarls.

New Driver Friendly Features

The biggest differences with the Santro compared to its predecessors came in the form of technology that seems standard to the American audience, but is rather new in Indian vehicles. For example, most Americans would never think of driving a car that didn’t come with a reliable air conditioner that kept the entire vehicle cool, especially in a city like New Delhi, which can reach temperatures of over 100 degrees during the early summer months. But in India, the Santro marked the first vehicle from Hyundai to feature air conditioning that affected the rear cabin as well as the front, an important addition with drivers spending so much time stuck in India’s sweltering heat.

The Santro’s other main addition is a costly one as far as Indian drivers are concerned, but it could prove just as welcome — an automatic AMT. Unlike most American automobiles, manual transmission is the norm in India, in large part because Indian drivers don’t want to pay the extra costs that come with the technology. Whether they’ll want to with the Santro remains a mystery, but the addition along with the car’s inexpensive price could make it worthwhile.

Regardless, the Santro appears to be back to stay in India, which has thrilled its fans. Compact vehicles have a welcome place in India, and this one may be one of the best.