The biggest dilemma faced by the first time car buyers in India is to either go for Maruti Wagon R or Hyundai Santro. I too faced it two years ago and I decided to go with Hyundai Santro. The same sort of dilemma was faced by two people I know in the last couple of weeks. As usual lot of discussions, analysis happened before they finally decided on their choice. Incidentally, both of them decided to go for Hyundai Santro GLS compared to Maruti Wagon R VXI.
The major points which were discussed are:
1. Price: The price of Santro GLS is Rs359,000/- compared to Rs380,000 for the Wagon R. The prices are after the dealer discounts. Straight away there is a price differential of Rs21,000/-.
2. Product differentiation: Both Santro GLS and Wagon R VXI are homogenous in the sense that both comes with power steering, power windows, air-conditioning, central locking, floor mats. Therefore, there is no big product differentiation. Hyundai Dealer, DSC Hyundai has agreed to provide further benefits in the form of accessories like car cover, teflon paint coating, steering wheel cover etc.,
3. Mileage: Santro GLS gives you a mileage of 11.5 kms in city driving conditions almost identical to Wagon R. On the highway, Santro gives you a mileage of 14 kms. Both the mileage are when you drive with A/C on.
4. After sales service: I have experienced excellent after sales service from DSC Hyundai. They are very prompt and courteous. They even conduct training sessions for new car buyers. I guess even Maruti dealers would offer the same kind of service, if not more.
5. Looks: Santro wins hands down as far as the looks are concerned. Wagon R's biggest dis-advantage I guess is its soap-box like look from the top and a plain look from the back. Santro on the other hand looks elegant from all angles.
6. Service network and spare parts: The much touted advantage of Maruti is its wide network and availability of cheaper spare parts. I think the extensive network is not going to be tested with a small car where it is never going to be driven across the country. It is primarily for city driving. The spare parts of Maruti is cheaper but at what frequency you are going to change spare parts in a new car.
7. Space: The clincher in the decision making process is the space. Here again, Santro is unbeatable as far the space in the rear seat. It can comfortably accomodate 3 normal sized adults whereas in Wagon R the third person has to real squeeze in. Now the important question comes up of how many times you are going to travel with 5 persons on board. Yes, it is true that it may not be always but imagine you having a driver to drive you around. Typically a normal middle class household in India is made up of the husband, wife and the parents or in laws. Maruti Wagon R would not be a comfortable option in this scenario.
I have been driving Santro for the last 20 months with no complaints and I would recommend it to other entry level car buyers. Considering the price and the features, Santro GLS is a definitely a good buy!