When it comes to making a decision to buy a small family car in Pakistan, the customer has trouble in deciding whether to choose Suzuki Cultus or Hyudai Santro. Both cars are the strongest competitors in the 1000cc category. Cultus and Santro are assembled locally by Pak Suzuki and Dewan Farooque Motors Ltd (DFML) respectively and were launched in the same year 1999. They are both five door compact hatchbacks and are targeted towards the same income group. Although, they are quite similar to each other; yet there are some subtle differences between them which are very difficult to differentiate for the customers. So, the purpose of this review is to compare and contrast Cultus and Santro on various features to facilitate the prospective customers in making a right decision.
The most notable and important difference between Cultus and Santro is Price. Santro is much cheaper than Cultus. Santro is available in six variants: Prime, Prime Gv, Club, Club GV, Exec and Exec GV with prices ranging from Rs. 649,000/- to Rs. 754,000/-. On the other hand Cultus is available in four variants: VXR, VXR CNG, VXL and VXL CNG in different prices from Rs. 837,000/- to Rs. 954,000/- (According to prices in March 09).
Cultus has a larger market share than Santro in terms of unit sales. Cultus owns the largest 44% market share, whereas Santro only owns 19%. So far more than 125000 units of Cultus are on the roads whereas only 36200 units of Santro have been sold. The reason behind Cultus success is that Suzuki has a much larger dealership network than DFML. Cultus is available countrywide through Suzuki's extensive 70 3S dealerships (sale, service and spare parts). On the other hand, Santro is available through 20 DFM 3S dealerships. Secondly, Cultus has a higher resale value than Santro and its spare parts are also easily available at a relatively cheaper price.
In terms of technical specification, Cultus and Santro are very similar to each other. They are 5 door compact hatchbacks equipped with 1liter, 4-cylinders, EFI (Efficient Fuel Ignition) engine with 5-Speed manual transmission. Cultus and Santro also offers factory fitted CNG kit in their CNG variants.
Santro is more comfortable than Cultus. Santro has a nice, stylish and elegant interior. Santro’s dash board is equipped with a digital clock, MP3/ CD player with AM/FM radio and 4 speakers. On the other hand, Cultus has an old fashioned dashboard which is only equipped with a cassette player, AM/FM radio and 2 front speakers. Santro has a 4-stage air conditioner which is very effective in dealing with the intense heat in summer. Features such as power steering, power windows and central locking are also offered in the top-end variants of both cars. Apart from entertainment features, Santro has a much larger trunk space than Cultus. Passengers can easily put their luggage in Santro even after installing CNG cylinders in the trunk. However, the Cultus cabin is more spacious than Santro. Cultus has a more leg room space in the front as well as in rear seats.
Safety is considered one of the most important feature while comparing two cars. Santro is far better than Cultus in terms of safety. Unlike Cultus, Santro offers front seat belts, side impact bars, engine sub frame and an energy absorbing steering column. Like Cultus, It has the same disc/ drum brakes configuration in the front and the rear. In contrast to Cultus, Santro comes with imported Hankook tires which are much better than locally manufactured General tires in performance.
In general, Santro is a better car than Cultus in terms of build quality, durability, safety and comfort even at a cheaper price. On the other hand, Cultus is better in after sales services and resale. Cultus has a stronger brand image in the market due to the customer’s loyalty with Pak Suzuki, which they have gained in the last 25 years by offering a wide product line and good after sales services network. One of the reasons behind Santro's lower market share is due to the inefficiency of DFML's marketing strategy in providing awareness to the customers. If DFML launches an effective marketing campaign in the future, Santro has the potential to be the market leader in its class. What matters is the value the brand delivers and its ability to retain it for a longer time to make effective long term relationships with the customers.
( I am neither a Cultus nor a Santro fan, so its an unbiased review. In my opinion, Vitz is the best option in 1000cc category)