China loves the Santana. The car was first introduced in 1984 and claims the title as the first passenger car made in China, of course the Jeep Cherokee made it a few months earlier but claimed the crown as the first foreign vehicle made in China. The partnership between Shanghai Auto and Volkswagen bloomed from a tiny few hundred units per year into an economic power house that has been able to steer the course of the Chinese auto industry. The Santana continued its production from the 1980′s into the 90′s and then on into the 00′s, of course it was updated over the years with newer Santana 2000, 3000 and Vista models being introduced along the way. The original Santana 1000 still remains in production it seems, I saw a brand new specimine traveling along the QingYin Highway last weekend, which goes to show strong bonds still exist for the original model despite all the new metal on the market.
The New Santana was aired earlier today, but the new Santana is not as big or as burly as the last generation of model. It will be powered by a 1.4L and also a 1.6L engine with no TSI options on offer but gear changing responsibilities fall to 5 speed manual or six speed auto boxes for those that like the choice. The car is based on the same platform as the VW Polo which is also shared with the Skoda Rapid and also the new Jetta, previous Santana’s were considerably longer than the smaller Jetta but in this generation the Jetta gets the upper hand. The New Santana measures in at (LxWxH) 4473 x 1706 x 1469mm where as the Jetta is 4487mm x 1706 x 1470 and has a wheelbase of 2603, the same, so only the length is different by a few mm’s.
December is being put aside as the launch date for the New Santana and comes at a time when VW and other manufacturers are aiming to capture the lower end of the market where Chinese brands have typical operated and held a monopoly. Models such as the new Nissan Sunny and also the Chevrolet Sail have become key cars for Nissan and GM in capturing market share in the lower end of the market where cars generally start at 70,000RMB for a semi decent model.
After 29 years on the market the original Santana is finally heading for the great car heaven, will it be missed? Most certainly. The Santana was the figurehead of China’s early opening and reform which saw the entire country suddenly change from being a planned economy into a semi planned semi state controlled economy into a nearly fully fledged market economy with few government strings.