Alto K10: Much ado about nothing? | autos | Hindustan Times
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Alto K10: Much ado about nothing?

It has been India's top-selling car for over seven years, and looks good to keep the position for another 4 years. Despite its very high base, its sales continue to grow in double-digits, defying its vintage and its contemporaries like Hyundai's Santro and Tata's Indica. Sumant Banerji reports.

autos Updated: Aug 16, 2010 22:25 IST
Sumant Banerji

It has been India's top-selling car for over seven years, and looks good to keep the position for another 4 years. Despite its very high base, its sales continue to grow in double-digits, defying its vintage and its contemporaries like Hyundai's Santro and Tata's Indica.

So why on earth should Maruti want to tinker with its Alto? To better it, maybe?

Maruti Suzuki has planted its very capable K10 engine at the heart of the Alto. K-series engines are already present in a host of other cars — the Zen Estilo, Wagon R and the A Star, the successor to the Alto in other markets.

Fantastic, one would say. Adding spice to a car known more for being dependable, durable and a workhorse. But will the spice sell the curry? We find out.

Exteriors & Interiors

Little change here. The body is slightly longer to accommodate the bigger engine (the existing Alto has a 796-cc power plant) and a few oh-so-Maruti cosmetic changes to the head-and tail-lamps. Wish Maruti had done something about the cabin space, as the Alto, despite its numerous virtues, is very basic and the smallest car in its class. The seats are firmer. A major improvement is the air-conditioning, which is now clearly the best in the class. A bigger engine means the AC does not compromise the car's performance.

Overall, though, the cosmetic changes do little to enhance the appearance of the car.

Performance and powertrain

This is where the changes have happened. Hyundai set the stage by pepping up its best-selling i10 with the kappa variant two years ago. Fiat followed suite with a more powerful Punto, and now the Alto K10.

The engine itself is a very capable one best utilised in the new Wagon R. Besides the engine, the gear shift has also been improved. But the heavy accelerator and brake pedals dull the sporty element of the drive. The new Alto is also very noisy: crank the engine and the bigger motor immediately — and rather noisily — makes itself felt. With its light body (a mere 765 kgs), one would have expected the Alto K10 to be quick off the blocks. Sadly, not so. The Santro and Spark remain peppier, especially for city driving.

On the positive side, the K10 handles rough roads better than the existing Alto. It topped out at 140 kmph, and stayed true even at such speeds.

Economy

Always a Maruti forte till the Nano came along, the new Alto returns an impressive 20+ km per litre as per ARAI standards — clearly ahead of the Santro, Spark and even Maruti's own WagonR and A-Star. A 35-litre fuel tank gives it a range of over 700 km — not at all bad.

Verdict

This Alto flatters to deceive. The new engine does give it more substance but there is no radical change in driveability. And the car we drove, a mere 320-km old, had a perceptible rattle. Is Maruti's build quality slipping? At just Rs 3 lakh, the car will outsell the competition, but performance-wise, it may be a missed chance for MSIL.

What we like: Compactness, handling, dependability, AC, price.

What we dont: Drive, build quality, cramped interiors.