At 6 feet 3 inches, I’m quite tall, and you’d assume that I’d much rather prefer driving an SUV. I need the front seat to be extremely spacious and comfortable, and I need good back support as well. Yes, my height makes me quite picky. And I travel 50km a day from Vashi in Navi Mumbai to our office in Parel, Mumbai, with horrible traffic every bit of the way. So, when I first got the keys to the Alto 800, I was more than a little apprehensive.
As it turned out, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I actually was quite comfortable in the driver’s seat. I was worried it would be hard for me to drive too because of my height, but the Alto’s spacious front seats, light steering and clutch have made the task easy. The pliant suspension soaks up the bad potholes and rough patches quite commendably. I’m, more often than not, out on shoots, which means most of my driving is on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Here’s when I have some trouble with the car. The lack of a left-wing mirror is scary, especially since most people are speeding past you. Sometimes, you don’t even see some coming! And, on tight turns, the steering tends to touch my knees.
On the plus side, despite the car having only a 796cc three-cylinder motor, it manages to keep up with cars with bigger engines. However, there’s a fair bit of body roll when you drive fast through a corner. I wish the car had wider tyres; it’s a bit difficult to handle when it’s raining. I also wish it had central locking, especially when I want to get out of the car in a hurry.
What I do like is how useful the Alto 800’s tiny size is. Finding a parking spot is extremely simple, and despite it being compact, there’s a fair bit of boot space for my camera equipment. The cabin is actually quite spacious, but with me in the driver’s seat, only three adults can sit comfortably. The front driver seat’s adjust is a bit poor – it doesn’t seem to want to stay at a near-straight angle – and it’s also short on thigh support.
Something I’m really happy with is the factory-fitted music system. It’s quite good for a two-speaker unit, plus it’s got aux-in and USB ports, so my highway drives aren’t boring at all.
All this said, I personally like the car. It’s got a peppy engine, a good music system, the steering and clutch are light and the amount of headroom is good. Our Alto 800 has already been on a lot of shoots, it’s been through non-stop rain, and it’s been subjected to terrible roads. But it’s tackled them all. It’s an all-rounder and makes for an ideal, and not to mention affordable, car for the weekday commute as well as those weekend drives.
Price: Rs. 3.36 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy: 15.5kpl (overall)
Maintenance costs: None