The compact A-star with its buzzy and willing motor, easy handling and agility is a great city car.
More from the ‘style and attitude is vital’ school of Suzuki Swift design, the funky looking A-star wears its heart on its sleeve. It is relatively low slung; the profile of the roof and the manner in which it tapers to the rear clearly mark this out to be a car where function follows form. And the form is pretty impressive.
The A-star’s nose is rounded and really cute, with high-mounted headlights and a low-mounted grille. ‘Pop up’ turning lights encased within the headlight cluster stand out; the car’s designers have also given prominence to the wheel arches and the rising window line as a result of which the rear window is almost triangular. The rear door is also small, not much wider than your cupboard door, and this along with the tiny shallow boot (129 litres) clearly indicate that rear passenger comfort and luggage space are not areas of priority. While many don’t like the look of the car from the rear and some are still not sold on the front either, it is a design that grows on you.
Under the skin the A-star has front-wheel drive, transverse motors and independent front suspensions with torsion beam rears. Discs at the front and drums at the rear are responsible for braking, with ABS standard on the ZXi. It also uses an electrical power steering system.The A-star also uses a relatively sophisticated front suspension that is similar to that used on the Swift. The A-star is being built in India for the global market and will be marketed as the new Alto in Europe.
Sit down in the A-star and you are greeted by a modern-looking cabin, on which Suzuki designers seem to have spent much time. Blending fresh shapes with multiple colours, the cabin and especially the central console are like no other. The high- mounted vents might restrict vision and are in your face, but they allow for a high-mounted music system, an illuminated shelf and a large storage area at the base, perfect to stack your CDs.
The entire dash has an attractive ‘V’ shape and the use of three shades further embellishes it. There are a couple of cupholders and a second shelf over the glovebox but the front door pockets are really shallow. Settle into the driver’s seat and you soon notice that you are sitting quite low, but it’s comfortable enough. There is plenty of legroom and travel on the large seats and back and thigh support is good. What you miss however is steering wheel or seat height adjust, especially as you are sitting low down. Swift and SX4 bits like the steering wheel, gear lever and vents abound which add to the overall ambience. However, lots of cheap plastic bits and ill-fitting panels seriously detract from the quality of the interior. The A-star has poor visibility due to thick A-and C-pillars.
The A-star’s rear doors are tiny, which makes access difficult. What’s more, the roof is low and legroom is very tight. The seatback extends only till the middle of your back, and the large front headrest and upward sweeping kink in the rear door mean you feel hemmed in due to the dramatically reduced glass area.
The A-star ZXi offers a lot of equipment for your money. It comes with four power windows, ABS, airbags, a CD player and remote locking for only Rs 35,000 more than the top-end i10 1.1 (that does not offer these even as options).
Performance & Economy
The K10B that powers the new A-star is a brand-new high-tech motor. Very compact but bristling with modern technology, this three-cylinder engine not only has four valves per cylinder, but also features twin overhead camshafts for better valve control producing 66hp. Suzuki has also managed to keep the weight of this DOHC head down as no rocker arms are used. The long-stroke pistons have short skirts to improve efficiency and reduce mass and the motor runs a high 10:1 compression ratio.
The first thing you realise when you set off in traffic is that this motor is really free-revving, constantly urging you to get a move on. It makes the A-star feel light and agile to drive. The car displays a good turn of foot too when you ask for some extra performance, revving freely beyond 6000rpm. It can quickly change gait from a canter to a gallop, allowing you to surge ahead and that makes this car fun to drive. However, the motor isn’t perfect. It does getthrummy after 4000rpm with a certain amount of discordance emitted from the three-cylinder motor. This means you need to downshift more often compared to the i10. There is also some degree of jerkiness when negotiating stop/start traffic as the three-cylinder doesn’t run smoothly. And this motor has an unsettled idle too that makes the cabin shudder. It also has a useful dead pedal and a light clutch. The A-star returns 12.1 kpl in the city and XX on the highway.
Ride & Handling
The nicest part about the A-star is the manner in which it rides and handles. Taking advantage of the stiffer chassis, wide track and high profile tyres, Maruti seems to have found the ideal setup. Ride quality though is not pillow-soft as some stiffness is present. It is quite comfortable even though there are some sharp vertical movements.Once you are traveling faster than jogging speeds, the A-star’s superior body control is more noticeable aiding the comfort as you’re not bounced around in the least.
Like the Swift, the A-star is a car that genuinely is fun to drive. The steering has a bit of a dead zone in the straight ahead, but once you push the car harder and load up the suspension the A-star really displays poise, balance and confidence rarely found in a car of this class. With its willing top-end performance, confidence-inspiring brake pedal and eagerness to tackle corners, the A-star feels a special little car. Shame about the lack of bite from the narrow 155 tyres though as the car soon runs out of grip.
The compact A-star with its buzzy and willing motor, easy handling and agility is a great city car. The cheeky styling and funky interiors give it lots of attitude as well. It is superbly equipped with safety features not found in other cars in this price bracket. Fuel efficiency is good and being a Maruti, the A-star should be easy on the pocket.
The rear seats, however, are small and cramped, luggage space is severely compromised, and that makes it a less than an ideal family car, a role these cars are more often than not expected to play. But as a single owner driven car, it’s a lot of fun.
What it costs
Ex-showroom (Delhi) Rs 4.0-4.62 lakh
Warranty 24 months /40,000km
Installation Front, transverse
Compression ratio 10.1:1
Valve gear 4 valves per cylinder, DOHC
Power 66bhp at 6200rpm
Torque 9.17kgm at 3500rpm
Power to weight 75bhp per tonne
Gearbox 5-speed manual
Length 3495 mm
Height 1460 mm
Wheel base 2360 mm
Ground clearance 170 mm
Chassis & Body
Tyres 155/80 R-13, tubeless
Front Independent, MacPherson strut
Rear Non-independent, trailing arm, torsion beam, coil springs
Type Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric assist
Front Ventilated discs
Tank size 35 litres
Range at a glance - Engines
Petrol 1.0 litre