Maruti Suzuki was the first manufacturer in India to have a hot hatchback in its product portfolio, it had the Zen. But after many years, along came the Volkswagen polo GT and the Fiat Punto 90 HP and the Mercedes Benz A-class, among others, yet Maruti Suzuki was the undisputed king of the low cost, entry level hot hatchback segment because it had a gem of a car in its portfolio, the Maruti Suzuki Alto K10.
The Maruti Suzuki Alto has been the best selling hatchback in India for a long time now, and Maruti Suzuki has had three main models selling under the Alto badge. There was the original Alto, the Alto K10 and then later came the Alto 800. The Alto 800 was considered to be a replacement for the original Alto, as it was powered by the same 3-cylinder, 798cc, petrol engine, albeit in a different state of tune but it is the Alto K10 we are more concerned with, in this article.
The Alto K10 was the cheapest hot hatch one could purchase in India. It stuck to the basics of fun driving: a rev-happy engine, short spaced gear ratios, short wheelbase and good, nimble steering feel. Though it didn’t sell in large numbers, it found a number of enthusiasts, and now the replacement for the old Alto K10 is here. This new Alto K10 retains most of the characteristics of the old one, but is also different in a number of ways.
One of the major areas in which the new Alto K10 is different to the old one is the design. Maruti Suzuki has applied their new design language to the Alto K10. This design which has already been seen on the Maruti Suzuki Celerio and the Alto 800 too, has been used on the Alto k10 and it has completely transformed the car in the looks department. Up front, the new Alto K10 gets redesigned, swept back headlamps. The grille too is redesigned and comes complete with a smiling chrome accent stretching across it. The front bumper too is redesigned and gives the car a wider stance, and also has creases which enhance the design language, and it also gets matte black fog lamp housings.
When viewed from the side, there are not many changes. It still comes with skinny tires, but one would immediately notice that the new alto k10 is taller, as it has a higher ground clearance and also the height of the roof has been increased for greater headroom on the inside, all these changes make the tires look skinnier than before. The rear of the car has been styled to look really similar to the Alto 800, and only an eye for detail will notice the small differences, the major one being a slight change in the design of the tail-lamps.
Though the Alto K10 is marketed as a 5-seater, we think 4 adults will take up all the space, 5 will be a tight squeeze. The seats seem to have adequate comfort levels, but legroom for the passengers at the rear is a little on the lower end. The top-end VXi variant packs features such as a piano-black audio system that’s USB- and aux-compatible, front power windows, central locking and fog lamps, while the VXi (o) gets keyless entry, a driver’s side airbag and body-coloured mirrors.
The strong point for the Alto K10 has always been its engine and gearbox, and we are happy that Maruti Suzuki has retained the same 3-cylinder, 998cc, petrol engine from the previous gen Alto K10. This engine has a maximum power output of 67 PS and a maximum torque output of 90 NM and this is a rev happy engine. To get the most out of this engine, one has to work it hard and this engine really does not mind working it out, revving hard and fast. Though the power output is not all that great, it can get this car to move real quick because of the low kerb weight of 740 kilos, that is a power-weight ratio of 91BHP/tone which makes this a really peppy hatchback.
It is just not the engine that makes driving the Alto K10 a pleasure, but the transmission too plays a vital role and both the transmission options on the Alto K10 are amazing. Yes, you read right, the Alto K10 is now available with two transmission options. The 5-speed manual gearbox has been brought forward from the previous gen, and Maruti Suzuki has added their AMT gearbox as an option. Maruti Suzuki was the first in India to launch an AMT(automatic-manual transmission) gearbox, and they did it with the Celerio, now though they have brought down the same gearbox to the Alto K10, but they have re-calibrated the gearshifts and the gear ratios to keep the same peppy driving style of the alto K10 alive in the automatic variant too.
Despite having skinny 155/65 R13 tires, the Alto K10 rides pretty well, thanks to a well sorted out suspension system. the steering is light enough to make the car feel agile, to be honest, this is not a car made for the highway as the steering does not weigh up as well as we would like it to as the speed builds up. This light steering and agile feel is perfect for the twisties and quick lane changes and this is handled with aplomb.
The Alto K10 AMT has been priced around 40000 rupees cheaper than the Celerio AMT and this is what we call good market/segment positioning. So maruti Suzuki definitely has another winner on their hands and if one is out in the market looking for a cheap, yet fun to drive hatchback, the alto K10 is the one, and if the criteria includes an automatic gearbox, the buyer has no other option to consider than the Maruti Suzuki Alto K10. This entry level hatchback gets a huge thumbs-up from us!
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GALLERY: New Maruti Alto K10