The current leader in car sales in India is the Maruti Suzuki Alto and fortunately for buyers, there isn’t just one engine on offer but a performance K10 option too. There was a time I really admired the Alto, I remember it being launched in India in 2000 but it was only in 2001 that I really started liking the small car. It was when I was in my teenage years and had gone to get the family’s Esteem serviced. It was then that I first sat in an Alto VXi. Now I mention VXi because the difference between LX and VX wasn’t just features (the latter also had a tacho) but also engine. The VXi was also called as the Alto 1.1 as it was equipped with a 1061cc F10D, 4-pot motor (the Wagon R too used this engine but the Zen didn’t as it was powered by a 1000cc motor, the same that was in the Maruti 1000). This was good enough for 64 PS and 80 Nm, what a rocket that was. Fast forward to 2015 and we have the Alto K10 which has been given a thorough revision and an AMT gearbox (Auto Gear Shift in Maruti speak), does it connect me to those days? Check On Road Price of Alto K10
The new Alto K10 sports a completely new look. It still shares it doors and roof with the 800 version but the rest of the panels – the bonnet, the front fenders, the tail gate and even the bumpers are unique to the K10. It has larger, more contemporary looking head lamps; a more aggressive air dam design; and it sits on larger 13 inch wheels. Overall, the new K10 still looks like an Alto as we know it, but it has a younger, sportier aura to it now. And in this top of the line VXI option trim, it also gets body coloured outside review view mirrors and body side moulding to give it a plusher feel
The interior of the Maruti Alto K10 is totally fresh when compared to its 800cc sibling. The console and the dash has a black and beige tone with the instrument cluster having features like the USB option and aux input and a mp3 player. The buttons are big and clear and hence easy and convenient to use. This new centre console is a welcome after the old Alto 800 styling, which does look outdated.
The Maruti Alto K10 gets new rich beige fabric seats to add a pinch of richness in the cabin. The cabin space is sufficient and feels airy. The front row seats are comfortable for even long drives. In the second row there is sufficient kneeroom even for tall people and there is enough head room as well, but the thigh support could have been better.
The Alto K10 AMT has the same engine and transmission pair as the Celerio, but thanks to a lower weight, the Alto K10 feels a wee bit quicker. It is very sprightly off the line and it’s only when you reach speeds north of 70-80 km/h that the engine starts feeling a bit strained. The biggest talking point here, however, is the 5-speed AMT. This unit feels smooth and the jerks at lower rpms are well contained. When driven with a light foot the gear changes are relaxed and happen at a relatively low rpm
On the short 70 kilometre drive the Alto showcased just how brilliant its ride quality is especially in urban areas over some rough roads. The gas-charged shock absorbers on a MacPherson strut assembly at the front and a 3-link rigid axle at the rear give it superb low speed absorption qualities. However, as the speed builds up and the corners get tighter or the surface undulating, you realise just how woefully inadequate this suspension is. There is a lot of body roll and you need to be able to react quickly enough to offset the suspension getting upset at being pushed hard around corners. The Maruti Suzuki Alto therefore is best experienced between the speeds of 60-80kmph and anything beyond is just asking it to perform over and above its station.
The steering too is reasonably precise at lower speeds with enough weight to give you a well connected feel but as you go faster it gets vague and the communication between steering wheel and tyres a bit disconnected.
The Alto K10 is a move in the right direction by Maruti Suzuki. It has a lot of short comings, but the major flaw of the Alto has been answered, it is no more sluggish and never feels out of breath, something which the 800cc Alto could never boast about. It is the fastest car you can get at that price point and is economical too. The performance of the K10 motor very well makes up for all its short comings and if some one wants a pocket rocket, this is it. Add some good rubber and a few short comings of the Alto K10 will be resolved. There is truly no alternative to the Alto K10 and Maruti Suzuki have opened a new segment, the econo-hot hatch one.