Indian auto giant Maruti Suzuki not just wears the mantle of being the country’s largest car manufacturer but is also the most dominant player in the hatchback segment offering as many as six products spread across price bands.
Early last month, Maruti Suzuki launched the facelifted Alto K10 featuring styling updates both on the exterior and interior along with a new chassis and automated manual gearbox. The new gen Alto K10 is available in six variants including a CNG variant. The VXi (optional) variant also gets a driver-side airbag.
Prices start from Rs 3,25,870 for the base LX trim and goes up to Rs 3,77,946 for top-end VXi variant. Maruti has also equipped the refreshed Alto K10 with an Auto Gear Shift (AGS) option on the VXi variant with a price tag of Rs 4,02,103 (ex-showroom Kolkata) making it the most affordable car with an automated manual transmission (AMT) in India.
In its segment, the 2014 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 will clash head-on with another very competitive product - the Hyundai Eon 1.0-litre and the Datsun Go, which although powered by a 1.2-litre engine, however, falls in the same price segment. We got behind the wheel of the top-end VXi (AGS) to figure out whether the Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 has enough fire power to outshine its competitors. Read on to find out.
Design & Engineering
So what’s new in the 2014 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10? Firstly, the refreshed Alto K10 now sits on a revised platform which is identical to its stablemate - Alto 800. Secondly, the bigger difference comes in the form of an Auto Gear Shift (AGS). That’s right, the new Maruti Alto K10 is being offered with an optional (VXi trim only) automatic manual gearbox making it the most inexpensive AMT on sale in India.
Maruti Suzuki has given the new Alto K10 a completely new face which helps to differentiate it from its 800cc namesake, especially when viewed from the front. The 2014 Alto K10 features a new bumper, larger swept-back headlamps, more aggressive looking air dams, a revised front grille and restyled bonnet along with the subtle character lines on the panels which lend a masculine appearance to the K10.
However, when viewed from the side, the new Maruti Alto K10 bears an uncanny resemblance with its less powerful cousin barring slightly larger wing mirrors and an extended character line. At the rear, the redesigned tail lamps look quite stylish and the boot lid appears flatter than on the Alto 800. The top-of-the line-VXI option trim gets body coloured ORVMs and body side moulding to give it a plusher feel.
The new Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 is 3,545mm long, 1490mm wide and 2360mm high. In comparison, the Datsun Go is both the longest and widest at 3,785 mm and 1,635 mm respectively when compared to the K10 and Hyundai Eon. And although looks are subjective, however, in my opinion, the Hyundai Eon is the best looking of the trio followed by the Go, with the K10 finishing third.
Interiors & Comfort
The 2014 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 gets an all-new interior. The K10 comes with a new dual-tone dashboard design which looks decent for the price point, though I must honestly admit that it doesn’t quite match the fit, finish and class of the Hyundai Eon 1.0-litre which we tested a few months earlier.
The Maruti Alto K10 sports a new steering wheel, redesigned instrument panel, and an audio system finished in piano-black colour scheme which supports radio, CD, USB and auxiliary input. Additionally, silver accents on the dash lend subtle premium feel.
The manual transmission variants come equipped with cup holders and a cubbyhole in front of the gear lever, however, the AMT that we tested forgoes these stowage spaces to accommodate the larger transmission housing which is actually quite weird. Think about it, logic would dictate that while driving an AMT, there would have been a better chance of the driver reaching out for his beverage on the go, however, there aren’t any cup holders to keep the coffee cup. Although, this isn’t a deal breaker, we nonetheless thought of bringing it to your notice.
The front seats are fairly comfortable, well-padded and have adequate head room. Rear seats now boast of improved knee room without stretching the wheelbase, thanks to a clever ploy by Maruti which has scooped out the backrest of the front seats to add about an inch-and-a-half of more space for your knees.
On the flipside, the thinner cushioning on the front seats means that the driver and the front passenger can feel the rear person’s knee when it comes in contact with the seat. Unless, there’s a certain someone seating behind you at the rear, whose touch you enjoy, this isn’t quite the ideal scenario. For example, imagine if your mother-in-law is behind the wheel and you are seated right behind her in the rear bench with your knee knocking on her spine. Not such a great thing, I say!
Among the Maruti Alto K10, Datsun Go and Hyundai Eon, it is the Go which boasts of not just the longest wheelbase at 2,450 mm, and also the largest boot at 265 litres translating to more passenger cabin and luggage space. On the other hand, the Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 has the smallest boot and wheelbase among the trio at 177 litres and 2360mm respectively. Eon stands at 215 litres (boot) and 2380mm (wheelbase).
Performance & Handling
The new Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 is powered by the same K-series petrol motor displacing 998cc which did duty on the outgoing model. The 3-cylinder pot produces 68PS of maximum power at 6,000rpm and 90Nm of peak torque at 3,500rpm. In comparison, the Datsun Go which is powered by a 1.2-litre engine produces 68PS and 108 Nm, while the Hyundai Eon 1.0-litre churns out 69 PS and 94 Nm of torque. All the three cars come with a 5-speed manual transmission, but the Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 has an edge over its rival becoming the first in its segment to offer an Automated Manual Transmission (AMT).
The Maruti Suzuki Alto K10's claim to fame has always been its engine which is both responsive and fuel efficient. The AMT is an improvement over the Celerio and the gears slot in smoothly. However, the engine does get noisy when revved hard especially in the AMT mode. The Hyundai Eon definitely scores over the K10 in this department with its smooth and relatively quieter motor. The visibility from the driver’s seat is pretty good, the controls are reasonably light and because of its small dimensions, it's not just easy to navigate the Alto K10 through heavy traffic, but also seems like a child's play when you have to park it in tight spots.
The new Alto K10 handles alright remaining composed while cutting quick corners and offering decent traction despite thin tyres (155/65 R13). However, the ride quality leaves a lot to be desired. The K10 is a light car (755 kg), and it bounces while going over uneven and bumpy roads throwing the passengers around a bit as well. So the suspension set up which is the typical McPherson strut in the front and 3-link rigid axle at the rear could have been better tuned for Indian road condition. In comparison, the Hyundai Eon 1.0-litre that we tested sometime earlier offered a much plush and sorted ride quality that would surprise you given its size.
The 2014 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 boasts of an impressive ARAI-ratified fuel efficiency 24.07 kmpl, outshining both its competitors with Hyundai Eon 1.0-litre returning 20.3kmpl and Datsun Go delivering 20.63kmpl.
Although we didn’t get an opportunity to conduct a proper mileage test, however, all these fuel efficiency figures is expected to decrease in real world driving condition with stop and go traffic and frequent use of clutch, brake, accelerator and gear change.
Today, safety is of paramount importance for auto manufacturers around the globe even in the case of a budget small car like the Alto K10. Unfortunately, the Alto K10 VXi (AGS) that we tested didn’t have front fog lamps, engine immobilizer or keyless entry. In comparison, the Hyundai Eon 1.0-litre Kappa Magna + trim that we drove earlier came with all the aforementioned features. Also, only the top variants of the K10 get driver-side airbag and yet no ABS unlike the top-trim of the Eon which gets driver-side airbag and ABS.
Maruti Suzuki is a name to reckon with in the small car segment in India. Their brand stands for reliable products, inexpensive maintenance cost, wide-spread service touch point across the length and breadth of India including the remotest of locations, low cost spares, and competitive pricing. All of this adds to something that has catapulted Maruti Suzuki in being Numero Uno in India – Peace of Mind.
So it’s hard to ignore any small car which comes out of Maruti’s stable and the K10 is no exception. It’s a refreshed car featuring restyled exterior and interior, new chassis and an optional AMT at the most affordable cost. In terms of pricing too the Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 is the least expensive among competition with prices starting with Rs 3.25 lakh and undercuts its rivals across model range. In fact, for the price of the top-end Datsun Go (T), you could actually buy Alto K10 with the AMT gearbox. So, pricing is spot on which by the way is a serious consideration in this segment where every rupee counts. However, there are many departments like exterior styling, interior fit and finish and ride quality where cars like the Hyundai Eon 1.0-litre and Datsun Go will edge out the new Alto K10.
So will Maruti’s cut throat pricing strategy and brand name see the K10 outshine the competition? It’s a tough call with other players bringing quality products in the market. Maruti better take note.
Hyundai Eon 1.0-Litre, Datsun Go
Test Car Courtesy: Dewar's Garage Ltd. Salt Lake Sector 5 Showroom. Phone: 033-4037-2400. Email: email@example.com