The humble hatchback gets more desirable now!
Over 43 lakh Altos! That's a significant number for a humble hatchback. In the 21 years of its existence, the Alto has been one of Maruti Suzuki's hottest selling models and the first car for millions of Indians. However, the game has moved on, and so have the aspirations of first-time car buyers looking beyond hatchbacks for their first choice of wheels. They want more styling and features, and a little more space won't hurt either. Maruti Suzuki seems to have taken cognizance of this trend with its recently launched Alto K10. The third-generation Alto that the carmaker claims is bigger and better than ever. So does this new Alto retain the strengths of its predecessors while being more attractive to first-time buyers? Let's dive into it.
The new generation Alto adopts a tall boy design thanks to being taller and wider than before. It features a premium-looking front end with large, swooping halogen headlamps and a larger honeycomb-style grille and bumper. The side profile, too, is accentuated with a strong shoulder line and subtle bulges around the wheel arches. It gets new, upsized 13-inch steel wheels, leaving a gap in the wheel wells. The tail section looks simple, and the tail lamps seem inspired by the Celerio. There are a few misses, though. Like the lack of fog lamps, LED DRL and alloy wheels are missing even in the top-end variant. These features would have amped up the Alto's premium factor. Also, the new tyres feature a narrower profile which looks skinny on the larger Alto. Like the Celerio, Maruti also offers custom kits for the Alto K10 called the Glinto and Impacto. We checked out both kits and found them to be tastefully executed.
Like the exterior, the cabin, too, gets a complete revamp. The interiors look and feel more premium than before. It gets a new, two-tone dashboard which also houses a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a massive upgrade for the Alto. The screen feature Smart Play with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. This screen and a lot of the interior trims have been borrowed from the Celerio, which explains the car's more premium feel. Another highlight is the new digital instrument console, which is also easy to read and informative.
The features list is a mixed bag. It gets keyless entry steering mounted controls but misses out on power windows for the rear windows. In terms of safety, Alto gets two airbags as standard. It is 85mm longer and 45mm taller than the second generation Alto though the width remains unchanged. Even the wheelbase has increased by 20mm. All these changes result in a roomier cabin with more headroom and kneeroom.
Thanks to the improved dimensions, the new Alto gets a roomy cabin. There is good legroom and headroom for both rows, and the seats feel more supportive. However, the narrow width means elbow room feels restricted. The boot is large enough for one full-size suitcase. Overall, the Alto feels roomier and more upmarket than before.
Interestingly, the third generation of the Alto has been launched only in K10 guise. Like previous K10 versions, the hatchback continues to be powered by a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre, naturally aspirated petrol engine. This unit is the same engine as the new Celerio and produces the same 67PS and 89Nm. Even the transmission options include a five-speed manual gearbox or five-speed AMT.
The combination of a peppy motor and lightweight frame makes the Alto K10 a fun-to-drive hatch. It picks up speed with enthusiasm and can sustain highway speeds with ease. In the city, the Alto feels quick, and its compact dimension makes it relatively easy to overtake slow-moving cars. The Alto has been quite a popular car among people living in hilly regions, and this Alto impresses with the way it effortlessly scales steep inclines. That said, we did feel a slight lurch while starting at idle, a trait we've seen in three-pot powertrain-equipped cars.
We drove the Alto K10 AMT variant, and this automatic gearbox impresses with its seamless shifts and intuitiveness. At 24.9kmpl, Maruti claims that the automatic gearbox-equipped Alto is marginally more fuel efficient than the manual. The claim is palatable given the motor's propensity to quickly upshift to higher revs.
The Alto has always been a favourite with buyers across the country. More importantly, it has always been favoured by people living in hilly regions given its lightweight and small footprint, which results in excellent dynamics. Moreover, it sits on Maruti Suzuki's tried and tested Heartect platform, which results in sporty handling without compromising the ride quality, which is a priority for many buyers. While the ride isn't plush, the Alto feels composed over bad roads and does an excellent job of insulating the passengers from road shocks.
It is quite the fun-to-drive car around town and even impresses its stability at highway speeds. Despite the narrower profile, the tyres offer good grip, a testament to today's modern tyre compounds. It gets front disc and rear drum brakes with standard ABS. The brakes do an excellent job of keeping the car composed should you have to brake in an emergency. Despite its increased size, the new Alto K10 feels as light, nimble and fun to drive as ever.
The Alto has always been one of Maruti's volume drivers and the first set of wheels for millions of buyers. The new Alto seems set to take this legacy forward. Prices begin from Rs 3.99 lakh ex-showroom, which makes the Alto K10 one of the most affordable cars in India today. In my books, the new Alto ticks two crucial boxes for buyers - affordability and value-for-money. That's a prerequisite for first-time buyers. Add more features and a premium feel to that, and you get a car that feels much more desirable now!