Car tested: 2010 Maruti Suzuki A-Star Automatic VXi (ABS)
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 5,03,446/-
Maruti Suzuki is the king of small cars and there is little to doubt that considering it has the widest selection of entry level hatchbacks. Market share may have dipped below 50% but Maruti Suzuki is leaving nothing to chance and is on a roll as far as new launches are concerned, the latest being the Automatic variant of the A Star. Its a common perception that automatic cars are expensive and are harsh on mileage. Not anymore. Maruti claims to have ARAI figures of 17 kmpl, a fantastic value for an automatic. This version is primarily targeted for first time buyers, especially women, who find an automatic transmission handy and considering the traffic situation in the metros of the country only deteriorating, the Maruti A-Star AT is sure to have a fan following. We drive this AT version over a spirited 450 km stint between a mixture of jam packed city roads and fast moving highway traffic and find out just how good it gets.
Exteriors – According to statistics, about 60 percent A-Star buyers know that they want an A-Star when they enter the showroom and are young professionals looking for a sporty hatchback and sporty it is. The Maruti A-Star is a young sassy looking machine. Sporty looks are complemented with the bulging headlights and from the side profile, thick c pillars with the upward sloping rear windows. Alloy wheels are absconding and the A-Star automatic is available in only one variant, the Vxi with ABS as standard. No fog lights but lets not forget that Maruti had to keep the pricing competitive. The rear right portion of the boot portrays the ‘Automatic’ badge, setting is apart from the manual variants. Sloping roof line adds to the young feel of this car.
Interiors – The A-Star AT gets extra goodies over the manual Vxi variant, such as integrated music system, drivers seat height adjuster, central locking and all 4 power windows. Seating is comfortable at the front and all the controls are easily accessible from the driving position. Rear legroom is appalling and the A Star is basically a car for two and maybe a small kid will fit well behind. Another factor contributing to the rear space is the front seat travel. The Maruti A-Star has the highest front seat travel and hence in the last position of the front seats, rear legroom is bare minimum. Rear headroom is just about right for a 6 footer with a few millimeters of hair grazing the roof. The AT variant has scrapped the need for a clutch, hence a big brake pedal and the accelerator are the only pedals seen.
The music system provides for iPod connectivity and sound quality is decent. Boot space isn’t the largest in the segment but handy to say the minimum.
Built Quality – Over our drive, our A Star took a beating riding over the deepest of potholes but did not utter a single rattle. It would not be out of place to mention that we were driving brand new cars which were just out of the factory, the odometer read 88 km when we stepped in. Gauge of the metal used is better than few other Maruti’s we have seen. Overall quality is good and that’s basically because the A Star is a frequent at the export market.
On the Move – Start the engine, press the brake and shift out of the P (Parking) mode and slot the lever into D (Drive) and you will notice that the car will accelerate out with ease. The gearbox uses a slot shift mechanism rather than the conventional (press button and shift) mechanism.
There are 6 positions which include P, R, N, D and 3, 2 and L. This gearbox can be used to manually shift and drive in 3, 2 and L. L is more like first gear and is useful while doing sharp inclines, where one needs more of the low end grunt. D and 3 are locate in the same slot and can be shuffled by just flicking the gear lever left (D) and right (3). There is a small button to the left of the gear lever and reads ‘Shift Lock’. One can press this button after selecting a gear (say D) and the car wont change gears unless its pressed again. This works as a protective mechanism to prevent accidental gear changes in a moving vehicle by kids, for example. We did not feel the need to use this on our drive. Effectively the gearbox can be used in automatic as well as manual mode without the fuss of the clutch. Overtaking on the highway was not much of a problem, floor the accelerator pedal and the car darts forward. Lag between shifts is in the acceptable range.
Ride, Handling and Braking – The 155/80/13 tyres certainly improve the ride quality of the Maruti A-Star. The suspension is a balance between too soft and outright stiff and strikes the right balance giving the A Star a comfortable ride. Steering is light and responsive and the car is extremely nippy making it an ideal drive in extreme traffic situations. Addition of ABS as a standard feature is a sensible move by Maruti. On hard braking the car stops in one line, though one feels the tires are losing grip a little earlier than expected, braking is satisfactory.
Performance – The A Star was the first car to be fitted with the all new K series engines and this 998 cc SOHC K series engine punches out 67 Bhp @ 6200 rpm and a torque of 90 Nm @ 3500 rpm. The AT version hits 100 km in about 19.5 seconds and hits a top speed of 150 km. In the manual mode, the ECU cuts off the second gear at 95 km and in third gear the car reaches 120 comfortably and then struggles. At speeds of 130+ slight amount of wobbling starts and one feels unsafe to push further. By all means this is a city car and not an ideal highway cruiser. In terms of mileage, ARAI figures indicate 17 kmpl, a drop of only 2 kmpl over the manual version. The AT returned us a mileage of about 12 – 13 kmpl, not bad considering we were hitting maximum revs in 3 and 2, spirited driving at its peak.
Conclusion – With the traffic situation only getting worse, especially in the big metro cities, the A Star AT comes out as a perfect car to deal with metro traffic woes a little more comfortably. People have inhibitions about automatic transmission but Maruti has set this straight with good ARAI figures and at the same time giving an affordable automatic car to the consumer (its a full 20k cheaper than the i10 AT and has more goodies). Servicing costs will be marginally higher than the manual version as confirmed by Maruti officials. Maruti sees the A Star AT as the ideal car for women and first time drivers. It sure is a great city car and it hopefully will open up a new segment for automatic cars in the coming future.
- Nippy character and peppy engine
- Young looks
- Cheapest automatic car
- ABS as standard
- Maruti Service
- Rear legroom and headroom
- Airbags not even an option
Maruti Suzuki A-Star Automatic Specifications –
- Engine: 998cc, KB-Series, DOHC
- Power: 67 PS @ 6200rpm
- Torque: 90 Nm @ 3500rpm
- Transmission: 4-speed auto
- Top Speed: 150km/hr
- 0-100 km/hr: 20 seconds (est)
- Fuel Consumption: 13-14 km/l (City), 17-18 km/l (highway)
- Fuel Type: Petrol
- Suspension: Mcpherson Struts, Isolated trailing link (Rear)
- Tires: 155/80/13 Tubeless Radials
- Brakes: 257mm Ventilated Disc (Front), 203mm Drums ( Rear), ABS, EBD
- Safety: ABS, EBD, iCats
Maruti Suzuki A-Star Automatic Dimensions –
- Overall length x width x height: 3500 mm X 1600 mm X 1490 mm
- Wheelbase: 2360 mm
- Front/Rear Track: 1405/1400 mm
- Ground clearance: 170 mm
- Turning Radius: 4.5 m
- Boot Volume: 129 liters
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 35 litres
- Kerb Weight: 880 kgs