Maruti Alto K10 Review
Car Tested: 2015 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 VX AGS
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 3.91 – 4.87 lakhs
The Alto K10 might be a small car but is big on performance and ease of driving with AMT
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?
Motor Quest: Maruti Suzuki first launched the Alto in India in 2000, bringing the more powerful VXi variant in 2001 while the Alto K10 replaced it in 2010. Maruti Suzuki launched the second generation Alto in the form of the Alto 800 in 2012 while the second generation of the Alto K10 was only launched last year. Both combined sell around 20,000 units a month in India.
Exteriors – The second generation Maruti Alto K10 looks more or less similar in size to the outgoing model but is vastly different in appearance. The car is based on the Alto 800 which was revised with new styling but compared to it, the K10 model gets a new design upfront with new headlights, grille, bumper and hood. But from the side, there is quite the resemblance between these Alto siblings while the rear carries similar tail lights that are also seen on the Celerio. But look carefully and the arrangement of elements are very different, it’s just the shape which draws a comparison between the Maruti hatchbacks. There are also smart wheel caps, body side moulding and a chrome line on the tip of the tail gate, making the Alto well differentiated from its younger sibling.
Interiors – Where the Alto K10 is vastly different from the Alto 800 is the interiors. While both cars have similar AC vents (side ones), the dashboard is as different as chalk and cheese. The Alto K10’s dashboard is a nice unit which looks quite attractive and gets piano black finish on the centre console and some silver inserts for a sporty feel. The cabin is a dual-tone unit that adds airiness and quality inside is good although there are some rough edges which aren’t glaringly obvious at first sight. The way the centre console has been designed makes the Alto K10’s dashboard look wider than it actually is. The 3-spoke steering is nice to hold and the car gets front power windows, buttons for which are unconventionally placed in the centre, there are no rear power windows.
Not very spacious at the rear but scooped out seats liberate more legroom
The manual variant of the Alto K10 gets a cubbyhole and cupholders in front of the lever but in the AMT variant, this is missing as the lever takes more space. The car gets a smart hook next to the glovebox for hanging small things. The instrument cluster is a funky looking unit (Maruti calls it speedy finish) with a nice design having red markings and white fonts. There is a display under the speedometer which carries twin trip meters, odometer, gear indicator (AMT) fuel meter and time. The right side on the console has tell-tale lights and as they don’t blink all the time, the meter looks a bit empty.
The Maruti Alto K10 is the premium version of the Alto but isn’t loaded with a ton of features to boast about. Bluetooth is absent which comes as a surprise because the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano has it. The audio system offers CD, USB and AUX functions and sound quality is strictly average. None of the Alto’s seats come with adjustable headrests and due to the narrow cabin, it’s best to seat two at the rear and not squeeze in three. The front seats are quite comfortable and although the Alto K10 carries the same wheelbase as the Alto 800, rear seat legroom is better thanks to the scooped front seat back, resulting in thinner front seats (one can at times feel the knees of the rear passenger on his back). Still legroom is just average while headroom is adequate. Boot space is decent for a car of this size.
Performance – The biggest differentiator between the Alto K10 and the Alto 800 is the engine of course. The K10 model employs a bigger 1.0-litre heart which also belts out an impressive 68 PS and 90 Nm. Maruti Suzuki claims a 0-60 km/hr time of 5.3 seconds on the manual while our tests with the AMT reveals it takes upwards of 6 seconds to do the same run. Meanwhile, 0-100 km/hr comes up in a rather impressive 14.84 seconds as per our VBOX tests, this is on the AMT model and the manual will be marginally quicker due to faster shifts. The 5-speed manual gearbox offers slick cog swapping but the real highlight of the new Alto K10 is the AMT gearbox.
The Alto K10’s light weight & punchy motor make is quite fast & fun
The AMT unit is the same 5-speed transmission and unlike conventional automatics, this gearbox shifts cogs with the use of an electronic unit, thereby having slightly jerky shifts, although lesser than the Celerio. Maruti has tweaked the box quite well, making it feel less of a compromise than what AMTs are usually known for. When you leave the brake pedal and don’t get on the accelerator, the car crawls ahead, a default feature in any automatic car, helping in stop-go traffic. You can also go manual mode and the best part is, the car won’t upshift till you do, thereby holding gear for as long as you please. Redline comes in at 6500 RPM.
Maruti’s petrol engines are rev happy units and coupled with the tall gearing on the Alto K10, it offers quite an experience of driving pedal to the metal. First gear is good enough for 50 km/hr while second will take you to 85 km/hr, third bringing in 125 km/hr and fourth taking you till 155 km/hr. The top speed is 170 km/hr and all this is possible due to the low kerb weight of the car. Cruising in top gear and doing the ton results in the tacho ticking in at 3000 RPM. The Alto K10 now gets a drive by wire system which improves low-end response while NVH levels are good as long as you don’t get past the mid-range, the motor creating quite the racket near its redline. The Maruti Alto is frugal too and despite being an automatic, it returns similar mileage as the manual, thanks to the AMT. One can extract around 16-18 km/l from this car.
Driving Dynamics – The Maruti Alto is an extremely light car and while that does aid its performance and economy, what this results in is below average high speed stability. The engine will pull you to 170 km/hr but your confidence post 120 km/hr starts dropping very quickly. At around 130 km/hr, the car isn’t very stable and it keeps getting worse as you pile on speed. Due to the light body, there are vibrations when you near redline, so this car despite its cracker of an engine is best kept under the ton even on the smoothest of tarmac.
Handling & braking performance is good but the steering lacks feel
The handling is without doubt good as the light weight means you can chuck the car around corners with confidence, carrying good speed too but the smaller tyres give away traction rather quickly. The steering is light at low speeds but fails to weigh up well as you gather momentum, lacking feel at the straight ahead position thereby requiring constant correction. Still, the brakes perform well and even though there is no ABS on offer, stopping power is very positive and locking up of tyres even on hard braking is a rare occurrence. Ride quality is good but bad roads really unsettle the Alto.
Safety and After Sales Service – Maruti Suzuki has the biggest service network in India, having dealerships in remote areas too. India’s largest car maker also offers excellent after sales service and prices of parts are very reasonable, making owning a Maruti car a trouble-free experience. However, in terms of safety, the Alto falls short. From being awarded 0-stars in crash tests to not coming equipped with any safety feature, the Alto is basic in terms of safety. The VXi trim gets a driver side airbag as an option and even foglamps are part of optional kit. Meanwhile, Maruti exports the Alto K10 to Algeria with both ABS and dual airbags.
Verdict – The Alto K10 isn’t the volume seller in the Alto range as the 800 version accounts for a majority of sales. But when you compare both models, you realise the K10 is a clear cut above in multiple areas, making it worth every penny you pay for it. The Alto K10 also bring fun to the small car package by being the fastest car in its segment while also being the most frugal. It’s not meant for the highway but in the city, it performs exceptionally well by being easy to drive with punchy low down performance. With the upgrades to the exteriors and more so to the interiors along with the convenient AMT gearbox, the Alto K10 package is as practical as ever.
The Maruti Alto K10 makes for a fine first time car purchase and the addition of AMT makes it an excellent choice for those who want to remove stress from their daily driving. With peppy performance and a cracker of an engine, the K10 is fun yet frugal.
* Excellent first time car for city driving, offers good performance too
* Vastly improved interiors over the outgoing model, feels aesthetically balanced inside
* Fun and fast engine is also very frugal, sips fuel like a miser
* Maruti Suzuki’s sales and service network in India is by far the best
* AMT unit offers a ton of practicality to the top selling car of India
What’s Not So Cool
* Thin sheet metal can be felt as the car lacks stability and vibrates in the top-end
* Lacks safety equipment, AMT model doesn’t even get the option of a driver side airbag
Alternatives: Tata Nano GenX, Hyundai Eon, Datsun GO
Maruti Alto K10 Specifications
* Engine: 998cc, 3-cylinder, SOHC, 12-valve, K10B
* Power: 68 PS @ 6000 RPM (P); 59 PS @ 6000 RPM (CNG)
* Torque: 90 Nm @ 3500 RPM (P); 78 Nm @ 3500 RPM (CNG)
* Transmission: 5-speed manual, 5-speed AMT
* 0-100 km/hr: 14.84 seconds
* Top Speed: 170 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 16 km/l (City), 18 km/l (Highway)
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension: McPherson Struts (Front), 3-link Rigid Axle (Rear)
* Tyres: 155/65/13
* Brakes: Ventilated Disc (Front), Drum (Rear)
* Safety: Driver Airbag (VXi)
Maruti Alto K10 Dimensions
* Overall length x width x height: 3545 mm X 1490 mm X 1475 mm
* Wheelbase: 2360 mm
* Front/Rear Track: 1295/1290 mm
* Turning Radius: 4.6 metres
* Ground clearance: 160 mm
* Boot Volume: 177 liters
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 35 litres (P); 60 litres (CNG)
* Kerb Weight: 740-755 kgs (P); 835 kgs (CNG)
Picture Editing: Sri Manikanta Achanta
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