While Maruti Suzuki is proudly boasting about the Alto being the highest selling car in India for a long long time now, not much has been spoken about the safety of this vehicle. India is a market where safety takes a back seat in front of parameters like high mileage and low price. Now Latin NCAP has uncovered how unsafe the Alto is by testing the Alto K10 at its German lab. Latin NCAP is similar to Euro NCAP but the former does tests only for cars sold in the South American region. It is an independent body which gives safety ratings to vehicles to help buyers make a more informed decision.
The Alto K10 model crash tested by Latin NCAP faired very poorly, getting 0 stars out of 5 in overall safety. The body of the Alto is weak and doesn’t sustain in a front impact. The body shell crumples very quickly and protrudes inside the cabin. The doors, pillars and roof collapse onto the occupants. The driver has very little chest protection and the steering wheel thrusts into the driver. There is very poor knee protection too. Even child safety of the Alto has been rated very poorly. The driver and occupant safety has been rated poor and Latin NCAP has only conducted a front impact test. A side impact test hasn’t been done but we expect the Alto to fare even worse in that case.
What is more disconcerting is the fact that the same model is sold in India and Maruti Suzuki exports the Alto K10 to the South American market. With Maruti selling record units of the Alto in the Indian market, the amount of people at risk is higher than ever. It’s high time we have our own NCAP rating system and all car websites/ads should mention safety ratings like they mention ARAI mileage figures, so buyers know what they are purchasing. The current Alto is based on the 1990s Alto (it can’t be fitted with an airbag) and the recently launched Alto 800 uses very similar underpinnings, thereby being as unsafe (or probably more) as the Alto K10.
“The Suzuki Alto K10 received a zero-star adult occupant safety rating because of its unstable vehicle structure and the high forces placed on the dummies which pose an unacceptably high risk of death or injury. Although the vehicle achieved a three-star rating for child occupant safety, this was achieved mainly because the front row of seats absorbed so much of the crash energy,” Latin NCAP said in a statement.
It’s not that Maruti Suzuki can’t make safe cars. The Swift has received 5 star rating from Euro NCAP. More than the company coming under flak for offering such an unsafe vehicle, even buyers are being criticised for putting their life at risk by opting for a vehicle which is marginally cheaper than more safer alternatives like the Hyundai i10 and Chevrolet Beat (both have received 4-star rating from Euro NCAP). Tata Motors is targeting a 4-star rating for the European Nano, failing which they don’t plan to sell the Nano in Europe. The European Nano will get higher safety equipment but the Indian version itself should fare much better than the Alto. Even the 15-year old Santro beats the Alto in terms of safety (when the Atoz’ EuroNCAP rating is considered).
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