Watch Comparison Review of Alto 800 vs Alto K10
The Alto brand needs no introduction. Peep outside the window, chances are there’s one parked in your building or at your office. If not, wait for a couple of minutes, it’ll pass by on the main road. Yes, it is as abundantly found in India as the housefly. The Alto is amongst the few cars which has managed to sell 20,000 units in a single month. To put that into perspective, that is 667 cars per day and roughly 28 cars in a single hour! That is one car every second minute.These are figures few companies can’t match in a quarter! And why would it not register such high volumes? For it has a near perfect recipe: digestible looks, a huge service backup and cheap spares and needless to mention - stellar fuel economy. All of this, combined with the Maruti Suzuki brand name is enough to have the first time car buyer set his foot inside the Maruti Showroom and leave with an Alto.
The first generation of the Alto had a ‘go-faster’ version as well. It borrowed the F10D engine from the WagonR and was simply called the Alto 1.1; where 1.1 stood for the engine capacity i.e 1.1 litres. The F10D was a four cylinder version of Maruti’s immensely potent (and still in use) F8D motor. The humble Alto 800 continues to have a frugal F8D unit under the hood, the faster version, the K10 gets an all-new K-Series heart which is a 3-pot motor itself.
While the old Alto 1.1 didn’t distinguish itself physically from the standard Alto, Maruti has made conscious attempts to keep the identities of the standard 800 and the more powerful K10 separate. That said, the new K10 shares a lot with it’s little sibling. Both cars are based on the same platform, weigh roughly the same and most importantly the prices overlap a fair bit. Is there such a thing as a better Alto? Let’s find out.
Both cars are based on the new platform which was developed ground up for the new Alto 800. Are there similarities? Yes. Will you notice them at first glance? No. Majority of the panels are different. The Altos share the roof and the doors, only. The K10 appears to be a bigger car at first glance - but it isn’t really all that big. In fact the ground clearance, width and height are exactly the same as the Alto 800. The K10 is a mere 150mm longer than the 800, with the wheelbase remaining exactly the same.
The K10 is more aggressive amongst the two, sporting large pulled back headlamps and a concave shaped bonnet that tries hard to imitate a power bulge. The Alto 800 on the other hand is as clean and simple as it gets. It might even be termed ‘cute’ by the fairer sex. It gets smoked petal shaped headlamps and a large hexagonal airdam upfront. The headlamps do look like a set of eyes staring at you when you look at it head on. Also, the K10 gets a slot for the foglamps which the Alto 800 simply omits. No, you cannot have foglamps on the Alto 800 even on the top-spec version because there simply isn’t a provision on the bumper for one.
The sides are near identical with the K10 looking slightly taller. This can be attributed to the fact that the Alto 800 rides on 12 inch wheels compared to the K10s 13. And no, alloy wheels are not available, even as an option on either cars.
The rear profile on the cars are simple and clean, a large set of taillamps and the character lines flowing into the boot lid from the sides. You do get a high mount stop lamp on both cars.
While the 800 looks simple and understated, the K10 does seem a bit shouty in comparison. Are any of them good looking? Not really. Is either slightly better to look at compared to the other? The K10. But only just.
Maruti has revamped the interiors on the Altos and the upgraded quality does come as a surprise - and a pleasant one at that. The fit and finish, touch and feel of the plastics have definitely gone up. The set of seats, both at the front and the rear are exactly the same. In terms of comfort, knee room, headroom or boot space, there’s simply no separating the two. Bootspace for both cars stands at 177 litres. However, if you tick CNG on the Alto 800’s option list bid goodbye to the boot.
What differentiates the two on the inside? Nothing apart from the dashboard and the instrument cluster. The dashboard on the Alto K10 is a combination of black and beige and it does attempt to make the car feel a lot more roomier than it actually is. The 800 on the other hand is offered in two interior combinations, grey and brown. The grey dash on the Alto 800 feels slightly drab, more so when you compare it to the K10. That said, the dash is laid out very cleanly and everything falls to hand very easily. There’s a single din slot on the dash for the aftermarket headunit and slots on the doors to install speakers as well. On the other hand, the K10 gets a nice Piano black finish on the centre console that houses the neatly integrated music system. The brushed aluminium finish accents are strewn around the cabin, which definitely look nice. The instrument cluster gets a nice revv-counter and snazzy orange backlight. Something that the standard Alto 800 could really do with.
The front seats are cushioned nicely for this price bracket and can accommodate a person with a fairly large frame. However, if you are generously proportioned, getting comfortable in the driver’s seat is quite a task. And when you do manage to make yourself comfortable, the rear seat passenger is going to crib a lot. If you are any height above 5 feet 8 inches, prepare to be uncomfortable.
The knee room is virtually non-existent, but the scooped out backs of the front seat do help a bit. The rear bench gets integrated headrests too - something that were at shoulder level when I eventually managed to cram myself in the rear bench of the Alto(s). Not a very good place to be in for long journeys definitely. Also, I do have to point out how flimsy the door pads are, on both the cars. They are so flimsy that they flex and jut out when you operate the power windows.
The Alto 800 is pretty bare basic, you get absolutely nothing in terms of features save for the front power windows. Maruti have been gracious enough to include an air-conditioner from the LX variant onwards. The same AC does duty on the K10 as well. It is one of the best ACs to have in the sweltering Bombay summers. It can cool the cabin down in no time, without any fuss. In fact, you’d find yourself raising the temperature up by a notch. Yes, it is that effective. No, I’m not exaggerating one bit.
The interiors on either cars aren’t the best place to be in by miles. But it does exude the cheap and cheerful vibe. Bare basic, but nothing you can’t live without.
While the Alto 800 continues to have the good ol’ F8D engine soldiering on in the engine bay. It now produces 48PS of power and 69 NM of torque. In comparison, the K10 unit on the Alto chruns out 68PS and 90 Nm of torque. If you need a pocket rocket, pick the K10. The car weighs next to nothing and puts a wide grin on your face when you floor the throttle. But all of this extra power is available only at the top of the revv range. This only means that the K10 motor screams its lungs out when you get even remotely close to the redline. The acceleration can be termed as sprightly, but ever so slightly scary. Why scary you ask? Well, the older K10 rode lower and in its own unique way didn’t deter the driver from pushing the car. The current one sits quite higher in comparison. Owing to this, the car feels slightly hesitant and fidgety while ticking the speedo. There’s a lot of body roll when you shove it into the corner as well. Although, shoving the K10 into a corner is not something I’d recommend. The skinny 155 section tyres are anything but confidence inspiring. In fact, the tyres make the braking feel twitchy as well. It certainly deserves a better set of shoes.
The Alto 800 on the other hand is as simple as motoring gets really. The simple 3 cylinder engine is mated to a five speed gearbox and it will sip petrol or CNG based on your demands. It is adequately peppy around town and good enough to get the groceries, go to work or get the kids from school. If there’s any other purpose you have in mind for the Alto 800 like going on a roadtrip, forget about it. In CNG, the car sips through a straw - and a very slim one at that. The performance does take a shunt when in CNG. You do feel the acceleration getting properly lazy. You’d also find yourself revving the car a bit more than you usually would just to extract that bit of power. Sadly, the power isn’t there at all. Overtaking cars isn’t the Alto 800’s forte, especially so in CNG - it is much happier strolling along at 60km/h in the third lane.
The steering is rather nice for cars in this price bracket. It is set up just right and is properly feather light to use in the city. However, it does not really weigh up when the speeds climb, making the entire car feel jittery in the process. I wouldn’t really take the Alto 800 above 80km/h and the K10 above 100km/h. These speeds are more or less thresholds under which the cars are in their comfort zone. Can they clock higher speeds? With ease, to be honest. Should you be doing those speeds in an Alto? Definitely not. Which brings me to my next point, safety. There’s no ABS on offer. Driver airbags are optional. However if you pick the AMT version on the K10, you don’t get that choice either. And if you’ve been around the interwebs long enough, you know how the Alto has fared in the crash tests.
As Point A to Point B commuters, the Altos do very, very well. All of this while keeping your wallet happy. The Altos are at ease zipping around narrow lanes or making quick u-turns from that tiny gap in the divider. Moreover, you get the convenience of an AMT with the K10, which isn’t the best gearbox in the world, but is oh so convenient. And the ride isn’t all that bad either. It does manage to soak up bumps easily without transferring a lot of it inside the cabin. But yes, take it any faster than 30 kilometers an hour into a pothole and the Alto siblings will make sure you realize what a grave sin you’ve committed.
Is there a better Alto?
Honestly, yes. The Alto K10 is definitely a better car compared to the 800. If you can shell out the premium for it, by all means - please do. The space on the inside and in the boot is exactly the same as the Alto 800. You aren’t really compromising on anything. With the K10, you do get a better laid out dashboard, an integrated music system with USB and AUX inputs and most importantly, that lovely K-Series engine.