When it comes to entry-level hatchbacks, very few cars can match the Maruti Alto. The Alto K10 has sold around 4.3 lakh units since its launch in 2010, and the total number of Altos sold in the country is a whopping 26 lakh. Not surprisingly, the Alto is the highest-selling product in Maruti’s portfolio. Now, Maruti has made the competent hatchback even more desirable by adding a touch of convenience in the form of an automated manual gearbox.
But before we get to that, let's take a walk around the Alto first. To begin with, the new Alto K10 looks more mature compared to its predecessor. Up front, Maruti has attempted to give the hatchback a wider stance with chrome inserts on that tiny grille, and new swept-back headlamps with silver inserts. The exterior changes are rounded off with new cuts and creases along with new-look mirrors. Some styling cues at the rear establish the car’s connection with the smaller Alto 800.
The marginally taller and wider Alto K10 now offers a roomier experience than before and feels a tad more premium, thanks to the new upholstery and the silver inserts in the curvaceous dual-tone dashboard.
The top-end VXi variant packs features such as a piano-black audio system that’s USB- and aux-compatible, front power windows, central locking and fog lamps, while the VXi (o) gets keyless entry, a driver’s side airbag and body-coloured mirrors.Although the front seats have recesses at the back to give rear occupants more space, tall folks are still likely to find the rear a little too snug. Maruti claims that the Alto can seat five adults, but we believe that’s going to be a tight squeeze, as the tiny rear bench isn’t very accommodating.
At the heart of this machine is Maruti’s all-aluminium 1-litre K-Next petrol engine. The improved 998cc, 3-cylinder boasts a higher compression ratio, and the new drive-by-wire tech coupled with the max output of 67bhp and 90Nm makes for a zippy drive. The engine is a strong point of this little hatchback. Power delivery is refined, and it likes being revved hard, in both automatic and manual driving modes, all the way to its 6500rpm redline.
The 5-speed Auto Gear Shift transmission ably complements the engine. Cruising around at 80kph in the fifth, the engine felt composed, with the needle hovering at 2,500rpm. The Alto K10 responds well to enthusiastic driving as well, though shifts from first and second gears tend to be a bit jerky. But, we found the downshifts to be quite impressive and, when pushed hard, it confidently holds onto gears. At the wheel, all-round visibility is good, and there’s enough grunt from the motor in both driving modes.
The Alto’s steering is light, and it is an agile car, which makes both city and highway drive a breeze. Thanks to a sorted suspension setup, the K10 delivers a comfortable ride, despite those spindly 155/65 R13 tyres.
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