So that the Alto is able to retain its class-leading position in the wake of getting-better competition, Maruti will launch the all-new Alto K10 next month.
The good news is Maruti hasnt given the Alto a minor facelift, but a complete makeover. The not-so-good is the Alto K10 still doesnt truly stand out as far as exterior design is concerned. The front gets a tiny grille flanked by large swept-back headlamps with chrome inserts. Yes, the front stance appears wider than in the previous generation Alto K10 and looks unique, but thats where the story ends. The sides are more or less plain and the rear looks like that of the Alto 800s. However, large tail-lamps enhance the appearance of the rear section to an extent. The newly-designed outside rear-view mirrors (ORVMs) clearly show you the road behind.
The new car is 75 mm shorter in length, but smart engineering has ensured cabin space hasnt been compromised. (Okay, cabin space anyway wasnt the strong point about the Alto.) Because the new Alto K10 is taller and wider, you will find decent space around you. Mention must be made of the recesses at the back of front seats, which give rear occupants more space (about an inch-and-a-half extra).
From the front seats, however, it is a whole new experience. The reworked dashboard feels a lot more premium, thanks to the new upholstery and the silver inserts in the curvaceous dual-tone dash. In fact, everything at the frontfrom the steering wheel to the audio buttons, from the door handles to even the armrestfeels plush for its class. Further, there are ample cubbyholes all around. While the new K10s interior is upmarket, yet it falls slightly short of the fit-and-finish levels of the Eon. Also, while the front headroom and shoulder-room is ample, there is still a lack of legroomyou have to slide the seat backwards for your legs to move freely. While Maruti claims the new Alto can seat five adults easily, we think it is going to be a tight squeeze. The top-of-the-line option gets a driver side airbag, front power windows, integrated audio system, internally-adjustable ORVMs, keyless entry, gear shift indicator, fog lamps and more.
At the heart of the Alto K10 is Marutis all-aluminium 1.0-litre K-Next petrol engine. It gets the drive-by-wire technology and produces a maximum power of 67 bhp and a torque of 90 Nm. The engine is quite zippy and is perhaps the strongest point of Indias favourite small car. Its power delivery is refined and it likes to be revved hard. The Alto K10 has an ARAI-specified fuel economy of a 24.07 kmplfantastic by any standards. The gear-shifts in the manual model are smooth, steering is light, and this means the Alto K10 is an agile car. The ventilated disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear are capable enough for the light-weighted (750 kg) K10.
Auto Gear Shift
When launched next month, the Alto K10 is going to be the worlds cheapest automatic mass-production car. (Maruti has successfully tried its Auto Gear Shift technology in the Celerio hatchback.) Auto Gear Shift it is, but is it an automatic transmission Not exactly. It is a manual transmission that has been robotisedit uses a regular manual gearbox and a clutch (there is no clutch pedal though), but acts like an automatic, changing gears with the help of a dedicated ECU and actuators (call it a robotic arm). Unlike a traditional automatic, there is no torque convertor.
How does it look: The gear-lever unit, placed between the front seats, looks exactly like a traditional automatic transmission unit. At the right there are three slotsR for reverse, N for neutral, D for drive. At the left there is one slot marked M for manual. And in the M mode there are options of + to upshift and - to downshift gears.
How does it drive: Before starting the engine, you have to ensure the gear lever is in the N mode and the brake pedal is pressed. Once the engine starts, put the gear lever in the D mode and release the brake. The car will start moving, but slowly. Step on the accelerator gradually and the car will pick up speed. Based on how much you press the accelerator, the car will move to a higher gear, the highest being fifth. Similar to the traditional automatic transmission unit, the Auto Gear Shift comes with the manual modeput the gear lever in the M mode and then shift gears by pushing the lever to either + or - modes.
How does it stop: Pressing the brake reduces the speed and the gears downshift automatically until the car comes to a stop. Shift the lever to the N mode, switch off the engine and engage the parking brake. Unlike traditional automatics, the Auto Gear Shift does not have a P modewhich indicates parkingthus engaging parking brake is important.
One of the best value-for-money cars in its class has clearly upped its game. The new Altos finest traits are its engine, Auto Gear Shift technology, plush-for-its-class cabin, and fuel-efficiency. If priced about Rs 3.3 lakh for the base variant and under Rs 4 lakh for the Auto Gear Shift variant, we expect the Alto K10 will be able to retain its class-leading position for a few more years. Whats more, the K10 may also be able to beat its smaller-engined sibling, the Alto 800, in sales, considering that Indians are gradually warming up to 'bigger' small cars.