India’s bestselling car gets a makeover as well as crucial safety and emission upgrades.
WHAT IS IT?
The current-gen Maruti Suzuki Alto made its debut back in 2012 and in its 800cc (796cc, to be precise) avatar, has so far carried the ‘Alto 800’ name. The car has been given mild updates over the years; but this time around, it's not just small tweaks here and there. It’s got a major upgrade with the engine having been made BS-VI-compliant and the body shell enhanced to comply with latest crash-test norms – oh, and this Alto has also dropped the ‘800’ from its name.
WHAT’S IT LIKE ON THE OUTSIDE?
It’s easy to think of the new-for-2019 Maruti Alto as a mere facelift. The petal-shaped headlamps, body panels, doors, boot lid and even the rear bumper have been carried forward. You can identify this as the latest iteration of India’s bestselling car thanks to its new front bumper, which gets a large air dam, replete with honeycomb-style plastic mesh. There are provisions for fog lamps but those can only be added as paid accessories. The front grille is also new and now sports a black surround. Anoraks will also note a new design for its outside mirrors.
The bigger upgrades to the car are under the skin. Maruti has strengthened the Alto’s front-end to comply with the latest crash-test norms (applicable to all cars from October 1, 2019). The new Alto is also 50mm longer than the outgoing version which measured 3,395mm. This increase in length is due to a new bumper design that helps the Alto clear the pedestrian safety regulations that come into effect on October 1, 2020. Additionally, the new Alto also gets a standard driver's airbag in all variants along with ABS, EBD, rear parking sensors, a driver and front-passenger seat-belt reminder as well as a speed alert system, which are all now mandatory safety requirements. The base Std and mid-spec LXi trims get passenger airbags as an option, while dual airbags are standard on the top-spec VXi trim.
WHAT IS IT LIKE ON THE INSIDE?
Those familiar with Maruti's Alto line-up will see a major, yet familiar, change in the car's interior. The 2019 Alto borrows its dashboard and other elements from the pricier Alto K10. The Alto now comes with a new dual-tone black-beige dashboard that looks much better than the earlier car's monotone grey unit. The steering wheel and instrument cluster are carried over from the pre-facelift 2016 version, though. The seats and door pads get new dual-tone black and cream fabric.
The 2019 Maruti Alto is available in three variants. The base Std is absolutely barebones. Air conditioning, power steering and front power windows are available from the LXi variant onwards, the top VXi variant also gets central locking and keyless entry along with a SmartPlay Dock 2-DIN audio player in higher trims, which also supports Bluetooth, USB and AUX, along with AM/FM radio. There’s still no touchscreen infotainment system – a feature offered in its rival, the Renault Kwid.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The 2019 Alto continues to be sold with the same three-cylinder 796cc F8D petrol engine, mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. As before, there’s no option of an AMT auto, which is offered on the Alto K10. Even the CNG version of the Alto has been dropped from the range, for now. Apart from some software tweaks to the ECU, the car's engine and gearbox remain the same. The 2019 Alto sees major changes to its exhaust, though, where a new unit replaces the earlier one and helps the car clear the stringent BS-VI emission norms that come into effect on April 1, 2020. The power and torque figures, at 48hp and 69Nm, remain the same as the earlier BS-IV model.
The updated Alto feels far more refined at idle with almost zero vibrations and there is negligible engine noise compared to the earlier car. Get moving, and the engine feels a bit lethargic. Throttle response isn’t as sharp as before, especially when driven with the air con on. Even power delivery isn’t very smooth, and it feels a bit jerky as the engine spins faster. The clutch has a springy feel but it is light and the travel is short. That, plus a smooth-shifting 5-speed manual transmission makes this car easy to drive in the city.
The increase in weight as well as the stricter emission-related tweaks, have resulted in a drop in the new Alto's fuel efficiency figure from 24.7kpl of the previous model to 22.05kpl (ARAI claimed).
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
2019 Maruti Alto prices see a rise. Variant-to-variant, the Alto 800 is between Rs 25,000-38,000 pricier than the outgoing version. However, the added outlay also gets you safety kit like ABS, airbags and rear parking sensors, and it’s that little bit more reassuring to know the car is compliant with latest crash test norms.
While performance is only adequate, rivals aren’t any better in this respect. The Alto doesn’t have the roomiest cabin and misses on some comfort features too, but for the first-time car buyers on a budget who make up the bulk of Alto sales, the car’s reputation for efficiency and low running costs will be the hook. The Alto has been at the top of the sales charts for a long time – and it seems its reign is all set to continue in an era of far-reaching norm changes.
Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 facelift image gallery
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