Maruti Suzuki Alto K10

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February 22

The Alto K10 has always been a firm favourite among enthusiasts ever since its inception. It said on its license plate, you don’t have to be rich to have fun. With 67bhp on tap, the pint sized Alto K10 had the power to weight ratio to rival many premium hatchbacks and midsizers. And the new one is even better. It has 67bhp as before, but now it’s 20kg lighter, with kerb weight starting around 740kg. That’s 90bhp/ton straight from the factory! Extract a couple of more horses from the engine or shed some weight by stripping out the interiors and you can easily hit the magical 100bhp/ton mark.

Now that we have got your attention, let’s concentrate on what the new car has to offer. The new Alto K10 swaps the old shell of the previous Alto for the one in the new Alto 800. The new shell is not only cheaper to make, it is also lighter and offers more rigidity. Maruti has gone lengths to differentiate the K10 from the regular Alto by giving it a longer nose and newer details. The K10 engine due to its Aluminium construction takes up more space than the cast block F8D engine, so the car is almost 15cm longer near the bonnet. The improved two box proportions of the K10 go better with the front end that has been completely redesigned with new headlamps, grille and front bumper. The rear has new tail lamps and different stamping for the boot.

But the biggest difference lies in the interiors. Now, we have seen car manufacturers stick the same dashboard in multiple cars in a bid to save on production costs. Honda is a case in point, using the same basic dashboard in everything from the Rs.4 lakh Brio to the Amaze and the very expensive Mobilio. The K10 is just a different variant that would sell alongside the regular Alto 800, but that didn’t stop Maruti from developing an all new dashboard for it. The two tone grey and beige dashboard with extensive piano finish trim around the audio system and silver accents on the steering, instrument binnacle and AC vents is all new. And you know what? It works. It lifts the ambience inside the cabin massively and although the plastics used are not thick enough, it is quite satisfactory for the segment. The seats are basic and quite flat but still reasonably comfortable. And while they have carved the rear side of the front seats to liberate some knee room for rear passengers, it didn’t go all the way to the edges; so you have to sit with your legs closed to slot in there.

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Let’s leave all that aside and get back to the driving seat. The 1.0litre three pot engine continues to be revvy and thrilling, but now it has been tuned for better low end response and improved fuel efficiency. The tweaks to the drive-by-wire throttle has resulted in even better throttle responses. Acceleration is quite strong with 100kmph coming up in 13.1 seconds. It would have been better if the car had slightly wider or grippier tyres than the 155/55 R13 tyres we had on ours. The lack of grip was obvious in the corners where the car was understeering a bit earlier than we remember, the older K10 did. What could be improved in the K10 to increase the driver appeal are the slightly vague steering which doesn’t weigh well or self centre and the weedy brakes.

Almost forgotten while being hell-bent on the driving part, is the fact that the new Alto K10 comes with an automated manual transmission option in VXI variant. That makes it the cheapest automatic in India and the best buy for anyone who has just started driving or wants a hassle free car to drive in the city. It makes driving so much easier, crawling from bumper to bumper traffic and holding itself up on slopes for a couple of seconds before rolling back. Women would love this one for sure. As for the rest of you, no matter which variant you get, plan on making it faster.

Get the turbo on boost and it is a different story altogether. The car accelerates forward in proper tuned car fashion. There is no let up in power till 5500rpm and though most enthusiasts complain about the rev limit being lower on turbocharged cars, but there is no denying they are fast in every gear. This particular Laura sounds rorty thanks to its uprated Miltek exhaust system I got to throw around Ketan’s car on the same twisty bits where I did the Honda BRV that morning. Not only could I carry almost double the speed through a follow through, it still felt like child’s play in the Laura. The combination of good grippy tyres and the Bilstein B14 coilovers is hard to beat in the corners. Yes, these track focussed coilovers are a bit stiff for daily use, but it offers supercar levels of grip in the corners. The chassis feels even tighter thanks to Eibach antiroll bars and polyurethane bushes all around. And the Tarox G88 brakes with Strada pads are so confidence inspiring, you soon forget you are doing silly speeds all the time.

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