Maruti Suzuki's idea of a more powerful version of its entry level hatchback isn't any new. Right from the days of the Maruti 800 has existed a more exciting (and premium) offering. First it was the Zen (a totally different product), then the came the 45hp engine & 5-speed gearbox equipped 800 and even more powerful Alto 1.1, and eventually the Alto K10. It's true that the segment has been widened by a good margin, but the formula still remains the same. The currernt portfolio isn't too different, either. The Alto 800 is the most basic Maruti car you can buy, and above it sits the Celerio - a more premium and spacious product. But right in the middle is the new Alto K10, offering the best of what the previous K10 did but in a more rounded package. We take a look at how things have changed.
The previous generation Alto K10 was based on the Alto, continued to use the same design (although with slight changes), and lured the more power-hungry users. The new one is different. It's based on the Alto 800, offers a different design in comparison to the previous K10, and looks more premium. But that's not to say it replicates the Alto 800's design completely. The front end is different and there are changes at the rear, too. The rest of the profile is identical, and if you haven't been following MSIL's recent updates, you might find differentiating the two a little difficult.
I must also add that gone is the hunkered-down styling. The new Alto K10 sits higher, which doesn't look bad in any way, but takes away the sporting look of the previous generation car. But with almost the whole of the market following the same approach, I think that's the trend. Come to think of it, the previous car was a bit low for a lot of people, so ingress and egress wasn't close to being comfortable. The new car should solve that!
Much like on the outside, the interior of the Alto K10 has received a massive upgrade. The dual-tone dashboard, use of glossy plastics on the in-dash audio system and silver accents make it look good. It's certainly far ahead from what the previous car offered - a dashboard design that neither pleased the eye nor prove to be very useful. It was simple and built to a price; this one's much better. The instrument panel too has lost its simplicity, which may be appreciated for a livelier dials. The multi information display has moved to the centre of the panel, right below the speedometer, and that should make it slightly easier to read. The previous unit with its big markings was legible, but the new one's better designed of the two.
As for the comfort, the seats are comfy and the car has a good amount of room inside. But it's better left to carry four in comfort rather than stuffing five passengers into the cabin. Inviting a fifth occupant for quick spins should really depend on your relation with the person. Don't take chances, I would suggest. The boot space is measured at 177 litres, which can be further increased by folding the rear seats.
If you liked the previous Alto K10, then you are bound to like this one too. The reason is simple: not much has changed. The 1-litre K-series engine is the same and so is the 5-speed manual gearbox. The peppy motor makes 68hp of power but given the low weight of the Alto, the combination makes for an exciting drive. But it's not just the excitement that we're talking of here. Maruti Suzuki has made the Alto K10 a bit more mature, and easier to drive as well. The AMT gearbox (Automated Manual Transmission) as found in the Celerio is made available for the new Alto K10, which means if your daily commute requires involves city driving, this could be a great choice for you. The gearbox also lets you use the manual mode, in case you're in the mood for some spirited driving.
Talking about the chassis, it's very close to the previous Maruti Suzuki Alto K10. It rides well but handling goes for a toss as there's a good amount of body roll, so it's better off attacking corners slow and steady, and without necessarily testing the limits of its 155-section tyres. And with the lack of ABS, it isn't the safest way to do that either. As for safety, the car will be offered with airbags on the higher variant.
On the whole, the new Alto K10 is a step ahead from the previous car. While the bare-basics nature of the previous car will be sorely missed by a lot of us, this one's a better package. The interior is a massive improvement, and the availability of an automatic gearbox (okay, AMT!) makes the new K10 very interesting.