Maruti Suzuki never had the kind of competition it right now faces in the entry hatchback segment, which it has dominated for over three decades. But that’s changed. Car makers like Renault and Datsun have put some serious homework to task in their Kwid and Redigo, and in the process, changed the rules of the game.
This is exactly why the Indian market now gets the Alto 800 2016, with its spiced up exteriors and interiors, as seen in the pictures. It’s the car maker’s answer to the entry-level competition until the next generation Alto 800 comes along. We drove the Alto 800 2016 version to fill you in on what you need to know.
Despite looking quite familiar to the outgoing version at first glance, the latest Alto 800 does get a few updates, primarily to the fascia. For one, the section of the headlamp internals which houses the turn indicators, is new. A markedly slimmer grille can be seen along with the Suzuki logo that’s shifted below it on to the restyled bumper which now features a redesigned three slat air dam. Fog light housings have also found their way on to the front bumper.
In profile, the 2016 car reveals the use of body side-moulding, and there’s two new colours to choose from, cerulean blue and mojito green. Maruti has also now made the left external door mirror, standard across the range. Other than these updates, everything about the new Alto 800, like the quirky overall shape, thick C-pillar with the aggressively tapering window line, resembles the outgoing model.
One needs to bend quite a bit to get into the Alto, but once seated, you’ll appreciate how engineers liberated a decent amount of cabin space from the tight exterior dimensions. Visibility from the driver’s seat is good but the window line at the shoulder point could have been lower. Though, the Alto 800 does feel bare-basic and built to a price point, the build quality throughout the cabin is consistent. There’s space for all your knick-knacks in the centre console and it even accommodates a one-litre bottle. However, the door pads are good for documents or other slim accessories only.
On the plus side, Maruti has updated the 2016 Alto 800 with fresh fabric schemes and a new rear head-rest design. While the front seats do offer a firm and rudimentary amount of back support, they hardly propose any thigh and lateral support, and are also totally flat and devoid of any contours. The crouching position, with the low seat and high floor line can get tiring over long drives. It is the same story with the rear seats too and there’s just the elementary amount of cushioning, headroom and legroom to get the commute done with. Three adult passengers should be a tight fit here.
Variants offered by Maruti Suzuki on the Alto 800 2016 version are Std, LX, LXi and VXi. Each of these variants is now also available with an ‘O’ version, which adds a driver airbag as an extra safety feature. On the whole, features that now make to the Alto 800 2016 model are the integrated music system with two front speakers, aux and USB, an accessory socket, rear parcel tray, rear console bottle holder, remote keyless entry, driver airbag in all 'O' versions, and a rear door child lock.
Power for the Maruti Alto 800 continues to be induced from the same three-cylinder petrol motor that makes 48bhp at 6000rpm and 69Nm of torque at 3500rpm. Transmission duties are also carried out by the earlier five-speed gearbox that offers a clunky but positive gear shift. Weighing just 727kg, the Alto 800 feels peppy in city speeds and has just about enough zest to accomplish the regular city driving chores. It even offers decent overtaking abilities in urban conditions. However, push the car to its limit and the progress in engine noise is more apparent than any advancement in speed.
At highway speeds, it is imperative to plan overtaking and that means a shift or two is required to get to speed. The motor really needs to work hard to get those wheels to spin faster, especially at the limit. It also highlights the true capabilities of this hatch, where it is happiest to commute within the city habitat. With such compact dimensions, the Alto 800 makes driving in the city feel like a joke. Though it squeezes through most traffic gaps and is a breeze to park, most road and other noises filter into the cabin. Also, the steering needs some getting used to. After you get over the vagueness at the straight ahead position, constant inputs are required to correct the over-assistance at lower speeds. Adding to the woes is the reluctance of the steering to not return to the original position by itself. Pick up the pace and the slow reactions from the steering needs the best of your concentration to expect turns and steering inputs, in advance.
Maruti’s Alto 800 also rolls quite a bit, and the slim tyres don’t really inspire a whole lot of confidence in one. That aside, the brakes are adequate to get the job done at reasonable speeds with an appropriate amount of feedback. At slower speeds, the ride quality with its stiff suspension setup translates into a lot of vertical movement over undulations, and bumps can be felt and heard with a jerk. Increase the speed and the car tends to ride flatter over slight undulations, but any bumps or potholes can be felt in the cabin with some uncomfortable vertical movement. In fact, driving over a series of small speed breakers (rumblers) without slowing down can get the car displaced from the intended line of motion, and needs extra caution.
|Model||Alto 800 2016|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||48 @ 6000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||69 @ 3500|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||35|
|Tyre size||145 / 80 R12|
|integrated music system||Yes|
|two front speakers, aux and USB||Yes|
|rear parcel tray||Yes|
|rear console bottle holder||Yes|
|remote keyless entry||Yes|
|driver airbag in all 'O' versions||Yes|
|rear door child lock||Yes|
Competition All Specs
Alto 800 2016
|Variant||VXi (O)||RXT (O)|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||48 @ 6000||53 @ 5678|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||69 @ 3500||72 @ 4386|
|Gears||Five-speed manual||Five-speed manual|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||35||28|
|Tyre size||145 / 80 R12||155 / 80 R13|
There’s not much persuasion needed to convince one that this segment now looks fresh thanks to the Renault Kwid and Datsun’s Redigo. Of course, Maruti’s little update job on this car may have just earned it some more time on the buyers list. However, our market is now all the more ready for products like the Kwid and Redigo, as they tick off the aspirational and emotional quotient within one. Nevertheless, the Alto 800 is a tried and tested package, with bullet-proof reliability and a predictably wide service network. But, will this be enough to retain customers or loyalists? Only time can tell.
Photo courtesy by : Kapil Angane