When it comes to entry-level hatchbacks, very few cars can match the Maruti Alto. The Alto K10 has sold around 4.3 lakh units since its launch in 2010, and the total number of Altos sold in the country is a whopping 26 lakh. Not surprisingly, the Alto is the highest-selling product in Marutis portfolio. Now, Maruti has made the competent hatchback even more desirable by adding a touch of convenience in the form of an automated manual gearbox. But before we get to that, lets take a walk around the Alto first. To begin with, the new Alto K10 looks more mature compared to its predecessor. Up front, Maruti has attempted to give the hatchback a wider stance with chrome inserts on that tiny grille, and new swept-back headlamps with silver inserts. The exterior changes are rounded off with new cuts and creases along with new-look mirrors. Some styling cues at the rear establish the cars connection with the smaller Alto 800.The marginally taller and wider Alto K10 now offers a roomier experience than before and feels a tad more premium, thanks to the new upholstery and the silver inserts in the curvaceous dual-tone dashboard. The top-end VXi variant packs features such as a piano-black audio system thats USB- and aux-compatible, front power windows, central locking and fog lamps, while the VXi (o) gets keyless entry, a drivers side airbag and body-coloured mirrors.
See more pictures of the new Alto K10 hereAlthough the front seats have recesses at the back to give rear occupants more space, tall folks are still likely to find the rear a little too snug. Maruti claims that the Alto can seat five adults, but we believe thats going to be a tight squeeze, as the tiny rear bench isnt very accommodating.At the heart of this machine is Marutis all-aluminium 1-litre K-Next petrol engine. The improved 998cc, 3-cylinder boasts a higher compression ratio, and the new drive-by-wire tech coupled with max output of 67bhp and 90Nm makes for a zippy drive. The engine is a strongpoint of this little hatchback. Power delivery is refined, and it likes being revved hard, in both automatic and manual driving modes, all the way to its 6500rpm redline.The 5-speed Auto Gear Shift transmission ably complements the engine. Cruising around at 80kph in fifth, the engine felt composed, with the needle hovering at 2,500rpm. The Alto K10 responds well to enthusiastic driving as well, though shifts from first and second gears tend to be a bit jerky. But, we found the downshifts to be quite impressive and, when pushed hard, it confidently holds onto gears. At the wheel, all-round visibility is good, and theres enough grunt from the motor in both driving modes.The Altos steering is light, and it is an agile car, which makes both city and highway drives a breeze. Thanks to a sorted suspension setup, the K10 delivers a comfortable ride, despite those spindly 155/65 R13 tyres.
The K10 holds its line quite well over rough roads, too. The ventilated discs up front and the drums at the back are capable of bringing the K10 to a rapid halt. There are six variants of the new Alto on offer – LX, LXi, LXi (CNG), VXi, VXi (AGS) and VXi (O), that are differentiated by levels of trim and equipment.The price for the new Alto K10 AGS starts from ?4.06 lakh (ex-Showroom, Mumbai), which would make it around Rs. 40,000 cheaper than the Celerio AMT. So, will the new K10 AGS cannibalise the bigger hatchbacks sales? Theres a high possibility of that happening, but, then, it also gives the customers a wider range to choose from. And thats never a bad thing.The numbers3cyl, 998cc, 67bhp, 90Nm, 5A, Boot\: 177l, fuel tank\: 35 litres, 24.7kpl (claimed), ?4.06 lakh (ex-Mumbai)The verdictOne of the best value-for-money cars in its segment has upped its game. Engine and gearbox are the highlights. The convenience of an automatic gearbox makes it even more desirable
See more pictures of the new Alto K10 here