The Alto K10 is a veritable pocket rocket, with the new K-series engine making it fun to drive. Here’s a full road test.

The Maruti Alto is India’s largest-selling car and has been so for the past few years, taking the crown from the Maruti 800. The Alto, first launched in September 2000, has gone through two revisions, first just a cosmetic change in 2006 and now a whole new Alto in the guise of the Alto K10 with a more powerful 998 cc 3-cylinder K-series engine, compared to the older 796 cc engine.

This change of engine in the Alto has completely changed the character and drivability of the car. In fact, the car is as much fun to drive as the first 1-litre Zen that Maruti introduced in 1993 and which became a runaway hit. Looking at the sales figures of over 30,000 cars a month for the Alto (K10 and 800 cc combined), there’s no doubting that the Alto is a continuing success story.

We took the Alto K-10 on a road test and came away impressed by this little car. It’s got something in it for everyone. It’s got power. Looks are definitely improved. But the best part is the frugality and easy drivability of this car. Scroll to the bottom for a video review. Also read our Maruti Suzuki WagonR road test

Alto K10 road test image

Photo: The Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 has a fresh face and sporty engine

The Looks…

With the addition of the 1-litre K-Series engine that Maruti first introduced in the A-Star, some modifications had to be done to the front end of the car to accommodate the wider engine. The front of the car has been extended by 125 mm, giving it a longer snout. With that, Maruti has redesigned the headlamps, giving them a “Hawk-eyed” look with a slight indentation. It has also redesigned the grille and the bumper, with the VXi version getting fog lamps as well.

Alto K10 profile image

Photo: Notice the slightly larger snout of the Alto K10 in profile

Alto K10 road test rear image

Photo: The Alto K10 has a redesigned boot lid and tail lamps

The front definitely looks fresh and sporty, and in profile the slightly longer nose is not very noticeable, but there is a bit more overhang over the front wheels, as Maruti has not tinkered with the wheelbase of the Alto. From the A-pillar to the C-pillar the body shell is the same as the 800 cc Alto, which continues to sell alongside. Also read our Chevrolet Beat road test and review

Image of Alto K10 dashboard

Photo: The Alto K10 dashboard is similar to the 800 cc Alto, but the instrument panel has been redesigned

Maruti has tried to brighten up the sides with tapered outside rearview mirrors that are internally adjustable and added rub rails to the doors. The K10 rides on 13-inch wheels with 155/65 R13 tyres, compared to the earlier 12-inch 145/70 R12. The tailgate of the Alto K10 has been redesigned and so have the taillamps and bumper. The overall look is quite pleasing and fresh.

On the inside, the instrument panel has been changed, and it now incorporates a large speedometer flanked by a tachometer on the left (VXi) and a digital fuel gauge cum odometer on the right. The VXi version also gets front power windows.

The front and rear seats now incorporate integrated headrests (a useful safety feature). The VXi also gets fabric door inserts matching the seat fabric and a rear parcel tray. A thoughtful addition to the Alto is the internally operable boot release. This makes it more convenient for security checks at hotels and shopping malls, instead of having to switch off the engine and hand over the keys as was the case with the regular Alto. Also read our Tata Nano long term review

The Engine…

The biggest difference and change for the better in the Alto K-10 is the engine. The K-10 is equipped with an all-aluminium K10B 998 cc, 12-valve, 3-cylinder petrol engine that develops 68 PS of power at 6,200 rpm and 90 Nm of torque at 3,500 rpm. This makes it immensely more powerful than the 47 PS, 62 Nm put out by the 796 cc Alto. And given that the kerb weight of the Alto is only 760 kg, the power-to-weight ratio goes up to about 85 bhp per ton, making it as good as a Swift in terms of drivability. Maruti claims the engine propels the car from 0-100 kmph in about 13.3 seconds, which is excellent for a small car like the Alto. We are inclined to believe those figures, because during our road test the Alto K10 did get into three-digit speeds pretty easily.

For the full list of our road tests, go here – Indian car’s road tests and reviews

Image of Alto K10 K-Series 998 cc engine

Photo: The 998 cc K-series 3-cylinder engine puts out 68 PS of power at 6,200 rpm and 90 Nm of torque at 3,500 rpm

The Drive…

The Alto K10 VXi is equipped with manual central locking as standard fitment. Every time we started the Alto K 10 during our road test, we noticed how refined and well-damped the K-series engine was. At idle it’s hardly audible inside with no vibrations at all. On the outside, one can hear the familiar Suzuki “sewing machine” engine note and when you blip the throttle, the engine takes on a sporty note.

Maruti has changed the linkage of the 5-speed manual transmission to a cable-type one, making gearshifts smoother. However, we did feel the gear to be a little notchy when shifting into reverse. The clutch is light but has plenty of travel. When power is needed, it’s better to downshift to get the engine to deliver its peak torque smoothly, though the engine happily pulls away from low speeds even in third gear.

Alto K10 driving image

Photo: The Alto K10 is easy to drive in congested city traffic

Getting in and out of the Alto K10 is a bit of an effort as your knees tend to foul with the steering, and one sits quite low in the Alto. Visibility out of the windscreen is pretty good. Reversing is better done with the aid of the outside rearview mirrors, as the thick C-pillar hampers visibility slightly at the rear. One needs to also pay attention when taking tight U-turns or parking, given that the Alto K10 has a slightly longer overhang in the front, which could rub against the curb, before the tyres do.

The car handles a lot better than the standard Alto thanks to the upsized 13-inch tyres. The electronic power steering makes it easy to dart in and out of city traffic. It is however, a little video-game like to use, like most electronic power-steering systems.

The Maruti Suzuki Alto K10′s suspension is slightly soft and soaked up most rough patches of roads in the city during our road test. However, at higher speeds the car tends to feel very light and skittish, and it’s better to keep speeds below three digits.

The booster assisted brakes offer good stopping power and the discs have been upsized taking into account the more powerful engine.

Luggage space is cramped in the car, and rear seat space is not generous. The Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 is at best a car to use in the city, and for a weekend drive out of town with just a couple of bags. If there are only two people travelling the rear seat can be folded down to increase luggage space if need.

Maruti Alto K10 VXi: The Mileage…

Despite the quick acceleration and the rev-happy nature of the engine, the lightweight of the Alto means that the engine is also pretty fuel efficient. Maruti claims an ARAI-certified mileage of 20.2 kmpl.  The air-conditioner in the Alto K10 does not create any drag on the engine like the regular Alto. This should also translate into better city driving mileage figures. Users of the Alto K10 have been claiming regular figures of 16.5 kmpl in the city with AC usage, which is good.

What to expect…

Anyone who has driven the 800 cc Alto will definitely feel as if the K10 has been given a quick shot of performance-enhancing drugs, as it bolts like a cat with its tail on fire when you step on the pedal. The Alto was always a well-designed car and the new engine has made it very sporty. The sales figures over the last few months show how popular it is. The Alto K10 is priced at Rs. 3.33 lakh for the LXi and Rs. 3.46 lakh for the VXi on-road, Delhi.

Alto K10 review photo

Alto K10 Road test video:

 

Alto K10 technical specifications

Engine Aluminium K10B 3-cylinder, 12-valve
Fuel type Petrol
Capacity 998 cc
Power 68 PS @ 6,200 rpm
Torque 90 Nm @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual, FWD
Length 3620 mm
Width 1495 mm
Height 1460 mm
Wheelbase 2360 mm
Ground clearance 160 mm
Steering Electronic power steering
Turning radius 4.6 m
Kerb weight 765 kg
Seating capacity 5 people
Boot space 120 litres
Fuel capacity 35 litres
Brakes Ventilated disc (front)
Drum (rear)
Suspension McPherson strut with anti-roll bar (front)
Coil spring, gas-shocks, 3-link rigid axle (rear)
Tyres 155/65 R13 tubeless

Maruti Suzuki Alto Sales

Maruti Alto – August 2010 – 28,430

Maruti Alt0 – September 2010 – 30,147

Maruti Alto – October 2010 – 32,612

Maruti Alto – November 2010 – 32,377

Maruti Alto – December 2010 – 26,937