Great mileage is sure important – but which of the fuel efficient small cars is the best one?

The biggest complaint car owners have about their vehicles nowadays is excessive fuel consumption. This tendency for car owners to crib about how much fuel their vehicles consume, no matter what they drive, is not because all cars are gas-guzzlers but due to several other factors.

If you are feeling the pinch of successive fuel price hikes, you need to select a car that won’t burn a hole in your pocket every time you tank up. But which car is that? And what fuel consumption figure does it really give? There is no reliable or independent source that provides accurate fuel consumption figures, the kind the average motorist actually gets. It is for this reason that we shortlisted India’s top 5 most fuel-efficient cars and analysed them to provide the answers to those who view fuel efficiency as their number one priority. As you would expect, the top 5 consists solely of small cars.

The contenders: Hyundai i10, Maruti Suzuki Alto K10, Maruti Suzuki A-Star, Maruti Suzuki Estilo and Maruti Suzuki Wagon R.

Mileage

new maruti alto k10 photo

Photo: New Alto K10 is not just fuel-efficient but also a good looker

Hyundai i10: Car of the Year in 2009, this successor to the hot-selling Santro has been the best-selling Hyundai in India. It is also in contention to repeat the COTY feat in 2010. It tops our list of frugal fuel sippers with a very impressive mileage of 20.4 kmpl.

Maruti Suzuki Alto K10: An ugly duckling at first, the Alto has benefitted majorly from the inclusion of Maruti Suzuki’s K10 series engine and a redesign of major elements such as the grille, and front and rear lights. It runs the i10 very close with a mileage of 20.2 kmpl. Oh, and it’s India biggest selling car!

Maruti Suzuki A-Star: The cutesy baby of the Maruti stable, the A-Star is an able performer. It returns a very respectable mileage of 19 kmpl. This is a car aimed at first-time buyers and women, so keeping running costs low is a big factor. It does so with aplomb.

new wagonr photo

Photo: New Maruti Suzuki WagonR

Maruti Suzuki Estilo: This car was first the Zen, then it transformed into the Zen Estilo, and now the final derivative – the Estilo – is a strong contender with a mileage of 19 kmpl as well. Maruti, it seems, is so pleased with their K-series engine, that they’ve stuck one in all their small car offerings.

Maruti Suzuki Wagon R: The Wagon R was the one car from Maruti Suzuki’s stable that badly needed an engine upgrade and redesign. So the company did just that. The ‘blue-eyed boy’ with the original tall-boy shape, now returns a healthy 19 kmpl as well. Related: New WagonR road test

Car Mileage
I10 20.4 km/litre
Alto K10 20.2 km/litre
A-Star 19 km/litre
Estilo 19 km/litre
Wagon R 19 km/litre

All the cars listed above come with a 35 litre fuel tank which puts their overall range at 665km-714km.

hyundai i10 next gen photo

Photo: Hyundai i10 Next Gen

Power

Hyundai i10: Surprisingly, the i10 not only leads with fuel efficiency, but also with power. This goes a long way to show how technologically advanced Hyundai’s Kappa engine is. The 1.3 litre engine pumps out 79 bhp @ 6000 rpm and has maximum torque of 111Nm @ 4000 rpm. The i10 it seems has the best of both worlds. The i10 also has a decent power to weight ratio, weighing in as it does at 860-952 kgs. Related: Hyundai i10 variants

Maruti Suzuki Alto K10: The Alto’s K10 engine has been tuned for mileage over power. The engine is a 998 cc unit that puts out 67 bhp @ 6200 rpm. Maximum torque is 90Nm @ 3500 rpm. The K10 engine is an able performer and even though it is a smaller unit, it is a bit too far away in terms of power. It is however the lightest car in our list at just 765kgs.

Maruti Suzuki A-Star: The A-Star shares the same engine as the Alto. The only difference is that the A-Star produces 1 bhp less than the Alto K10, bringing it to 66 bhp. Weight too is almost identical.

Maruti Suzuki Estilo: The Estilo shares the same K-series workhorse as the Alto, A-Star and Wagon R. The engine is a 998 cc unit that puts out 67 bhp @ 6200 rpm. Maximum torque is 90Nm @ 3500 rpm. The Estilo however is a heavier car, weighing in at 845 kg. This extra weight thankfully does not affect the car’s performance or mileage.

Maruti Suzuki Wagon R: The ‘Blue-eyed boy’ is just another boy when it comes to power as the same engine does duty here too. Weight is a bit on the higher side at 860 kgs but power remains at 67 bhp.

Car Power Torque
Hyundai i10 79 bhp 111 Nm
Maruti Alto K10 67 bhp 90 Nm
Maruti A-Star 66 bhp 90 Nm
Maruti Estilo 67 bhp 90 Nm
Maruti Wagon R 67 bhp 90 Nm

Features

Hyundai i10: As with everything else on this list, the Hyundai i10 tops the features chart too. It comes loaded with a host of goodies that include: HVAC, ABS, front fog lamps, 2 airbags, electric ORVMs, central locking with keyless entry, single CD stereo, high-mounted stop lamp, power windows, power steering and tilt steering.

Maruti Suzuki Alto K10: The Alto K10 has skipped on some of the other goodies that feature in the Hyundai, but the essentials are in place. The car comes with HVAC, front fog lamps, body-colored ORVMs, central locking, front power windows, power steering and high-mounted stop lamp.

Maruti Suzuki A-Star, Estilo and Wagon R: These three little wonders come with pretty much the same equipment list as the Alto. There is of course a reason why Maruti has chosen this less gizmo-laden path than Hyundai and we will discuss this in the next segment. Meanwhile, HVAC, front fog lamps, body-colored ORVMs, central locking, front power windows, power steering and high-mounted stop lamp will have to do.

Price analysis

Car Mileage Power Price
I10 20.4 km/litre 79 bhp 4.4 – 5.1 lakh
Alto K10 20.2 km/litre 67 bhp 3.1 – 3.5 lakh
A-Star 19 km/litre 66 bhp 3.2 – 4.3 lakh
Estilo 19 km/litre 67 bhp 4.1 lakh
Wagon R 19 km/litre 67 bhp 3.3 – 3.8 lakh

The first thing obvious from the chart above is that the Hyundai i10 is the most expensive car of this bunch. The Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 is the cheapest. The Suzuki A-Star, down on both mileage and power, looks a little out of sorts with its 3.5 lakh to 4.3 lakh price range – making it the second most expensive car on the list. What are you paying for? Probably the design and the ‘wow’ factor that the Alto misses.

Next up, the Estilo and the Wagon R are closely matched in terms of price, power and mileage. In fact too closely matched. One can’t help but wonder if this is essentially two different cars built around the same specifications. Is this Maruti’s gameplan? If you miss with one you hit with the other? The company probably is not that callous are both the Estilo and Wagon R are decent cars. The both have, let’s face it, very good mileage (19 kmpl), a very affordable price and a half-decent equipment list. Half-decent because of the low price. There is not much of an argument against them in terms of price or mileage because they are good at both but the one thing about them we don’t like is the ‘forgetability’ factor. Their looks, ride and performance is rather generic. If you don’t care about all of this and just want a car that does the job every day, gives plenty of mileage, is low on maintenance and cost per km, the Estilo and the Wagon R are the cars for you. Also read: Most fuel efficient diesel small cars

The main fight in this battle from the start was between the Hyundai i10 and the Alto K10 – the two top performers in terms of mileage. There is almost nothing between them. The i10 claims 20.4 kmpl while the Alto gives 20.2 kmpl. These are excellent figures and there’s not much to choose between the two. So it comes down to price and equipment. As we said earlier, the Hyundai i10 is the most expensive at 4.4lakh-5.1lakh while the Alto is a whole lot cheaper at just 3.1 lakh. So while in terms of mileage there’s not much difference, the Alto just runs away with it when it comes to cost. So why is the i10 so much more costly then? Surely not for a tiny 0.2 kmpl? Well no, what you’re paying for in the i10 is a large and magnanimous equipment list, the latest in engine technology and much more contemporary looks.

If you want high mileage plus goodies…

It’s hard to pick a winner between the i10 and the Alto because of the large difference in price. In some ways there’s no comparison and the i10 is the clear winner, with oodles of charm, goodies, mileage and power. One musn’t forget it is the most powerful car here (79 bhp) and the most fuel efficient. It’s loaded with 21st century gizmos and is very modern. On the other hand, the Alto is the winner with its superb K series engine, top mileage and low price. The Alto is still an under-designed car and is showing its age despite the facelift. It has only the necessary equipments needed for today’s day and age. However it does its intended job very well. So well in fact that it’s the highest selling car here in India. You may also be interested in Most fuel-efficient compact sedans

And if all you want is mileage…

So who wins this contest for the best fuel efficient small car in India? So far it’s the Alto, going by sales, but the i10 is close on its heels. The Alto is like Coke – a classic and the i10 is like Pepsi – the choice of a new generation. Whoever wins, you will be the one who chooses.