New Maruti Alto 800 : First Drive [w/updated images]
Can one beat the fact that the country’s best-selling car, the Suzuki Alto is finally being refurbished and replaced with a spanking new model? Sounds incredible but with Hyundai having upped the stakes in the entry level segment of the car business with the stylishly put together and very competent Eon 800, the market leader had no option but to respond. And respond it has done but unlike its South Korean rival having taken a novel revolutionary approach to stock up the entry level weaponry in its arsenal, Maruti Suzuki has taken the evolutionary approach and come up with the new for 2012 Alto 800 to see it through the coming years.
The new car has a lot riding on it and with the venerable 800 from the very third year of Maruti Suzuki’s existence in the country still accounting for 2000 plus units per month to add to the over 20,000 plus units per month present-gen Alto, the onus was to make a super smooth transition so that the new generation Alto could not only hit the tarmac running but also keep the numbers rolling in. No wonder then the evolutionary angle of attack and the new Alto has that edge not just of striking the design lineage of its predecessor but also having the modernity without losing the essence of simplicity about it at all, this latter being a key factor behind its overall sales success in the country.
The new Alto 800, for that is how it has been designated, has been an all-Indian development and as such has been made specifically for emerging markets rather than the developed markets where Maruti exports its latest and most modern Altos to. In case you are flummoxed at this statement, look no further than the A-star which is indeed the most modern day Alto in existence, made in India and sold the world over. The new Alto 800, in contrast, would be a made in India for India only (and maybe a few mofussil markets like ours) offering. Nothing wrong in that, given the fact that it is basic motoring for the masses which this automobile caters to, and, as purveyors of this class of motoring, no one can match Maruti Suzuki at this game of horses-for-very-small-courses.
The very evolutionary nature of the new car shows that the Maruti Suzuki design and engineering team has made the transition from the present generation offering to the new one in a very easy and simple manner. The base floorpan remains the common shared ingredient between the outgoing and the incoming Alto but from there on there is a load of change. The floorpan has been stiffened appreciably to enhance the torsional rigidity of the overall monocoque.
Throw in completely recalibrated suspension (MacPherson struts up front and a three-link rigid axle set-up with isolated trailing arm at the rear) borrowed from the outgoing car but now with gas-charged dampers wrought into the package, the entire ride and handling has been taken to an all-new high in the entry level segment. As is the case with present day thought and also with the fact that this is very much an entry level price-sensitive offering for developing markets, the car manages to meet the side intrusion and head-on crash test norms for India while yet tipping the scales (kerb weight) at just 695kg for the base model and going up to 720kg for the top-of-the-line LXi version.
One of the key factors behind the success of the out-going Alto was its power-to-weight equation which delivered massively in the rupee-to-kilometre operational cost. The new Alto should deliver just as well on this count as its outgoing predecessor which was rated at 19.73kmpl (ARAI figures) and while we will have answers on this count once we subject the new baby to the rigours of our road test, the ARAI claimed figures are an improvement over the older car – 22.7kmpl!