Thursday, March 30, 2023
HomeOpinionDashboardAlto K10 does what it says — Affordable, comfortable, reliable motoring

Alto K10 does what it says — Affordable, comfortable, reliable motoring

Alto will soon cross the 5 million-mark. You cannot get anything so good at this price anywhere else in the world.

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The Apple iPhone 13 Pro costs Rs 1.1 lakh currently if you search online. The new Maruti Alto K10 VXi+ with Maruti’s Auto Gear Shift, or AGS, that I was driving around Kochi recently costs Rs 5.84 lakh ex-showroom. So think about it. As ridiculous as it sounds, for the price of five top-end smartphones, you can get a car. And not a bad car at all. In fact, despite being a price warrior, the Alto K10 is extremely good at the job it does. I mean, the car comes with an automatic gearbox and a touchscreen infotainment system and some pretty decent speakers. That is stunning for the fact that it is an Alto.

Indians love the Alto badge. 4.3 million Altos have been sold in the country over almost the past quarter century. It was India’s best-selling car for 16 years straight until 2020 when it was displaced by the Dzire. And even then, the Alto has never dropped out of the top three best-selling cars in India. You might not see many of them in the tonier parts of town, but this vehicle revolutionised mobility, including for this author.

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The old one

The first car I bought was an Alto. Taking the delivery on the auspicious day of Mahalaya in 2002 — the day Devi comes down from the mountains to fight the asuras or the first day of the Sharad Navratras.

I paid a total of Rs 2.4 lakh before my mother bought me a Sony audio system for another 6,000 rupees. The LXi trim that I bought had few features. Although it was the premium version that came with both an air-conditioner and a little ‘i’ on the badge, that meant it had power-steering. You take such things for granted nowadays. But back then, it was a big deal, showing-off to your friends that you could operate the steering with just one finger even while the car stood stationery.

And again, it’s these little things that I find amazing about the Alto K10. Sure it isn’t technically the cheapest car on the road (it’s more basic sibling, the Alto 800 holds that crown) but you get a lot for your money. Front power windows, a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, two front airbags and anti-lock brakes (ABS).

And when you convert the car’s price into US dollars, it is even more stunning. The base model Alto K10 costs just over $5,000 (the Alto 800 is around $4,500). This top-spec would come to around over $7,000. The cheapest car in the United States right now is the Chevrolet Spark LS, which retails for around $15,500 or Rs 12.4 lakh.

Maruti often gets pilloried for what is perceived to be a lower focus on safety. I have argued before and I will argue again that a car can only keep you as safe as you drive and that safety cannot be limited to cars. True, the Alto K10 does not come with six airbags. Although in a car as small as the Alto, would so many airbags make any sense? That should be the question we should be asking? In most cases, Alto owners, almost always, are first-time car buyers, and they need affordable mobility above everything else. New rules that specify front airbags and ABS make the Alto safer than before.

But most importantly, this car comes with great creature comforts and drives well, and economically. The updated K10C engine on the vehicle promises a fuel economy of over 24 kmpl as claimed by ARAI, and despite my occasionally adventurous driving through the rubber plantations on the way to the Athirapally Waterfalls, I managed close to 20 kmpl in over 150 km I drove. And while Keralites’ adherence to helmet and seatbelt usage is exemplary, traffic is pretty damn horrible on the main roads of the state. Hence, such mileage through traffic is good. And when you find an empty stretch and want to have fun with the 66PS of power, the engine can get this light car moving fairly decently. The automated manual transmission (AMT) gearbox on the car is a bit languid but then you are getting an automatic option for below Rs six lakh.

The Alto K10 rides bad surfaces well and handles decently on the turns, so well that it could make a little rally car. And you can do all this while listening to your favourite tunes streaming through the music app of your choice on the smartphone interface on the car. Sure, it does not have everything that you might have gotten used to, the rear windows are still wind-up, and there is no remote boot release, so at hotels you’ll have to switch off the ignition and hand over your keys to security. The seat cushioning could be better, although it’s much superior to what you get on an IndiGo plane. And the tyres also have a lot of noise (which is why you have the audio system). Cabin noise insulation could have been better. But these are minor quibbles and I am the sort of guy who will easily switch from a car like this to a Rs one crore plus German super sedan the next day and vice versa.

I loved this little Alto K10, it does what it says on the label, and it does it well. Affordable, comfortable and reliable motoring. It is not perfect by any stretch of imagination, but you don’t get perfection on a budget like this. But honestly, you cannot get anything so good at this price anywhere else in the world. And that is why, it won’t be long before the Alto crosses the five million sales mark in India.

@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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