In the entry hatchback segment, which Maruti Suzuki has dominated for over three decades, it has never faced the kind of competition it does now. But that’s no longer the case. Renault and Datsun, for example, have done some significant homework on their Kwid and Redigo models, and in the process, have changed the laws of the game.
This is why the Alto 800 2016 is now available in India, with its spruced-up exteriors and interiors, as seen in the photos. Until the new generation Alto 800 arrives, it’s the carmaker’s answer to the entry-level competition. We took the 2016 Alto 800 for a spin to find out everything you need to know.
Despite appearing to be very similar to the previous model at first glance, the new Alto 800 receives a few modifications, particularly to the fascia. The part of the headlamp internals that houses the turn indicators, for example, is all new. The Suzuki emblem has been moved below the grille onto the restyled bumper, which now has a revised three slat air dam. The front bumper has also been fitted with fog light housings.
The 2016 automobile uses body side-moulding in profile, and there are two new colours to pick from: cerulean blue and mojito green. The left external door mirror is now standard across the Maruti line. Apart from these changes, the new Alto 800 has the same odd overall shape, thick C-pillar, and dramatically tapering window line as the previous model.
To get into the Alto, you’ll have to bend quite a bit, but once inside, you’ll appreciate how engineers were able to squeeze a reasonable amount of cabin room out of the cramped exterior proportions. From the driver’s position, visibility is acceptable, but the window line at the shoulder point should have been a little lower. Despite the fact that the Alto 800 feels bare-bones and built to a price point, the build quality is constant throughout the cabin. The centre console has enough room for all of your knickknacks and even a one-litre bottle. The door pads, on the other hand, are only suitable for paperwork or other small items.
Maruti has upgraded the 2016 Alto 800 with new fabric colours and a redesigned rear headrest design, which is a positive. While the front seats provide a sturdy and basic level of back support, they offer little in the way of thigh and lateral support, and they are also completely flat and devoid of any curves. Over lengthy journeys, the crouching position, combined with the low seat and high floor line, can be exhausting. It’s the same situation in the back seats, where there’s only the bare minimum of cushioning, headroom, and legroom to get the job done. This should be a tight fit for three adult travellers.
Maruti Suzuki offers four different versions of the Alto 800 in 2016: Std, LX, LXi, and VXi. An ‘O’ version of each of these models is now available, which adds a driver airbag as an additional safety feature. The integrated music system with two front speakers, aux and USB, an auxiliary plug, rear parcel tray, rear console bottle holder, remote keyless entry, driver airbag in all ‘O’ variants, and a rear door child lock are all features that have been added to the Alto 800 2016 model.
Driven by Results
The same three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 48bhp at 6000rpm and 69Nm of torque at 3500rpm continues to power the Maruti Alto 800. The previous five-speed gearbox handles transmission chores very well, providing a clumsy but positive gear shift. The Alto 800 feels peppy in city speeds and has just about enough zest to do the normal city driving chores, despite its light weight of 727kg. It even has decent overtaking capabilities in city traffic. When you push the car to its limits, however, the increase in engine noise is more noticeable than any increase in speed.
It’s critical to anticipate overtaking at highway speeds, which means a shift or two is required to get up to speed. To get the wheels to spin faster, the motor has to put forth a lot of effort, especially at the limit. It also demonstrates the hatch’s actual powers, as it prefers to commute inside the city habitat. With its small size, the Alto 800 makes city driving seem like a joke. Despite the fact that it fits through most traffic gaps and is easy to park, the majority of road and other noises filter into the cabin. Also, getting acclimated to the steering takes some time. After you’ve gotten through the fuzziness in the straight ahead position, you’ll need to make constant inputs to rectify the over-assistance at lower speeds. The steering’s unwillingness to return to its original position on its own adds to the problems. Pick up the speed, and the slow steering reactions will require all of your concentration to anticipate bends and steering inputs ahead of time.
The Maruti Alto 800 also rolls a lot, and the narrow tyres don’t inspire a lot of trust in one. Apart from that, the brakes are adequate for getting the job done at acceptable speeds with adequate response. At slower speeds, the ride quality translates to a lot of vertical movement across undulations, and bumps are felt and heard with a jerk. When you accelerate, the car tends to ride smoother over minor undulations, but any bumps or potholes are felt in the cabin, causing some unsettling vertical movement. Driving through a series of small speed breakers (rumblers) without slowing down can cause the car to deviate from its intended path of travel, necessitating extra caution.
It doesn’t take much convincing to see how the Renault Kwid and Datsun Redigo have given this market a new lease on life. Of course, Maruti’s minor modification to this car may simply have won it a spot on the buyers’ list. However, because items like the Kwid and Redigo tickle both the aspirational and emotional quotients within one, our market is now even more ready for them. Despite this, the Alto 800 is a tried-and-true package with unfailing reliability and a predictable service network. Will this, however, be enough to keep clients or loyalists? Only time will tell if this is true.