The most popular car in the country, Maruti Suzuki’s Alto, is likely to don new clothes around Diwali this year.

To compete with more elegantly designed cars such as the Hyundai Eon, the market leader is expected to reinvent the Alto brand as a more fuel-efficient, powerful and freshly-designed new car.

Trial production has begun for the new Alto and will gather pace as the company comes out of its maintenance shutdown next week.

Commercial production is expected to begin at the Gurgaon facility late next month. According to the industry, the prices are expected to be between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 3.5 lakh.

The new model is also expected to boost dipping sales for the 12-year-old brand, which is Maruti’s entry model in most major urban markets. In the last few months, the sales more than halved to about 16,000 units, from the peak of 35,000 units in August-September 2010. This has been attributed to rising petrol prices.

“We would expect to launch this around September. Ideally, we will stop producing the existing model, but it depends on the demand. Some production may continue for exports,” a company official told Business Line .

Another senior official added, “The plan is that the new Alto will replace the current 800cc model, while the Maruti 800 and the Alto K10 will continue in the current form.”

The more powerful K10 model (1 litre engine) accounts for 40 per cent of Alto sales.

The new Alto is the same new 800cc car from the Maruti stable that has been talked about for the last few months. It retains the F8D 800cc engine, known for its frugal petrol consumption, which has been tweaked further for better results.

Reports indicate that while the current Alto platform has also been retained, the new model has seen a major design revision, both on the outside and in the interiors.

It sports a new Suzuki corporate grille, while the dashboard seems inspired by both the SX4 and the A-Star compact.

The shape of the headlights reminds one of the Ford Figo.