I still have a PPT from August 2010 which Maruti had put together to talk about the positioning of the Alto K10 being launched then. It was being pitched as a premium alternative to the Alto 800 aimed at customers who were looking for a tech and feature-loaded upgrade in the entry A2 (small car) segment. That PPT could still be relevant for the new 2022 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10.
In all, the noise about the SUV invasion and the wave of upgrading that’s driving up sales of B+ and C segment vehicles, it may be easy to forget that ours is still essentially a small car market. There will always be a large section of two-wheeler owners aspiring to get onto affordable entry-level small car. And that is the domain of Maruti Suzuki, a brand that has literally dominated and cornered 90 per cent of the segment. Other brands have tried and given up and have since discontinued their models.
New safety regulations will make it more difficult to build an entry small car that can be accessibly priced. And it will be a shame if the ambition of owning a car stays a pipe dream for many. But it is a regulatory balance that will need to be worked out by the industry and the government without compromising on the safety.
Maruti Suzuki has just relaunched the Alto K10, and it comes back into the brand’s portfolio after a 3-year hiatus. The K10 was discontinued in 2019, after it was decided that the transition to BS 6 (Bharat stage VI) emission norms could make it unviable leaving Alto 800 as the only option for buyers in the small car segment. Maruti now says that the new Alto K10 will meet both the emission and safety norms that are currently in place. The new model has been built on the safer Heartect platform; not the same version as is used in the Swift, but the modified one used for the current Celerio and S-Presso.
The new Alto K10 has grown in proportions, albeit marginally. This looks and feels like an entry small car still, but there is an air of maturity about it which is likeable. The wheelbase is now 20mm longer, the ground clearance has increased by 7mm and the front overhang is down by about 5mm. The 2022 Alto K10 is still ultra-compact at about 3.53 metres long. So, those numbers alone don’t make much sense until you consider some of the contributing factors and the consequences of these changes. Among them are the larger 13-inch rims (alloys are an optional, personalisation kit addition), instead of the earlier 12-inch and the increase in cabin space. The legroom and kneeroom have increased by about 60mm, thanks to the changes in the dashboard design, opening more space for the front seat passenger. The boot volume has also increased by about 40-litres to 217-litres.
In terms of design, the new Alto K10 is different from the previous generations. The one of 2010 was more jellybean-like, which transformed into a slightly sharper profile for the last model discontinued in 2019.
The 2022 model features a more gentle, curvy design with simple surfaces and an unassuming, but modern fascia. The bonnet grille is a big contributor to that design sense. The simple almond-shaped headlamps, the mildly sporty creases on the front fender and the short overhang give the new Alto K10 a decent introduction.
The top trim AGS transmission variant that I was driving featured internally adjustable door mirrors. Otherwise, the side profile is the least interesting part of its design. A couple of design lines for the character and waistlines, and a faint wheel arch moulded out of the side panels are the only features. The steel rim size has increased, and the full-wheel cover does a fair job of improving the stance of the new Alto K10, but the 145/80 R13 tyres are still quite puny to look at.
The tail-lamps are vaguely familiar and seem to have references to the ones in the Celerio. The rear fender has lines and creases that mirror the front, but it is quite compact and featureless otherwise like it has been designed to fit into a size profile. The tailgate is also compact, though the rear glass is a good size, offering decent rear visibility. However, it doesn’t get a rear wiper or defogger.
The interior of the new Alto K10 is the part which sees the most ‘perception-altering’ changes. The K10’s cabin was the better of the two Altos, but the new model does take this more than a step above. My test mule top trim variant had a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment screen at the top of the centre stack, it had a digital speedometer and small MID cluster, and it even had a set of four speakers mounted onto the door panels.
A few trim inserts offer some relief from the large swathe of plastic panels that make up the dashboard. The steering wheel is a better-looking unit with contrasting faux brushed aluminium arms and a small selection of steering-mounted controls for audio, MID info, voice commands etc., and it also gets phone controls. In terms of connectivity, there is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, in addition to a few SmartPlay Studio apps.
The increase in legroom is very evident, especially for the front seat. The larger luggage space in the boot will help, but only top trim variants get a parcel tray. Seats get better upholstery in a combination of grey and black with beige accents. The test mule I was driving also had power windows at the front with the controls positioned on the centre stack. The overall impression that I came away with was that the new Alto K10’s cabin is better built and finished, with the new features adding more value and usability to the mix.
The new Alto K10 gets the same K10C engine that is already in use for the Celerio and the S-Presso. This new generation of the one-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine is more refined, gets dualjet injection and dual VVT (variable valve timing) making it inherently more capable than the previous generation.
Though it is not as peppy and sporty as the turbocharged one-litre mills that we have been experiencing in some of the new B+ segment vehicles, being in the same size class, the K10C still manages to deliver a relatively agile on-road performance when it is prodded.
The engine’s state of tune is the same as in the S-Presso, delivering about 67PS of peak power and 89Nm of torque. The transmission options are the 5-speed manual and the AGS (automated gear shift) gearboxes. Maruti’s AGS has become better over the last few years in its ability to cut back on shift shocks, but the throttle mapping and hydraulic shift assistance is still focused on delivering higher mileage. So, gearbox performance does tend towards early up-shifts; kickdowns are a bit delayed and staying in gear needs sustained pressure on the throttle. But I could shift manually using the +/- mode. Shift quality in the manual gearbox is better than in the previous K10.
The narrow track and compact footprint, combined with the way the engine behaves can make for a somewhat fun drive in both city and highway traffic. The improved engine refinement has led to a vibration-free cabin, with tolerable levels of noise even at high-revs. The ride is still that of an entry small car, though it certainly feels better than in the previous Alto K10. The steering is light, but still doesn’t offer enough self-centering return assistance.
The new Alto K10 gets some key safety features as part of standard fitment, including two airbags and reverse parking sensors. The 2022 model also gets front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force-limiters for the first time. There are a few other safety features that are on offer including ABS with EBD.
Prices for the new Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 starts at ₹3.99 lakh for the standard and go up to ₹5.83 lakh for the VXi+ AGS gearbox version. You’ll be paying about ₹50,000 more for the AGS compared to the equivalent MT variant. And the AGS is being offered only in the top two - ‘VXi’ and ‘VX+‘ - variants. Not surprisingly, prices are higher than the previous generation. The standard variant of the 2022 model is stripped down and bereft of most comfort and convenience features. So, if you are looking for a decently equipped entry small car, the 2022 Alto K10 LXi or VXi could be the ones to choose from.