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First Drive Review: Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 Facelift

  • Jul 13, 2016
  • 5799 Views
The entry-level four-wheeler segment in India has witnessed a very positive growth with new brands entering it! But, there is one undisputed leader in this segment – the Alto 800. It has gone through a facelift, but is it still exciting enough to woo the potential buyers? Read on to find out!

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A decade ago, if you had to buy your first car, there was no brand other than Maruti Suzuki that checked all the right boxes. It was reasonable, easy to maintain and one would have a hassle-free experience. Fast forward to 2016 and what you have is a plethora of options to choose from in the entry-level hatchback segment. Renault came in this category with the Kwid and the recent introduction Datsun redi-GO have put up quite a challenge to the reigning king of this segment. So, with a nip here and a tuck there, Maruti has brought the facelifted Alto 800. We drive it to find out what has changed. If you are interested in knowing. Read on!

Exteriors

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The first thing to notice is the absence of the chrome stripe that used to neatly house the Suzuki logo with an inverted air dam on the new bumper that also houses the fog lamp casing. This, however, has to be purchased extra and it would have been better if it was provided as standard in the highest trim. We were testing the same Vxi top-end variant.

There is a thick body-coloured slat that joins the two headlamp clusters (or so it feels like) which, personally speaking, is a welcome break from the monotony of manufacturers using chrome on the radiator grille on most of their products for India.

 

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Move to the side and there is no change! Taut shoulder lines move from the front to the rear fusing in neatly with the tail.

Speaking about the rear, there is no change! The tail lamp design and registration plate remain same even with the new bumper.

Interiors

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The story on the inside is also pretty much same. One does get a new fabric on the door panels and the seat upholstery, but the rest of the cabin remains unchanged. You get the same three-spoke steering wheel that is chunky enough to hold a good seat comfort in both rows. However, people taller than five feet eight inches would face problems if there are four of them.

The dashboard is neatly laid out like the earlier version and plastic quality feels slightly improved. That said, it is still a long way behind its competition. In terms of cubbyholes, there aren't many. But, there is still one cup holder and a bottle holder under the centre console. There are cubby holes all around the cabin including each door panel but not big enough for bottles. That is a necessity nowadays looking at the requirement of a car being the apt vehicle for weekend getaways.

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Move to the boot and you get the same number of litres (200 to be precise) that can accommodate a few small bags. One grouse here is the rear seat does not split into a 60:40 fold. This is one feature missing in most cars of this segment and has become a necessity for a hatchback.

The infotainment system is a single din unit, that is also a letdown. Although it has reasonable sound quality with AUX and USB connectivity, what it should have is a Bluetooth connectivity as well, since that improves convenience in the car. If one is buying the Alto 800, they should really consider one aspect which is the absence of wireless phone connectivity.

Overall, the interior has a decent set of features, offers reasonable comfort, but misses out on some very basic equipment.

Safety

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The Alto 800 has reasonably strong crumple zones but still does not fair well in Global NCAP safety ratings. That said, there is no complain as the top-end variant gets a driver-side airbag which is a must nowadays. It would have been better if the car would have been equipped with ABS as well since that extra piece of equipment ensures better confidence while braking especially during bad weather.

Engine

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Similar to the earlier model, the facelifted Alto 800 is powered by the existing 796cc F8D motor mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. Max power stands at 47PS while the peak torque is at 63Nm. On paper, it may not sound so attractive, but let us tell you that the lightweight of the hatchback coupled with a brilliant low-end torque makes this a hoot to drive. It is peppy and responsive and would not let you down!

Wind and tyre noise is considerable as you gain speed, but it is not unsettling in any way. Overall, the engine is an extremely refined unit and a proven workhorse.

Ride and Handling

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The lightweight of the Alto 800 which is approximately 800kg makes it a fun car to drive. That said, the car is reasonably planted at highway speeds as well. There is considerable road and wind noise that would creep inside the cabin over 60kmph and keeps increasing. No complaints though as this segment has cost-cutting across all models and variants.

What is more surprising is the way the Alto 800 carves corners without any drama. There is very little understeer despite the skinny 145 section tyres.

Verdict

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The Alto's silhouette has had some refreshes but the foundation is still the same. It is still a simple, no-nonsense design that would attract potential buyers because of its uncomplicated design language. However, there are some more modern-looking entry-level hatchbacks in the segment now. Should you want to purchase a reliable, frugal and a peppy car, this is the choice for you!
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