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Zip Drives

The Maruti Alto and Renault Kwid are two of the most affordable cars in India. They come with small (800cc) and fuel-efficient engines that, however, deliver little in the way of performance.

Thankfully, most cars in this class also come with more powerful 1.0-litre engines. Of the lot, the Alto K10 has been ruling the roost for a while. But it now has some serious competition in the form of the new Kwid 1.0. But can the Renault beat the zippy little Maruti?

What are they like to drive?

Both these cars are powered by 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engines producing an identical 68hp. It’s worth pointing out that the Kwid 1.0 is a vast step forward in terms of refinement over the 800cc version. There are less vibrations at idle and the annoying low-speed jerkiness of the 800cc engine no longer exists. The extra 14hp makes it sprightlier too, but where the engine really shines is during regular driving, where it feels a lot smoother than its smaller-hearted sibling, and is more eager to spin to higher revs. However, higher engine speeds are accompanied by an annoying mechanical whine.

The Alto K10’s motor is clearly the more refined of the two. The engine is smoother and is happier spinning at high speeds. Tap the throttle of the K10 and it pulls you forward in one strong, seamless tug, which, considering the car’s price, is quite impressive. However, vibrations from the engine can be felt in the cabin when idling.

The Alto K10’s short-throw gearbox, too, is the better one here. The Kwid’s gear shift is not as nice. It has a longer throw and slotting gears requires more effort. However, it’s the quicker car here; 0-100 takes 14.33sec to the K10’s 15.87sec, which is quite a gap. The Kwid’s engine is better in gears too, and is definitely the more usable one when driving in town.

The Kwid also has the better ride and handling package. Its suspension soaks up poor sections of road with incredible suppleness. And the ride is so good, it feels like a car from a segment or two above.

The Alto K10 has a slightly firmer suspension, yet it tackles road imperfections quite competently. It isn’t as accomplished as the Kwid, but for a car of its size, the ride quality is quite good. The Alto absorbs average-sized bumps quite easily, and coarse sections of tarmac are ridden over comfortably too. As road imperfections get more prominent though, passengers do get tossed around a bit.

While both these cars are capable of effortlessly reaching highway speeds, their light construction makes them susceptible to crosswinds and high-speed corners. Once again, it is the Kwid that wins here. Though the steering is too light at speed, the Renault still inspires more confidence due to its superior grip. The K10, despite having the nicer steering, feels nervous as speeds build, inspiring very little confidence in the driver to push further.

What are they like inside?

Where the Kwid absolutely trumps the K10 is in terms of cabin space. Its large size translates into a roomier cabin, especially in terms of width. In contrast, the Alto K10’s front passengers are pressed for elbow and shoulder room. The seats are small and unsupportive, and legroom is poor too. The Kwid, on the other hand, has larger, more comfortable seats, almost like those on the more expensive Celerio. The Kwid 1.0’s interiors carry over the grey theme with touches of chrome from the smaller 800cc car. The seats have red and light grey inserts, which add a dash of colour.

Unlike the Alto 800, the K10’s cabin gets a beige-and-black two-tone colour theme, which makes it feel airy. The wide central console houses the simple entertainment system, and elements like the piano-black centre fascia, and the silvered knobs add to the cabin’s appeal. Also, the build of the cabin is much tougher than the Kwid’s. The plastics feel solid, everything fits and functions perfectly, and that’s not something we can say about the Renault. It still seems to have issues with the locking mechanism of the glovebox.

The Kwid, however, beats the Alto in terms of storage space. Its boot is a massive 300 litres, against the K10’s 177-litre boot, and there are plenty of useful cubbyholes in the cabin too.

The Kwid’s big USP here, though, is of course the Bluetooth and navigation-equipped 7.0-inch touchscreen audio system. Neither of the cars are very safe in their construction, both lack ABS and offer driver-side airbags only in the top variant. However, the Maruti can be had with driver-side airbags on lower variants too. Meanwhile, the Kwid 1.0 gets a segment-first feature – front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load limiters, that do a better job of securing passengers under rapid deceleration, compared to conventional seatbelts. At the rear, however, Renault offers non-retractable seatbelts, while the K10 gets the more conventional, retractable ones.

The Maruti Alto K10 is marginally nicer to drive at city speeds. Its peppy engine pulls strongly and the short-throw gearbox is crisp to use. It also has a smaller turning radius and good all-round visibility, which fits its purpose of an urban runabout well. However, it loses out in terms of absolute comfort as well as ride and handling manners. To begin with, its smaller size translates into a cramped cabin and a tiny boot. Also, the ride feels a bit choppy, and stability at speed isn’t great either.

The Renault Kwid, though, is a more rounded package. Its engine isn’t as smooth, the gearbox is not as nice and some of the plastics inside feel low-rent. However, as an overall package, it’s worth the premium. That’s because in comparison, the Kwid just feels and drives like a bigger, more mature car. Also, the ride – always the Kwid’s strong point – is compliant and the car feels comparatively more stable at higher speeds. Its interior is more spacious and comfortable, and it’s equipped with a touchscreen audio system, which is unheard of in this segment. And then there’s the fact that it looks like a mini SUV rather than a cramped budget car, which is sure to seal the deal.

Renault Kwid 1.0L RxT (O)

List price: Rs 3.96 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

Fuel Tank: 28 litres

Engine: 999cc, 3 cyls, petrol

Peak power: 68hp at 5500rpm

Peak torque: 91Nm at 4250rpm

Maruti Alto K10 VXi (O)

List price: Rs 3.79 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

Fuel Tank: 35 litres

Engine: 998cc, 3 cyls

Peak power: 68hp at 6200rpm

Peak torque: 90Nm at 3500rpm


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 6:43:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Zip-Drives/article16087634.ece

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