New Maruti Alto is not just about a facelift

It was back in 2012 that Maruti introduced the Alto 800 nomenclature for the entry-level hatchback, with the introduction of a new generation of the body style. Come 2019, and multiple mild updates later, we have arrived at this model. It still uses the same 796cc engine as the model it replaces and, going by the images, most may think of this as just a facelift. However, the changes to the car are more than just skin-deep.

First and foremost is the engine — it may be the same as the outgoing model, but it’s been upgraded to meet BS-VI emission standards. Then there is the car’s body shell which has been strengthened to comply with the upcoming crash-test norms.

And then there is the name itself: it’s dropped the ‘800’, going back to being called just ‘Alto’.

On the outside, the petal-shaped headlamps, body panels, doors, boot lid and even the rear bumper have been carried forward from its predecessor. You can identify this as the latest iteration of India’s best-selling car, thanks to its new front bumper, which gets a large air dam replete with a honeycomb-style plastic mesh. There is a provision for fog lamps, but those can only be added as paid accessories. The front grille is also new and now sports a black surround. Anoraks will also note a new design for its outside mirrors.

The bigger upgrades to the car are under the skin. Maruti has strengthened the Alto’s front end to comply with the latest crash-test norms (applicable to all cars from October 1, 2019). The new Alto is also 50mm longer than the outgoing version (which measured 3,395mm). This increase in length is due to a new bumper design that helps the Alto clear pedestrian safety regulations that come into effect on October 1, 2020. Additionally, the new Alto also gets a standard driver’s airbag in all its variants, along with ABS, EBD, rear parking sensors, a driver and a front-passenger seat-belt reminder, and a speed alert system — all of which are now mandatory safety requirements. The base Std and mid-spec LXi trims get passenger airbags as an option, while dual airbags are standard on the top-spec VXi trim.

2019 Maruti Alto specifications
  • Length 3445mm
  • Width 1515mm
  • Height 1475mm
  • Wheelbase 2360mm
  • Kerb weight 730kg
  • Engine 796cc, 3 cyls, petrol
  • Power (hp at rpm) 48hp at 6000rpm
  • Torque (Nm at rpm) 69Nm at 3500rpm
  • Gearbox 5-speed manual
  • Fuel tank capacity (lts) 35 litres
  • Tyre size 145/80 R12
  • Brakes (F/R) Disc/Drum

Those familiar with Maruti’s Alto line-up will see a major, yet familiar, change in the car’s interior. The 2019 Alto borrows its dashboard and other elements from the pricier Alto K10. The Alto now comes with a new dual-tone black-beige dashboard that looks much better than the earlier car’s monotone grey unit. The steering wheel and instrument cluster are carried over from the pre-facelift 2016 version, though. The seats and door pads get new dual-tone black-and-cream fabric.

The 2019 Maruti Alto is available in three variants: The base Std is barebones. Air conditioning, power steering and front power windows are available from the LXi variant onwards. The top VXi variant also gets central locking and keyless entry along with a SmartPlay Dock 2-DIN audio player in higher trims, which also supports Bluetooth, USB and AUX, along with AM/FM radio.

The 2019 Alto continues to be sold with the same three-cylinder 796cc F8D petrol engine, mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. As before, there’s no option of an AMT gearbox, which is offered on the Alto K10. Even the CNG version of the Alto has been dropped from the range. Apart from some software tweaks to the ECU, the car’s engine and gearbox remain the same. The 2019 Alto sees major changes to its exhaust, though, where a new unit replaces the earlier one and helps the car clear the stringent BS-VI emission norms that come into effect on April 1, 2020. The power and torque figures, at 48hp and 69Nm, remain the same as the earlier BS-IV model.

The updated Alto feels far more refined at idle, with almost zero vibrations, and there is negligible engine noise compared to the earlier car. Get moving, and the engine feels a bit lethargic. Throttle response isn’t as sharp as before, especially when driven with the air con switched on. Even power delivery isn’t very smooth, and it feels a bit jerky as the engine spins faster. The clutch has a springy feel, but it is light and has a short travel. That, in addition to its smooth-shifting 5-speed manual transmission, makes this car easy to drive in the city.

The increase in weight as well as the stricter emission-related tweaks, have resulted in a drop in the new Alto’s fuel-efficiency figure from 24.7kpl of the previous model to 22.05kpl (ARAI claimed).

The 2019 Maruti Alto prices see a rise over the previous model. Variant-to-variant, the Alto 800 is ₹25,000 to ₹38,000 pricier than the outgoing version.

While performance is only adequate, rivals aren’t any better in this respect. The Alto doesn’t have the roomiest cabin and misses on some comfort features too, but for first-time car buyers on a budget (who make up the bulk of the Alto’s sales) the car’s reputation for efficiency and low running costs will be the hook.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 3:27:40 PM |

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