I was looking to buy a hatchback for quite sometime, planning to drive it myself for daily commuting within the city. With my running not more than 500 km / month, diesel was ruled out. Looks of the car was important to me and I was recommended the Fiat Punto by a petrolhead friend. The Fiat Punto, especially the older Grande Punto and not the more recent Evo edition, with its classic Italian design is easily the most stylish hatchback I have seen on the roads but a rubbery gearshift and Fiat’s poor after sales service held me back. After a visit to the Bengal Hyundai showroom near Park Street, I was almost sold on the Grand i10, a good balance between features and looks. By this time, I was more inclined towards an A-segment car considering the narrow residential side road where I live. The Alto, considered an entry-level car in the Indian car scene, had never crossed my mind until its K10 line was relaunched on 3rd November 2014 and I visited Machino Techno to check it out. The New Alto K10 turned out to be more contemporary than its predecessors. It is a facelift of the older version of the car with the same peppy engine, but inside a fully revamped body and spruced up interiors. It is also a very sober design, not too quirky like the Hyundai Eon. The redesign changed my earlier perception of the Alto brand.
An automatic choice!
As I self-drive, an automatic transmission would be ideal for the congested roads of Kolkata. In fact, 97% of the cars in US are automatic. Conventional automatic transmissions are an expensive affair though. The new Alto K10, with its auto gear shift offering for less than ₹5 lakh on-road, seemed a sensible choice and I stopped looking further. The following video explains the AMT technology, which Maruti has implemented in the Alto K10.
The flagship colour tango orange looked attractive from a distance but as I approached near, it soon grew boring. White was the natural choice for me. I like the classic appeal of white and also think it is the ideal colour for a doctor’s car. My college medical-superintendent-cum-vice-principal drives a white Swift, for that matter.
I had visited the showroom determined, having done enough discussion with family. It did not take me long to decide and book the K10. The AMT is offered in the VXI variant, which cost an extra ₹50,000 on-road than the manual VXI. The car was ready in record time, in about 7 days after booking. I went on 14th Nov and made the full payment.
Car: Alto K10
Trim: VXI AMT
Colour: Superior White
Year of Manufacture: 2014
Dealership: Machino Techno, Alipore
Date of Booking: November 07, 2014
Date of Full Payment: November 14, 2014
Freebies: 5 L petrol, mudflaps, jack, floor mats, steering wheel cover, car perfume, spare headlamps
This delay however made the new car very dusty. To add further to my dismay, the dealer did a shoddy paint job on the ORVMs and door handles. A finger mark here, another grime there, were etched into the paint! On the day of delivery, the dealer showroom behaved much like a sarkari office. Despite several reminders over phone in advance, the accessories sales rep had forgot to fit the accessories I wanted. Everything was fitted (at a slow pace) after we reached and the MGA keyless entry kit wasn’t even there in the showroom (hence I cancelled that order). A customary box of sweets was there though and even a plastic file holder to store the documents!
Zero depreciation insurance: ₹14,789
Extended warranty: ₹5,164
HSRP installation: ₹503
Dealer accessories: ₹8,610
Aftermarket accessories: ₹36,894
Exterior styling & design
Interior Styling & Design
The dashboard is the best thing about the new Alto K10. So is the piano black finish stereo unit, which looks very premium. Overall fit and finish of interior isn’t immaculate like Hyundai but the two-tone black-and-beige design is a hit. The orange illumination of the controls is a win. It looks brilliant at night.
Installing custom seat covers in the right shade has upped the premium quotient of the car by a great deal. The covers look even better in the night when illuminated by the cabin light or the street light! The cabin now belongs to a sedan, it seems!
Finding a comfortable driving position doesn’t take time. The front seat is comfortable, with decent back support and adequate legroom. The windscreen is fairly large with thin A-pillars and the dashboard not too high, giving very good visibility.
The gear lever falls right in the hand while the hand brake is set somewhat lower than ideal. The stereo and climate controls are easily accessible with the left hand. The hazard light switch is placed prominently at the centre, not lost in the crowd of controls. The fog lamp and headlight leveller switches are on the right, above the hood opener button which is at knee-level.
The internal adjustment of ORVM isn’t electronic and I have to reach for the passenger-side control. What I am really missing is a center armrest. Thanks to the AMT, my left hand is mostly free. A center armrest would be of great help. There being no clutch pedal, the left foot felt restless at times, until I got used to it. A dead pedal would have been a nice addition.
The front power window switches are found in the gear console, a rather unusual location. 12 V socket is conveniently placed ahead of them but the aux and USB ports are present on the front fascia of the head unit, which I find is a bad implementation. If you attach a drive or an aux cable it kills the look of an otherwise well designed dash panel. I prefer the gear console as the ideal place for these ports. I am all for minimalism!
This is no European hatchback built like a tank. For a sub-₹5 lakh Indian car from the Maruti stable, I don’t expect doors to shut with a deep thud! It is a light car with a kerb weight of only 755 kg. The body panels are thin and they feel hollow on tapping, a compromise by Maruti to improve fuel efficiency. In comparison, the boot lid feels more solid than the doors, while the bonnet feels it may sink if someone sits on it. The ORVM casing is resistant to impact as it has already taken major hits twice and reverse-folded automatically each time. The power window operation is smooth. Rear window glasses go all the way down. Besides regular washes by me using a pressure washer, the Alto K10 has endured an entire Kolkata monsoon. There has been no issue of water seepage inside the cabin or the light assemblies. Like every other Indian car out there, there is no underbody protection which I think is needed on Indian roads more than anywhere else. I was glad to learn that the fuel tank is made of steel. Even the Swift has a plastic fuel tank in it!
The heart of this agile machine is the powerful K10B engine, a 1000-cc engine with 67 bhp @ 6000 rpm power and 90 Nm @ 3500 rpm torque. With an impressive 91 bhp/tonne power-to-weight ratio (equal to the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI), this car is a hoot to drive. If someone tries to cut me off on the road in a rather ungentlemanly manner, all I need is a few seconds till the other car becomes a speck in the mirror! The burst of acceleration is sure to bring a big smile to your face every time. The engine doesn’t lag even with full occupancy and the AC running, and rides on inclines with poise. The engine feels more refined now after I switched to synthetic engine oil at third free service, with a definite improvement in the engine timbre. Above 3000 rpm, the roar of the engine is music to my ears.
The Alto K10 comes with reliable brakes with a good bite. The brake pedal has a very consistent feel. The lack of ABS hasn’t been a matter of concern in the city so far. I was doing some spirited driving on an almost empty Dhakuria bridge the other night, going downhill at 80 kmph, swerving in the last moment and braking to come to a stop by the end of the slope. The tyres squealed a bit in the end but no wheel locking. Only recently, I was driving lazily at 80 kmph at Rajarhat and a white Swift Dzire was in front of me. A civic police volunteer suddenly asked the Dzire to stop and by the time I realized the car has stopped there was not more than 50 metres gap. I braked hard and safely came to a halt with a loud squeal.
Bridgestone S322 tubeless tyres (155/65 R13 S) are fitted on 13-inch steel rims. The 155 mm wide tyres provide adequate grip on the roads for city driving with good cornering ability. They have held their good on wet roads throughout the monsoons. The S322 has but one disadvantage – road noise at high speeds. A full size spare wheel has been provided in the boot. One of the tyres got punctured and repaired at 3620 km. I will have the tyres rotated at 10,000 km.
Suspension and handling
The Kolkata roads are not the best tarmac for driving but the soft suspension of the Alto K10 does well in absorbing the bumps, in fact better than the Hyundai Eon, giving a pliant ride in the city. The soft suspension, however, translates to a bouncy ride at a higher speed, when even the slightest undulations on the road throw the passengers into a toss. I have to drive extra carefully, always avoiding the irregularities on the road surface or slowing down if necessary, and friends who have taken a ride on my car have lauded the smooth ride it offers.
Significant body roll is felt while negotiating the twists and turns of the Parama flyover at > 60 kmph. The light weight of the car and not so great handling don’t inspire confidence during high speed driving. The ride is mostly jittery unless I am on a really good track which is not easy to come by in our state. It is best to adopt a safe driving style and not go adventurous during those weekend long drives.
The steering wheel feels heavier at slow speeds. Compared to the steering of the Chevrolet Beat, I find turning this one at idle is a bit of a task. The self-centering action of the steering is just how I like it, effective but not overzealous like some other cars.
Noise, vibration and harshness
As I always drive with the AC on, it is a quiet ride and the gentle whirring of the compressor is all that I hear. The engine noise is acceptable with the windows rolled up. Vibration at idle lacks refinement and is a rough edge in an otherwise smooth ride. The gear shifts are mostly quiet, can be heard as clicks if you are attentive, although there is an audible clunk from the engine bay when I change between Drive, Reverse and Neutral. Wind noise insulation is remarkably good on the highway but cabin noise insulation has room for improvement. There is significant road noise from the tyres at ~ 100 kmph even with the windows rolled up. I love the sound of the rain, but I don’t like getting startled by the rather loud banging on the poorly soundproofed roof when a heavy rain starts all of a sudden. No rattles or squeaks from the doors so far.
Interior space and comfort
Thanks to good driving ergonomics, I could drive the car for 3 hours at a stretch without any discomfort. While the front seats are comfortable, taller passengers have a trying time in the rear bench as leg space becomes nonexistent for them, if two tall persons are sitting in the front. The rear bench can accommodate two well-built persons. Three persons of medium built can fit in, but it will be not be a comfortable journey, making the K10 essentially a 4-seater in practice. Tall passengers also complain of headspace lacking in the rear. Once my brother in law’s head hit the roof when the chauffeur was doing 100 kmph on a bumpy road – my brother in law is 5’10”. Armrests are present on all four doors. Three grab handles are provided. Vanity mirror on the passenger side sun visor is a welcome addition. My friend can fix her hair!
The AC unit is a chiller. It has done well to combat the Kolkata heat. On a typical summer day, it cooled the entire cabin in less than a minute. The side AC vents can be fully closed. The oft-neglected cabin air filter is missing in many cars as a cost-cutting measure by the manufacturer. I got it installed during third free service.
USB, aux, FM, CD are all useful additions but stock Bluetooth support is missing, I had to add it on my own. Old-style retractable antenna looks dated, but I realized its utility when putting on my premium Tyvek Dupont material car cover!
There is a door ajar warning (cabin lamp stays on) and a driver-seatbelt warning on the MID. The rear seat belts are retractable. A constant beap sounds if you forget to turn off the headlights or take out the key while getting down from the car.
The VXI AMT came with factory-installed manual central locking. I installed keyless entry in the aftermarket for added convenience and peace of mind. The door locks are pull-push type.
The stock 4″ front speakers pack enough punch and are doing quite well to drown out the din and bustle of the city traffic. All of my friends were surprised when I told them the speakers are not aftermarket!
Driving gets really easy as the clutch operation and gear selections are automatic. The current gear selected is displayed in the MID. Gear changes are very precise and smooth. There is no lurching of the transmission i.e. the car doesn’t jerk forward at start-off. There is no gear crunching either.
There remains a concern of clutch overheating in stop-and-go traffic; there is a ‘transaxle heating’ warning light for this. However, 90% of my driving is in slow moving stop-and-go traffic and I have never faced this issue.
However, I can feel a momentary drop in acceleration when the gears are changing esp in the lower gears which the co-passenger won’t notice but can be unsettling for the driver. I overcame this problem by gently easing up on the accelerator when I foresee a gear change – the AMT TCU (transmission control unit) takes the cue and changes the gears immediately resulting in a smooth gear shift.
The gear selector also has a manual mode, which lets me upshift and downshift manually. Honestly, I have grown dependent on the automatic gear shift so much that I don’t bother using the manual any more but it gives me a higher degree of control if I want. For example, I can hold a gear till the redline and avoid an unwarranted gear change in the midst of overtaking another vehicle. The manual mode can be used to harness engine braking, when going downhill, by gradually downshifting. It can also come handy if I want to drive in first gear only, for example, when driving through a water-logged area.
Maruti advises use of the hand brake for hill start assist. Keep the handbrake pressed, gently press the gas pedal to build up some momentum, release the handbrake and accelerate further. Apparently I don’t need this because most flyovers and bridges in Kolkata are gently sloped and even if I stop and start, the car doesn’t roll back on releasing the brake pedal, thanks to its creeping function, although the handbrake manoeuvre is indispensable to prevent roll back on steep slopes, I have found, e.g. in parking lot ramps. But using the handbrake is recommended for hill start assist to extend clutch life. Trivia: Many higher end automatic cars have a special hill hold function which obviates the use of handbrake in hill start scenarios.
The Alto K10 seats 5 occupants and comes with a 177 litre boot space. A fuel tank capacity of 35 litres gives a definite feel-good factor. The gross vehicle weight capacity is 1210 kg, which translates to a loading capacity of 455 kg, which includes passenger and luggage. If I go on a vacation with 4 friends and five of us weigh 350 kg, we can load the boot with a luggage of ~ 100 kg.
- Glove-box is accommodating. I store a variety of things in it including a compact car umbrella.
- Parcel hook below the dash panel is a win. It can hang a parcel weighing upto 2 kg.
- The AMT edition missed out on cup holders and got a downsized cubby hole. It isn’t particularly deep, I usually keep chewing gum, toll tickets and loose change there. My phone mostly sits on the dashboard mount.
- I store a variety of knick-knacks in the driver-side door pocket viz. hand sanitizer, face wipes, tissue papers, my wallet.
- The bottle holder behind handbrake console can hold a 1 L mineral water bottle.
- The rear doors have no storage space, but the pockets in the seat covers I have installed let me store magazines and newspapers in them.
- Boot can store a standard size travel suitcase and a backpack during those trips to the airport.
From the dealer. ₹8,600/-
- Fog lamps
- Anti-rust coating of chassis
- Painting of ORVMs and door handles with body colour
- Mobile charger
One fine morning I visited Glix (Salt Lake outlet) and got the car accessorized to the hilt. The bill was ₹30,500.
- Kagu 3D Maxpider floor mats: I was quick to get rid of the dealer provided floor mats and got Kagu 3D mats installed. I got them in black. These mats are not only easy to maintain, but have greatly boosted the looks of the cabin.
- Autoform seat covers: I chose the exact shade to match the interior and Glix did a very good fitting.
- Reverse parking sensors with camera: One of the coolest gadgets in my car. The camera view comes alive in a TFT screen integrated in the IRVM and a voice warning alerts me if there is any obstacle in the rear. As an added benefit, the IRVM of the kit is also anti-glare.
- Xenos Keyless entry
- Lumar sunfilm: I went for 50% opacity. Other than cutting down the UV rays, it adds this premium touch to the windows while still being transparent.
- Philips headlight bulbs: Replaced the stock bulbs with Philips bulbs of same wattage.
- Rear power windows: The manual windows on the rear doors were an eyesore. Xenos power windows came to the rescue.
After much search, I got the following accessories from online merchants:
- GOgroove Smart mini AUX Bluetooth ₹2390: Device has a very low footprint with absolutely no wires, I simply have to plug it into the aux port. The calls, voice-guided navigation and music – everything play through the car audio system. Calls are very clear and the other end can hear me fine without any feedback. It lets me drive hands-free without losing focus on the road.
- iOttie Easy Flex 2 dashboard mount ₹1536: This is a great product which actually stays rooted to the dashboard – solid like a rock! The mount has a firm grip on the phone can be rotated in multiple angles.
- Polco Dupont Tyvek Car Body Cover ₹2468: This water-resistant, UV-resistant, breathable car cover is made of Dupont Tyvek material.
The Alto K10 has performed remarkably well in the monsoons this year. The brakes and tyres held their ground on the wet roads, the fog lights improved visibility and the stock wipers did a commendable job. I make it a point not to drive through streets inundated with water. But once I had to drive through at least 6 inches deep water. I drove very slow and luckily there was no mishap.
Most of my highway driving has been limited to the city outskirts. I have covered the Belghoria Expressway – via Biswa Banga Sarani – a number of times. It is an absolutely smooth and thoroughly enjoyable ride (~70-80 kmph) thanks to the mostly good tarmac, but one has to keep an eye for the occasional pothole which can be difficult to spot in the night. I have driven on the Park Circus – Parama Island flyover many times. The fantastic track allows a smooth drive and I usually maintain a speed of 80-90 kmph, slowing down at the turns, and manage to touch 100 kmph at least twice on this 4+ km track. During my rare drives on the Kona Expressway, the K10 engine held good while I comfortably overtook the long trucks.
The Philips bulbs have definitely increased the reach of my headlight on the highway. With my aftermarket additions, I get absolutely no glare on the IRVM – no more getting blinded by the high beams of trucks following me.
- My father is not very patient on the steering wheel and he got this really long creased dent on both the left doors from the steel bumper guard of a taxi once. Twice he got the rear bumper stuck while overtaking, once in the steel bumper guard of a taxi, and another time in the wheel cap of a cycle van rickshaw. Each time the bumper broke and had to be replaced.
- During the Pujo, I had to drive under a bamboo and forgot about the radio antenna which was open. The antenna got bent and would not go into its socket anymore. I replaced the antenna assembly during third service.
After Sales Service
The new car stayed in the garage unused for about two weeks as there was an unusual delay in getting the registration number from the RTO end. One fine morning when we were supposed to visit Kasba RTO to get the HSRP fixed, the car wouldn’t start. The AMT should not be pushed to start the engine! Had to call Maruti roadside assistance. After about an hour a mobile van reached my place and jumped the battery to start the car. The whole experience was top notch. Maruti customer care kept in touch every 15 minutes or so till the service person arrived and later took a feedback. I wasn’t charged.
The dealer sent a mobile van for the first free service @ 98 km. The inside was cleaned, the hinges greased and fluids topped up. I didn’t allow them to clean the car with their apparently unclean rag! I was provided a free wash coupon valid for six months. The charge incurred for onsite service was a nominal ₹112.
I was also invited to a free service camp by the dealer earlier this year @ 1297 km when some routine maintenance was done.
During the second free service @ 3624 km the car went for some repair and the bill was ₹25,000 for the following jobs:
- Rear bumper replacement
- Front bumper dent repair
- Repair of a long creased dent on the left doors
- Scratch repair on left side wheel arch
- Scratch repair on right side rear door
- Paint work for above repairs
- Both ORVMs re-painted
- Tyre puncture repair
Body repair work @ 3849 km, done at Auto Hitech workshop, cost ₹7,000. The work was far from perfect as the rear bumper wasn’t fitted well and rattled on a slight tap. I was asked over phone to revisit the workshop and get the issue sorted, but I couldn’t find time for a follow up visit. Break up of repair work done was as follows:
- Rear bumper replacement
- Scratch repair on right wheel arch
- Paint work for above repairs
Third free service done @ 6050 km. Routine inspection and maintenance jobs were done. I requested the service advisor to specifically service the air-conditioner well and get the suspension nuts tightened. I got the cabin air filter installed as well, which is not a standard factory fitment in the Alto K10. I opted for synthetic engine oil and insisted on an engine flush before changing the oil from mineral to synthetic. On my request, the SA allowed me to see the engine flush and oil change. I also witnessed the car wash and was mostly pleased with the way every part including the underbody was pressure washed. The engine bay got a wash too and the spare wheel was taken out for a wash as well. 2-3 men dried the car quickly with clean towels, red ones for the paint and blue towels for the windows. The broken antenna was replaced too. The dealer actually took 2 weeks to procure the antenna assembly after I placed an order for it over phone. I also met the body repair advisor and asked him to take a look at the rear bumper which sometimes rattled. He diagnosed poor fit as the cause and asked his guys to put in the missing screws in places. The license plate was not sitting flush on the rear bumper. Double sided tapes were pasted in between for a better seal. Post antenna installation, some wires hanging in the footwell came in the way of my right foot while driving, much to my horror, and I had to take the car to the workshop next week to get it fixed. The third service bill was ₹5798.
- Engine flush ₹802
- Mobil1 0w40 synthetic oil (2.9 litre) ₹3726
- Oil filter ₹90
- Cabin air filter ₹350
- Antenna assembly ₹715
- Antenna installation labour charge ₹115
I usually go to the Dargah road workshop of Machino Techno and I must say I am very impressed by their behaviour and professionalism. Workmanship is also at par with their courteous behavior, although the paint job they did after repair work had one or two areas of imperfection. Auto Hitech workshop on C. N. Roy Road is nearer to me, but I like the entrance and the whole layout of the Machino Techno workshop a lot better.
I got the insurance from Bajaj Allianz, arranged by Maruti dealer. Last year, I claimed insurance for a repair work once and out of the ₹25,000 I was billed for, the company covered ₹11,000. I got the insurance renewed by the same company this year, the annual premium came to be ₹10,800, about ₹4,000 less than first year premium. The formalities were done over phone and a representative handed me the documents at my place.