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Old 28th October 2012, 00:26   #1
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Default Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Here’s a brief review of the small car everyone’s been waiting for – the Maruti Suzuki New Alto 800. Here’s what prompted me to write this review – A Maruti Showroom near my office had setup a ‘demo’ event of the New Alto 800 at our office building and I was really keen on what Maruti had in store for the nation.

I had seen initial pictures and scoop photos of the vehicle and never really liked it. In fact, I really (and secretly) wished that Maruti had brought in the design of the Cervo, but that didn’t happen. I wasn’t a big fan of the new looks of the 800 – until I saw it in flesh at the demo event in my office building. After checking it out like a true-blue BHP-ian, the sales executive offered me his invitation card and said that he could arrange for a test drive of the vehicle.

Fast forward to the weekend and I’m at the showroom with my cousin (thanks to whom you will be seeing some really crisp photos of the vehicle in this write-up) to take the Test Drive. I don’t want to write more and make you guys wait – so here’s the UNOFFICIAL review of the New Alto 800…. Err… Lets GO!

Exterior Styling and Design: This is a point of debate for a lot of us here (and the Common man in general). A lot of us can easily relate to the design as having seen it (or parts of it) on the Ford Figo, Hyundai i120 and Maruti’s own A-Star. The front is not all that great and looks very ordinary. The less said about the front, the better. There is no honeycomb grille or plastic that covers up the AC/radiator in the front and this makes it look a little unsymmetrical (read shabby!). There is no provision for Fog Lamps in the bumper. The headlights extrude out like the ears of elves which spoil (or completely ruin) the looks of the vehicle from the front / front-side-quarter. The sides have been kept plain, except for a small curvy extrusion that goes from the headlamps, all the way to the tail lamps. There is a nice little bump that’s also been made to look like the rear wheel arch – it somehow fits together nicely on the sides. However, Maruti has not overdone the curves here like the Hyundai Eon (which in my opinion looks to be overdone a little too much. Off topic, but I mistook an Eon’s side curves to be a dent on the door, when I looked at it from the rear quarter!)

Coming to the rear of the Alto 800, it looks pretty much like an A-Star. The is a light muscular bevel that runs off of the tail lamps and dips in the centre, making way for the Suzuki Logo – nice! Finally, the roof scoops down at the rear which gives it a nice sporty look. Also, note that the roof has ribs / ridges to strengthen the chassis framework. Ground clearance is AWESOME. I could easily drive over Bangalore’s huge road humps and the car didn’t sweat! It didn’t scrape or grind anywhere, which was a welcome surprise.

Build, Fit and Finish: Stand up and clap for Maruti as they have done a BRILLIANT job in the fit and finish department. It’s ….. umm…. “eons” ahead of the existing Alto and Alto K10 (Pun intended). Panels fit neatly and I could barely find gaping and inconsistent panel gaps that can be found easily on the Alto and K10 models. Good job Maruti! Doors shut with a convincing low bass-y note and not a tinny “clack” sound. One more amazing thing I noticed on all the new Alto 800s is that doors shut in one push. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, talk to any owner of the Old Maruti 800, or the Alto or the K10 and they will tell you all about it. Doors on these older models never shut completely on one GENTLE push and they always-ALWAYS had to be opened and shut firmly again. This never happened on the new Alto 800. I just gently pushed the doors (all four doors and I did this with the Boot too) and they just went in and shut clean! The gentle-ness with which I pushed the doors was something to take note of! Just a nudge of the pinky finger and the door goes in neatly and shuts itself – no drama whatsoever! Ok I may be overreacting to this a bit, but believe me it’s a welcome change after opening & shutting doors repeatedly on existing Alto models. As far as the build and strength of panels are concerned, door panels seem strong and won’t bend / buckle when pressed hard with the finger. Hyundai’s EON had this problem – Whenever I pressed a finger lightly on any of the door panels, it used to buckle a centimeter or two (depending on where I pressed) and would bounce back when I lifted the finger. Nothing like this seen on the new Alto 800. Overall impression on exteriors, build and finish: A great job by Maruti for a car at this price range.

Here are some EXTERIOR pictures of the TD vehicle and of the car in the showroom:

The car arrives to be DRIVEN!
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A Bare looking front with almost non-existent grille. An asymmetric finish given to the radiator/AC cooling coils behind the bumper. It looks rather ugly with the black plastic on the white body.
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No drama on the sides - a nice curvy flat side, as compared to the Eon's overly curvaceous sides.
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The rear looks very much like the A-Star.
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One more shot of the rear:
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There is a lot of fuss on what Maruti should have called the car. Well, this is what THEY called it:
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The tail lamp cluster on the vehicle in the Showroom:
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The rather large Fuel Opening for a car of this size. Perhaps the CNG variant has some answers to this?
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Lets go for the Test Drive now!
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But before we go, take a look at the rather small R12 size wheels:
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Last edited by vsathyap : 28th October 2012 at 10:12. Reason: Adding correct links to photos
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Old 28th October 2012, 00:42   #2
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Default Re: TESTED & DRIVEN: The New Alto 800 - A Humble Review

I am continuing with the Second part of the Review of the Alto 800 here.

Interior Styling and Design: Maruti has done a brilliant job in this section too. You may have read some posts complaining about the quality of plastics used, etc. Let me tell you – those people may be coming from better cars. As I own an Alto K10, I can confirm that the interiors are of much better finish and quality compared to my car. Interiors are offered in 2 colours – dark grey and dark brown (duh!). The dark grey looks good and gels with the interiors of the car nicely. I was a bit apprehensive about the dark brown and was quite surprised when I actually saw it in flesh. It’s not all that bad, but it’s not very pleasant either. Thankfully, Maruti doesn’t have a beige option! On checking with the sales rep, he informed me that the customer can choose what color interiors they want while booking. This is available only on the LXi variant and in specific colours. Again – Maruti playing nice by making customer the king.

You may have read other people’s opinions on saying that the plastics are cheap and flimsy and are not done properly. Well, I am guessing they have never owned a car in the A segment. The plastics are very nicely done and the dashboard has a fresh feel to it. Finish is good and fitting is brilliant. There are no panel gaps between plastics on the dashboard and it feels a lot better than the current Altos. No doubt, Hyundai Eon has much better looking interiors; however, those of the new Alto 800 aren’t all that bad. Eon has more eye-candy like bright LEDs, Gear shift indicators, etc. in the instrument cluster.

The interiors of the New Alto 800 are more “functional” and are less eye-candy. Doors come with fabric trims that make it look much better than the bare plastic found on the current Altos. The door open knob is two-toned which makes a good contrast on the door interiors. In the boot area, the left and right panels behind the seat come with plastic covering. I recollect seeing bare metal in the Hyundai Eon in this area. May be they have changed it now with their zillion newer offerings like Dlite+, etc. but this is something that I noticed almost immediately on opening the boot. Overall impression on the interiors: A very good effort to freshen up the interiors. Neat lines run through the dashboard and make it seem less cluttered and more functional. Although interiors and styling don’t match the Eon, it’s a close second and a welcome change from the boring dull ones from the existing Altos.

Space, Seating & Comfort: The first thing I noticed about the New 800 – its got loads of space on the inside (compared to existing Altos and Eon). The leg room for both front and rear seating is fantastic. Unless you are over 6 feet tall and are sitting behind a driver who happens to be over 6 feet tall, you won’t have a problem with the legroom whatsoever! The driver seat slides so much that I could barely touch the pedals. In normal driving position, there was very good legroom at the rear. Front seats are adequately comfortable and give a nice driving position. Rear seats are a bit uncomfortable, especially if you are planning to sit there for long drives. For city hop-abouts, they are just fine! Seating is for 4 average sized adults – two in front and two at the back. You could probably fit a lean 12-14 year old kid in the middle of the rear seat – MAX.

The interiors are roomy and bright. You won’t have sore elbows in the front as the space between the passenger and the driver is pretty good – unlike the current Altos and Eon. The boot space is ginormous for a car this size. The Eon probably has an equal sized boot (or marginally bigger). Overall Space and Seating comfort is great for a car this size. You must remind yourself that you are sitting in an entry level Car belonging to the A segment, before you go complaining about the spaciousness (or the lack of it) in the interiors (based on other members’ views).

Lastly, coming to storage space, the car comes with a bottle holder platform in front of the gear lever. It has a standard (Alto) sized glove box and there is a small recess in the dash that allows you to keep things like cell phones and eye glasses. There is a small, yet useful cup/squarish hole on the right side, near the ignition / key area where you can keep loose change and toll booth receipts. Neither the passenger nor the driver side gets a vanity mirror on the back side of the sun shade/guard/whatever you call that thingie!

Lets see some pictures of the Roof and Interiors now, Shall we?

The Ribbed Roof - Cuts costs and increases strength!
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One more shot of the roof:
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The big and spacious Boot:
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We could keep one of those Hazard Warning Triangle frames length-wise in the boot.
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The spare tyre. Notice how they have used bits of foam/rubber padding to keep vibrations and other rattles down:
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Let's step in, Shall we?
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The fresh two-tone interior is a welcome change!
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The pretty sparse Center Console:
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Notice that the dashboard is Dark Brown in color. One in the showroom had a dark grey tone.
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The steering column with its two tone brushed metal spokes
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PART 3 Deals with the Actual Test Drive.... Coming up next!

Last edited by vsathyap : 28th October 2012 at 10:19. Reason: Adding correct links to photos
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Old 28th October 2012, 01:00   #3
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Default Re: TESTED & DRIVEN: The New Alto 800 - A Humble Review

PART 3: The Actual Test Drive:

But, before we do this bit, let's take a look at a few more interior pictures for the sake of curiosity:

Well finished AC ducts on the left and right sides of the dashboard:
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Even the ORVM control joystick has seen remarkable improvement in quality and finish:
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The rather simple, yet functionally brilliant instrument cluster:
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A shot of the speedo during the test drive:
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The Gear lever and the two power window buttons:
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There is enough gap between the passenger and the driver that you wont be rubbing elbows with each other:
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A closer look at the handbrake lever:
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The rather small-ish glove box with the neat little recess on the dashboard to store mobile phones and sun-glasses.
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This is how far the Center console AC vents will tilt forward and backward - enough play to cool the small cabin sufficiently.
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Alright ... now that you've seen enough pictures, lets get to the test drive:

The Test Drive: The car arrived at the scene and had run about 330 km already! We took the car onto a deserted patch of road and started our test drives. Turning on the ignition gives you a good feel about the engine. It comes to life without any drama and is ready to “khisko”, as the ads suggest. Slot it into first and we get moving. The clutch is S-M-O-O-O-O-T-H as heaven (even ‘butter’ fails as a comparative metaphor while comparing the smoothness of the clutch). The engine takes the load without any huffing, puffing or grunting and before I know it, we’re touching 40kmph.

Gear lever feels a bit “clickety-clackety” when the engine is off, but smoothens out a LOT after turning the engine on. Gear ratios are well set and throws are short and comfortable. Gear lever feel “right” and there’s absolutely no effort in driving the car. The ride is smooth on even roads and I felt right at home while driving the car. Driving is effortless and the car is MADE for TRAFFIC. It can very easily squeeze through traffic and tight driving situations.

The ground clearance is excellent as we went over two very large humps at fairly decent speed and didn’t scrape the bottom when the suspension took the load. Speaking of suspension, it is adequate. For a car this size and for its rated load, suspension is sufficient. The ride does become bumpy when driving on uneven roads and this is true for any small car. One good thing however, is that there is little body roll, as compared to the Alto K10.

The Driver’s interface: I will be talking about all the things that provide feedback to the driver while driving the car in this section. This will include the engine, gearbox, gear shifts, steering, accelerator (or acceleration), braking and handling.

The Engine and Gears: As far as the engine is concerned, I got a feeling that the engine can deliver better power if it revs a bit, but at the same time, it’s got good low end torque too. It’s very easy to drive about in B2B city traffic. Maruti says that the engine type is F8D in the brochure, so am guessing it’s one of their older engines, which has been fine tuned a bit to suit the newer car. The engine sounds harsh / gruff when revved a lot (can’t tell the RPM as there is no Tacho – but from the sound we heard and from experience, I can say it was over 3500 rpm).

We tested the engine under different conditions, with the AC on and off and it didn’t show much problem with the AC on. There is good pulling power even when the AC is ON. We also tried to see what kind of power it delivers when lugged and it pulled off neatly and effortlessly from 2nd gear, even with the car running barely at walking speed – mind you this was with the AC ON! This is a big improvement over the existing 800 cc Alto. The engine struggled a bit when we slotted to third and were doing 10kmph. Slotting it to 2nd and taking it from there proved to be a walk in the park for the engine.

The gear lever slots nicely into the gears and feels nice and smooth. The clickety-clackety sound of the gear changes is gone when the engine is running. Most importantly, very much unlike the Eon, the gear lever doesn’t vibrate or shudder violently while driving. Its steady and constant – no vibrations or juddering whatsoever! Hyundai – learn from Maruti and stop making cheap Ads on newspapers!!!

The Steering: Steering is light as a feather and is a joy to drive at city speeds. Parking is a breeze and we could make a U turn in a very very narrow road. It felt a bit light at higher speeds too, which was a bit unsettling at first, but it firmed up later as we increased the speed. Steering response is brilliant for city driving. In the looks’ department, the steering comes with a 3 spoke design and has brushed metal finishing on the spokes which make it look sporty. Steering wheel itself feels a bit thicker compared to the older Altos – adding a grip will make it feel even better.

Acceleration and Braking: The response to the accelerator pedal is very good on the new Alto 800. It accelerates very nicely and quickly and the pick-up is very good. You don’t have to sit on the accelerator to make it move. Even with the AC on, it responds well to foot inputs. Compared to the Hyundai Eon, I personally feel that the accelerator feedback / acceleration response is far better on the new Alto 800. On the other hand, braking is not confidence inspiring. The car is lazy while braking and doesn’t come to a stop where you would expect it to. You need to brake consciously and with a heavy foot on the pedal. May be the test drive car felt like this as it could have been abused during other TDs, but nevertheless, brakes lack bite. The sales person told us that they will get better after the first service (which needs to be seen).

Handling: The car feels solid at city driving speeds. It can hop over speed bumps easily and handles very well. It’s easy to park and turn, and is a refreshing and welcome offering to the badly packed city streets. We test-drove the LXi model which had the power steering. Hence, I have no idea what the ones without power steering handled like. The car is extremely simple to drive, especially with the smooth clutch. Gears slot in easily and the car is eager to move forward.

We did a bit of “snake-like” zig-zag driving along with multiple tight round about turns too, to get the feel of the body roll and handling. There was very little body roll and we felt only the effects of the undulations on the road. The car does give you feedback of bumps on the road. We also got a feeling that it would behave even better if we had 4 people on board – the added weight would definitely soften the ride. The car seemed a tad under-tired – a ploy to increase the mileage figures. The wheels look tiny compared to the car and act accordingly. Thankfully, the suspension is good enough to keep things stable during turns.

NVH: It’s time for you to stand up and clap – Again! Do it once more. Once more ..Again! Maruti has done a fantabulous job in reducing the NVH levels on the car. We could barely hear the traffic outside and there was very little noise of the engine, under normal driving conditions. We could hear the engine only when we revved hard before we changed gears. There was absolutely no rattle or any squeaks or other noise that we could hear. Sound proofing is awesome! There is very little or almost no vibration.

Unlike the Eon, the gear lever was stable and planted while driving. There was very little judder even when we tried to lug the engine. Another thing I noticed is that the older 800cc Alto would judder a bit when the AC was switched on – more like reacting to the compressor’s load. There’s nothing like that on this new Alto 800 - nada – zilch – ZERO! It’s a very nice place to be in while you’re stuck in bad maddening traffic, listening to your favourite tunes.

Alright!!! The car seems to be too good to be true... or it is? Well, there are some things that are sorely missing in the car. We will find out what those are in the next part of this thread.

Head over to Part 4 to know "WHATS MISSING"

Last edited by vsathyap : 28th October 2012 at 10:38. Reason: Adding correct links to photos
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Old 28th October 2012, 01:10   #4
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Default Re: TESTED & DRIVEN: The New Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Well, the new Alto almost sounds too good to be true... or is it ? Find out what Maruti Missed in its latest launch to appease the Indian "aam aadmi"....

A few things missing: Maruti has tried to keep the cost low. This is evident in many areas. The options to accessorize are few in this car. You don’t get fog lamps in any variant. Forget actual fog lamps, even the slots to put in fog lamps are missing on the bumper. This means that you will have to trust your new car’s bumper to a guy holding a hacksaw blade and a drill gun in the wrong angle!

Another thing I noticed, or rather didn’t find is that the car doesn’t have the standard 12V cigarette lighter fitment. I see that there IS a slot on the dashboard, below the wiper knob, but it’s been covered with a plastic lid. Maruti doesn’t provide you with an OEM audio system on any variant of the car. Hyundai gives an OEM unit with 2 front speakers on one of their models. This has both positives and negatives. Maruti has left the choice to the customer – install whatever you like! If seen from the other side, it’s like – the customer now needs to spend time and effort to find out about good audio systems and install one.

Another (welcome) thing missing is the rear parcel tray. They have decided to go without one as providing a flimsy one on which you can’t install speakers, or keep anything heavy is useless anyways. Another thing missing is the left side ORVM. You can get one installed however, at additional cost. There are no Alloy wheels on any variant. The accessories shop at the showroom will, however, sell Alloys to you at ‘higher than market’ prices! These are the only negatives I could think of while writing this review, and from what I recollect from the TD. I will update the thread with more, if I remember something I missed here.

Now, lets see pictures of what's actually MISSING:

Notice the absence of the Left Side ORVM:
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The Driver Side Sunvisor does not come with a Vanity Mirror:
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Neither does the passenger side! Actually, one of the variants of the Alto doesnt even offer the Passenger Side Sun-Visor to keep costs low. Seriously??? How much could that piece of foam wrapped in plastic cost ??
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The 12V Cigarette Lighter is missing.
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The rather uncomfortable rear seats lacking proper head-rests.
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Happy? Not Happy? Well... the LAST and FINAL part of this write up is coming up next - THE CONCLUSION!

Last edited by vsathyap : 28th October 2012 at 10:48. Reason: Adding correct links to photos
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Old 28th October 2012, 01:20   #5
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Default Re: TESTED & DRIVEN: The New Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Here's the conclusion: The Verdict!

The verdict: After having a detailed analysis and test drive of the New Alto 800, I must say that I am impressed. Maruti have a superb car in their kitty. The car rides well, handles well and offers adequate creature comforts for the average Indian. The common man now has another fantastic car he can choose from a wide variety of models. The new Alto 800 is a sort of MADE FOR INDIA car that will sell like hot cakes.

If I can give an analogy, it’s more like the humble Nokia1100 phone which was almost indestructible and was MADE FOR INDIA. Of course, it never had fancy features like Bluetooth, etc., but that’s a different segment altogether – so there’s no point in comparing. It had a brilliant battery life (read mileage) and could be dropped even a thousand times, and yet it would still work without skipping a beat. Of course there were other manufacturers (like Sony Ericcson – read Hyundai Eon) but still, Nokia 1100 was a super hit.

I have a feeling this car will also be something like that. It’s going to be for the masses. Rural and semi-urban India will lap it up in thousands and having a trusted name like Maruti is icing on top of the cake. It’s a perfect car for those who want to buy a new car for the first time; It’s perfect for those who would want to replace an ageing work-horse (the old Alto 800); It’s perfect for those who are looking for a second car without having to worry about any of the maintenance fuss or high costs of ownership / deprecation. The car is also available in CNG variant that gives you more bang for the buck. The car also has some issues that Maruti would probably address in the next generation of the car. That said, these are mainly related to accessorizing the car and nothing else. Hyundai better get their strategies right. As I see it, this will eat into the Eon Sales. Maruti shouldn’t be too worried about cannibalizing the sales of the Old Alto 800 as that car will soon be taken off the shelves anyway.

One thing I want to remind readers before you draw conclusions about this car is this – This is an A segment entry level car for a nation which wants something more than the “cheap” Nano, and yet, reliable like the old Alto. Don’t go to expect fireworks from this vehicle and you won’t be disappointed!

This is a car made to replace the Maruti 800 and it had some very big, ‘small-car’ shoes to fill in. The Maruti 800 is something every average Indian, the Common Man, can associate himself with, in some point of time in his life. This car is set to replace that: THE 8-0-0. Can the New Alto 800 do it? Only time will tell.

I leave you to your thoughts by adding a few more pictures of some more aspects of the New Alto 800:

The legroom in the rear. The driver was 5'8" tall and I am 5'10". Pretty spacious if you look at it!
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Nicely spaces pedals. Notice that the dummy pedal is missing.
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The engine bay. There is a LOT of empty space under the Hood. This is the Petrol LXi variant here:
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The Engine bay from another angle:
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To those curious to know whether the rear window glass rolls down fully? Umm, partly yes and partly no:
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And your comments and views are welcome....

Last edited by vsathyap : 28th October 2012 at 10:51. Reason: Adding correct links to photos
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Old 28th October 2012, 08:53   #6
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Default Re: TESTED & DRIVEN: The New Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Isnt it possible for maruti to offer an automatic version of their new alto? In today's traffic, it would be a real boon. They could at least offer this upgrade if the customer demands it.
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Old 29th October 2012, 11:29   #7
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Default Re: Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Initial Ownership Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 29th October 2012, 12:21   #8
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Default Re: Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

A very detailed test drive of the little car. I am a bit surprised when you say the car is quiet inside when started. I did feel a bit on 3 pot rumble when the car was stationary and the engine started. Might be one off case for me, let me check with another car.

Agree the fit and finish has improved over the Alto.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 29th October 2012, 12:23   #9
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Default Re: Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Great write up bro ! wont be able to upload pics from office.

Will upload pics from my side as soon as i reach home .
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Old 29th October 2012, 19:03   #10
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Default Re: Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Here are some pics from my side
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Old 29th October 2012, 23:59   #11
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Default Re: Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Thanks for the review and detailed pics, vsathyap.
In the total scheme of things, the overall product looks way better than the product it replaces.

Personally i do not like the looks, the design is heavily "inspired"- the front seems Figo-ish, and the rear A-star and i10ish. And there is a little bit of the Swift when viewed side-on, especially around the windows.

What i am genuinely surprised is how with the same wheelbase the new design liberates more rear cabin space and boot space too!
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Old 30th October 2012, 07:31   #12
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Default Re: Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Congratulations and a great write up. Thanks for sharing. I am sure everyone in this country has their own little 800 story. Over 25 years and this thing is still going strong. The latest iteration has alot of cuts and cues to make it modern and maruti has definitely succeeded to some extent.The quality also seems to improve. Drive safe.

Last edited by bigron : 30th October 2012 at 07:34.
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Old 30th October 2012, 12:16   #13
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Default Re: Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

vsathyap that is a very nice review indeed covering all aspects of the newest offering from Maruti. One thing that changes after reading this review is the perception of the car itself, starting with the looks which were deemed to be a mix and match of many parts from the auto bin.

With the old F8D under the hood, it is essentially the same ancient workhorse tweaked for the modern times, not sure why did they not get the brilliant K10 motor into the hood. May be this will be another variant in the near future pitted in the lines of the Alto K10

One thing that is still not clear (may be it has been clarified elsewhere ) is that

-has the old Alto been replaced completely with this car or both the cars are still being sold together.
-also what is going to be the strategy wrt the current K10 version being sold (since this will be the older model selling with a more modern heart)
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Old 30th October 2012, 14:09   #14
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Default Re: Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Thank you so much for the review Vsathyap. Very informative and detailed.

I got to see the car in flesh at a Maruti showroom last Sunday. As per the sales guy one of the major upgrade to the car is the engine is all aluminum. Not sure about this though.

Need to see how the car does on highways. Of course, it is an entry level car and we shouldn't be expecting it to run like a horse but still little curious to know where does it stand.

Thanks again for sharing.

Cheers !
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Old 30th October 2012, 15:17   #15
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Default Re: Tested & Driven: The Maruti Alto 800 - A Humble Review

Congratulations and thank you for a very detailed review Sathya. Gathering from your piece, Maruti needs to be indeed lauded for managing to pack in so much in what is essentially a budget car. Good to know that they haven't skimped on the fit and finish quality in the car. I'm certainly curious and intend to check out the Alto 800 at a dealership soon.
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