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Old 24th September 2022, 18:31   #1
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Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

ONE.POINT.ONE

Regarding cars in India, the name 'Alto' happens to be one of the most familiar, if not the most familiar. Considering that the little Maruti Alto is India's best-selling car, everyone is reasonably well versed with it, even non-car people. The Alto was launched in 2000 and was a sign of good things to come. Initially, it took a little while for the sales to pick up, but once they did, there was no looking back.

Now most of us here would identify the Alto as the jolly little three-pot hatchback that continues to win hearts all over the nation year after year after year. The older cars got the F8D 3 cylinder 796 cc engine which was shared with the 800 5 speed and later went into the Alto 800. In 2010, MS introduced the K10 3-cylinder 997cc engine and dubbed the model the Alto K10.

Now it's all very well about how people love their Altos for the 3 cylinder frugality and ease of maintenance. However, few remember the Wolf in Sheep's clothing.

Let me jog your memories

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220424_102720.jpg
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Old 24th September 2022, 20:08   #2
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1- The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing !!

Say Hello once again to the notorious sibling of the composed 796cc Alto
This hatchback sadly died an early death and eventually went on to be forgotten for good by most, except for the few that owned them. This here is the Alto 1.1, a car that I would confidently call a sleeper!

Now it's time for a little bit of a history lesson.
The Alto was launched by MS in September 2000 and sold two variants at the beginning. The LX variant which was the base containing the 796cc 3 cylinder F8D engine and the VX variant which got the 1097cc 4 cylinder F10D engine. While the LX was completely bare-bones, it is the VX that had all the bells and whistles. Sadly, not many consumers were keen to pay a hefty sum of 3.7 lakh rupees for the VX, furthermore, it was eating into the sales of the then also new WagonR which carried the same F10D motor. Several people eventually went on to pick the WagonR. This led to Maruti Suzuki axing the 1.1 Alto in mid-2004.

The car you see in the image doesn't belong to me. It's a car that I happened to babysit and shelter for a friend for a couple of months or so, earlier this year.

So here's how it happened.
A friend of mine named Nirmal from Coimbatore who also happens to be a car enthusiast called me one day in April 2022 saying that his sister was moving to Mumbai in a couple of months and needed a nice small car for running about. While their budget was a bit sub 1 lakh rupees, I decided to narrow it down to the best cars we could find for that price. He was very keen on an Alto itself because he happens to own one back home (also a 1.1) and she would find it comfortable to use and drive in the city due to familiarity.

So I began to help search for a nice Alto for them. My mechanic Ravi had a very clean Alto LXi at the time which he had purchased from a client, but he was in no mood to sell. So that was out. Eventually, through a known source, I came to know about the 1.1.

The source was someone in the mechanical line itself and he said his friend in Mazgaon had a nice single owner Alto for sale. The 'friend' happened to be a middleman who had also posted the car for sale on OLX. I showed pics of the car to Nirmal and he was keen, so one sultry Saturday afternoon I decided to go take a look at the car on his behalf. I took Ravi uncle along for a better examination.

On first look, this car went straight onto my reject list. It was parked in one corner of the road under a tree, looking rather sad. It seemed very shabbily kept, was dusty and covered in bird poo , had faded paint, and ants crawling all over the roof. I almost considered walking away there itself. However, since we had come all the way I decided to complete the scrutiny before leaving. The middleman was a decent chap and apologized for the unkept condition of the car saying that his cleaner had not been coming for a few days. Well, whatever..

I opened the door and was instantly greeted by the Tachometer, which the regular Alto did not get. The interior was a little dirty but it was immaculately kept otherwise. The seat fabric was intact, it retained the original Head unit and the two front power windows worked too! That was a win.

Soon after that, I started the car and it started as it should in half a crank. The engine was super quiet and smooth, I could barely hear it with bonnet down. It did sound a little course in parts though owing to old oil. The car had run only 40k km, a pittance and owing to the way she ran, post Ravi's examination, we knew it was genuine.

The test drive really had me in awe of the car. The low end torque of the motor was fabulous and when I put my foot down, the car went right like a bat out of hell. The clutch was so light, complimented by smooth gearshifts and a chilling AC. It felt amazing to drive. So I was convinced this was the car to get. Later, that evening I spoke to Nirmal at length and a couple of days later he sealed the deal.

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_135823.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_135627.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_135654.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_135911.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_134653.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_134702.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_134851.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_134902.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_135916.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220403_135919.jpg

This particular car happens to be a 2002 model Alto VXi 1.1 SPIN. The SPIN variant was an edition that was launched in 2002 with power steering giving it the name. The Alto 1.1 VX on the other hand , did not get a power steering.

Last edited by BeemerBug_06 : 25th September 2022 at 18:42.
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Old 24th September 2022, 20:20   #3
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1- The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing !!

While the deal was done, I decided to ready the car. That meant giving it a full and through mechanical service and doing other things that it needed, such as taking it for a long drive

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220417_173636.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220417_183927.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220417_183938.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220417_184630.jpg
The first thing I decided to do for this car was getting new number plates, considering the original plates looked hideous and had rusted through and through.

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220419_184931.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220419_185219.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220419_191132.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220419_193000.jpg
The condition of the old oil, eww

A complete mechanical service was carried out for the car which included:-
-Oil change
-Coolant change and flush
-Brake service
-New Filters
-New Spark plugs
-Door and window greasing
-AC service
-New cross-member (old one had began rusting)

All this was done for a very reasonable rate and the car felt as good as new. Apart from the fact that it needed new tyres and new front suspension. However, for the time being I could live with that

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220422_195548.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220422_195608.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220422_195623.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220422_201925.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220422_201942.jpg

All clean post the service!
Do note that the car is still wearing its original paint here. The colour is called Cool Silver iirc.

Last edited by BeemerBug_06 : 24th September 2022 at 21:00.
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Old 24th September 2022, 20:29   #4
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1- The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing !!

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220426_215111.jpg
The cousins finally meet!

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220420_173712.jpg
Every Alto engine ever in a single image

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220504_180223.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220504_182110.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220507_170754.jpg

While the two cars may seem identical otherwise, here are a few visual differences between the 0.8 and 1.1 Alto :-
- 0.8 litre Alto only came with black bumpers whereas the 1.1 got the superiority of body-coloured bumpers.
- 0.8 litre Alto did not get a rear wiper.
- 0.8 litre Alto did not get a chrome trim above the front grill
- 0.8 litre Alto initially got only a LHS flat ORVM. The 1.1 got the round internally adjustable ORVMs on both sides.
- No door trim for the 0.8 litre Alto

As for the interior :-
- No power windows and power steering for the regular Alto till launch of LXi . The 1.1 got front power windows and a power steering for 1.1 VXI spin
- 1.1 got better seat fabric
- 1.1 got a MS Cassette player Headunit from factory

Last edited by BeemerBug_06 : 24th September 2022 at 20:31.
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Old 24th September 2022, 20:51   #5
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1- The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing !!

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220424_102720.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220424_102727.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220424_105407.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220504_074712.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220504_074717.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220504_074721.jpg

I had the chance to enjoy this little car for a little over a month before handing it over to the current owner who is putting it to good daily use

So here is what I felt about the Alto 1.1 :-

Pros:-
  • Superb 1.1 litre 4 cylinder F10D motor:- The F10D engine in this little Alto makes about 65 bhp or so. Compared to its 796cc sibling, this car feels super fast and refined. The little weight of the shell makes for superb driveability. Thanks to the traceability of this engine, it has amazing low-end torque which only gets better as you push it, making it an absolute boon for city commuting. Furthermore, it is very quick off the line and 0-60 happens in barely a few seconds. It revs all the way up to 6k rpm, a true straight-line rocket! No one would expect that from an Alto now would they ? That is why I would call it a sleeper.
  • Power steering:- Having an EPS does help at the end of the day, especially in bumper-to-bumper city traffic, primarily where I drove this car!
  • Praciticality:- The Alto 1.1 is an extremely practical car, for the city as well as for highway travel. Unlike my Zen, which literally has only one cubbyhole for storage, this car has got plenty more space for your knick knacks
  • Powerful AC:- The Ac was a true bone chiller. I tested it in the usual hot Mumbai summer afternoons and on a couple of occasions even had to turn it off! Again, unlike the Zen, this car's AC need not be turned off to get that extra ounce of power from the engine
  • Feature Packed:- The Alto 1.1 is very well equipped with two front power windows, power steering, a rear wash and wiper, and space. Surely a very practical and sensible overall package for the city.
  • It is a Maruti :- And there's no going wrong with that ! In terms of quality, it in fact feels nicer than some of today's MS products

Cons:-
  • Mileage :- No , I don't mean that the 1.1 returns poor fuel economy, but compared to its frugal 3-cylinder sibling, it looses out.
  • Dull Interior:- The interiors of the Alto in general are very drab. The blank steering horn pad along with hard plastics everywhere make you feel like you're in a boring space.
  • Handling :- While I did mention that the car needed new tyres and front suspension earlier, I drove it again some time ago after they were changed. Handling wise it feels sloppy compared to the Zen which is taught and steady around corners. Not the best handler after all ! Its more of a straight line car. While the Zen is an out and out driver's car, the Alto 1.1 is more of a city car that just happens to be fun to drive

Last edited by BeemerBug_06 : 25th September 2022 at 18:39.
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Old 24th September 2022, 20:59   #6
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1- The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing !!

Conclusion


The Alto 1.1 is a brilliant little car. It is a great all-around package. Those who have owned or driven it would certainly agree with me. Such a shame that Maruti Suzuki put such a superb product to rest in little time. However, I guess sometimes decisions need to be taken in the best interest of the business.

Finding a nice 1.1 Alto is not easy now, like I said earlier, few would even remember they existed. But if you do manage to get one at a good price, pick it up and you won't be disappointed

I enjoyed my time with this car. But would I choose it over my Zen?
No way! It is a great car, but the Zen is just special for me. However, as mentioned earlier there are several instances where it scores over the Zen and there is no changing that. As for 4213, it will soon be receiving a much needed overcoat and some nice magwheels

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-img_20220815_173602.jpg

So that was my little tribute/mini-ownership review of the Wolf in Sheep's clothing. What do you think about the Alto 1.1 ? Any memories or instances you might have associated with it ? Do write about it.

Signing off,
BeemerBug
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Old 25th September 2022, 19:07   #7
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 25th September 2022, 19:21   #8
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

You brought back memories! A friend on mine had an Alto 1.1 back in college. Man, it was an absolute hoot to drive. Tiny featherweight hatch, slick manual and sorted gearing. We used to drag back then, and this little pitbull of a car would often win against Swifts, Polo TDis and Fabia 1.6s.

Even when driving around. Just drop a gear and floor it. It could embarrass cars costing 5 times it’s price. 65bhp BS2 engine in expert hands had better real world performance than 80bhp BS4 motors.

Too bad MS chose to kill it, lest it cannibalise the more expensive WagonR which also shared the same engine.

Last edited by Shreyans_Jain : 25th September 2022 at 19:32.
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Old 25th September 2022, 20:06   #9
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

Brings back amazing memories. Our first car was a Alto VX 1.1. My dad was planning to book a new Santro xing or Alto LXi in 2003 when his friend casually mentioned that he was planning to sell off his 2001 Alto VX 1.1. His friend made him understand how the 1.1 was better around the ghats and overall performance was unaffected with the AC on. My dad was convinced and the Alto was bought home. We had it for 3 years till we left india in 2006. Apart from the lack of power steering on the VX variant, it was perfect. I still remember how the Alto 1.1 could easily keep up with the Esteems and ikons. The rear wiper was a boon during mumbai monsoons. Wish I could buy it back. It was sold off to someone who had moved out of Maharashtra. Attaching two pics that were clicked outside our home in Amalner around December 2003. This was our first long trip.
Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-fb_img_1664116315698.jpg

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-fb_img_1664116319670.jpg
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Old 26th September 2022, 02:23   #10
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

It's great to see an Alto 1.1 in such a great condition, such a really well-maintained car! The VX/VXI version with F10A engine used to be a great choice for someone who wanted to upgrade from a Maruti 800, but wasn't interested to go for tallboy hatches like Santro and Matiz. The 1.1 F10A engine, of course, transformed the ordinary Alto into a souped up performance car in comparison to the regular 800cc variants.

Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!-alto2001-1.11_1.jpg
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Old 26th September 2022, 09:22   #11
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

A trip down memory lane! Such posts really do make me feel old!

It is amazing to see how far the Indian automotive space has come in the past two decades or so, the sheer pace growth and development has been remarkable.

I still remember the days when 'power windows' or 'power steering' used to be USPs, today even the most basic cars come equipped with the kit that we used to pay a premium for once upon a time.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 26th September 2022, 09:22   #12
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

WOW!! I have been waiting for so long to see an ownership review of this underrated gem. You have TASTE my guy. I have a Wagon R F10d at home and I love that engine. Although the car has been relatively expensive to maintain costing northwards of 15k per service (averaged), the engine itself required very little maintenance.

It does sound coarse at the redline but up until like 5000 rpm it sounds really damn good. I have an Altroz at home too and I don't particularly enjoy the sound it makes even at high revs.

As for the handling, I think you should go for a stiffer suspension setup and that should improve the handling. I envy you . At least you could do something to fix the handling while I can't do anything to improve the handling of my Wagon R owing to its tall height .
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Old 26th September 2022, 10:51   #13
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

Nice write up on the 1.1.

I drove one just once for a short distance of around 6-7 kms, but it was loaded with passengers and it was on the ring road when it was just built. Back then I was used to driving my dad's 800 and I was asked to drive this which was an Uncle's beater car to ferry some relatives back home. I had no idea it would pick up speed rapidly and in no time I was doing some decent speeds on ring road, that one my aunt's asked me to slow down.

I guess this was also an export model which explains all the features that the 800 Alto didn't get.
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Old 26th September 2022, 11:08   #14
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

I knew of it's existence. When my BIL bought an Alto Lxi in 2004 I told him of this variant and to go for it. But he hesitated because of the price difference and bought the Alto LXi.

When I bought my Alto Lxi in 2009 I tried to get a good pre owned 1100 cc Alto but couldn't succeed. There were very few cars in the market and for the price that was asked, a new Alto LXi was favoured by everyone in the family. A new car is a new car after all!

Last edited by Gansan : 26th September 2022 at 11:26.
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Old 26th September 2022, 11:13   #15
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Re: Maruti Suzuki Alto 1.1 - The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing!

We used to own the 1.1 VX when it was offered for a limited time in '04. It was our quintessential hot hatch. It also got me into car audio where i had a full blown audio setup with sony xplod head unit and subwoofer. It was a hit during my college days. It was surprising for my friends that inclines did not need the ac to be off.
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