The small car segment has been the most important segment in the Indian car market, since the time the first car of that size, M800, was introduced here – and it is still available in most part of the country.
The Maruti M800 is on offer in India for last 28 years (1984 to 2012). Over this period the company has sold over 2.5 million units, with one major update (1986) and lots of minor changes as and when needed. Though the car is phased out from metro cities due to unavailability of BSIV engine, it is still available in the rural areas where it is sold in meager numbers. Since May there are rumours that Maruti has stopped production of the M800, but the company has denied them time and again. Next is the Alto. The success graph for this car is even steeper with the Alto holding the best seller title for over a decade.
However, with rising petrol prices and availability of options like the Hyundai Eon, Maruti’s grip on this segment is loosening. The solution was disclosed at the 2012 Auto Expo, without providing too many details. MSI MD, Nakanishi, confirmed that the company was considering a new car that will replace the M800 and the Alto in India, with up-to-date styling and technology. For a while it was believed that the Cervo will be the new Maruti small car for India. But then, our friends at OnCars snapped an all-new car from Maruti with minimal camouflage, divulging lot more about the company’s plans. The new car is called the Alto 800.
Though it would have been easier for Maruti to introduce the Cervo here, it would have been difficult to start at such a low price point to justify it as a M800 replacement. So what we have instead is a refreshed and pleasant looking small car based on the current Alto platform. The Alto 800 boosts of a new design philosophy, though it looks a bit like mixture of few others. At front is the new hexagonal air-dam that looks like the one on the Ford Figo and Renault Pulse. The headlamp cluster looks similar to that of the Hyundai i10, while the tiny front grille is unlike any other Maruti model. Despite the fact it is an entry-level car, it is not bland and there are prominent creases on both bonnet and the front bumper.
The rear of the new small car looks like that of the Hyundai i20 and it is nice to know that the Alto 800 gets a conventional boot-lid, and not like the one seen on the A-Star. From the side this car looks like a typical Maruti Suzuki with flared arches and noticeable straight shoulder line. The interiors of the Alto 800 are expected to be all-new, with better space management for more leg room. It also looks taller than both the Alto and M800, and this will help maneouvering it in city traffic.
The car is also gets a new 800cc petrol engine, which will be BSIV and BSV compliant with high efficiency figures. The base version of the Alto 800 that won’t even have an air conditioner – it competes with the top-end Tata Nano Higher variants will compete with the Hyundai Eon, Chevy Spark, and Tata Indica Xeta and might also cannibalize the Alto K10, which will not be discontinued. Maruti Suzuki might also offer CNG variant at the time of the launch, as there is shift in trend with many buyers opting for premium models over entry-level cars for the diesel or alternative fuel options.
The expectations from the new Alto 800 are very high – knowing that it will replace the M800 and also the best seller for 12 years. Or then again, they will be very simple – decently looking, easy to run and maintain and most importantly value-for-money.