Maruti Suzuki A-star Automatic – Review

')">India’s largest car manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki India Limited have been throwing small car after small car at us. They have more than 50% market share in the Indian automobile sector. If at all a buyer is in the market for a small car, he doesn’t have to look beyond Maruti Suzuki India Limited. This is what the company intends to do. Spoil the buyers with so many choices that they wouldn’t care to scout for other brands.They had just offered the Maruti Suzuki A-star in January 2008. To spoil the buyers and with the demand from this market for a sporty automatic small car, Maruti Suzuki India Limited couldn’t have agreed more and have chosen the Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic to be its automatic avatar in the small car market. We have driven the new Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic and came up with the following review.

Looks

The Maruti Suzuki A-star was one car which became a production model shortly after it was shown as a concept in the London Motor show in 2008. However it must be mentioned that the concept as well as the production version aren’t too similar. The production version has been toned down and it would have been prudent of the higher up management from Maruti Suzuki to retain the concept car looks. Those glazed out LED lamps at the rear are still a strong memory from the Auto Expo show. Nevertheless, the Maruti Suzuki A-star is a cool looking car. Its pop out head lamps still stand out after 2 years and make it immediately noticeable. It has got a slightly Audi type however toned down grille. The bonnet is also small and just below the bonnet sits the Suzuki logo. The fog lamps are slightly slanted and look their funky part. Visually, from outside, both the Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic and its manual variant are the same except for the automatic badging.

Not many know that the A badging in the A-star stands for Aerodynamic. By the look of it, it does seem like the Maruti Suzuki A-star is an aerodynamic car and is far better than the others in its class. To be precise, its drag coefficient is 0.30 making it one of the most slippery cars in its class. The side profile shows a similar stance like the much applauded Suzuki Swift.There is a rear quarter glass and a small glass area. The 13 inch wheels some how do justice to the flared wheel arches. The outside rear view mirrors are big and rounded however they don’t come in body colored casing. They make do with black casings. Even the door handles are black.

The rear is also quite an interesting design element in the Maruti Suzuki A-star.  It has the same Alto stance however with a slightly re-arranged tail lamp cluster. This is also of the clear lens type. There is a small lip protrusion from the rear bumper. It adds to the overall car’s sporty looks. The rear hatch glass is also sort of small but better than the rear ones. The stop lamp is also mounted on top of the rear glass.

Interiors

Everyone knows that in the global market, the Maruti Suzuki A-star replaces the Suzuki Alto however in India, as is the norm, both the cars would co-exist. The Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic is a built to price car and this shows the moment you open the door of the car or close it. There would be a tinny sound emanating the moment you close the door. Get past that and you would notice a new instrument cluster than the Alto. Alas, the rev counter that was a topic of discussion in the manual is sorely missed in the Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic. It gets the same steering wheel from the Suzuki Swift minus the steering controls. The interiors have the duo-tone grey combination unlike the other grey from Maruti Suzuki’s stables. The gear shift lever is a slightly larger one than the manual. Quality of the bits and parts is okay but not better than that in the Hyundai i10 automatic. The Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic comes only in the Vxi guise and it gets only power windows all around and wheel covers. There is a parcel shelf as well. The front seats are the best in the house as they adjust for travel and are quite comfortable. Mind you, the A-star is still a car strictly for 4 people. Ideal place to get to know your new girlfriend.

There is a big glove box above the hooded dash binnacle. The door map pockets are seriously small and would barely hold anything. The steering wheel derived from the Swift is also quite good to hold and use. The rear seats disappoint with their low seating and also flat bench. The boot is also small at 129 liters. It however can fit in a big suitcase as well as a small bag.

Handling and ride quality

This is an all new car and not one borrowed from Suzuki’s Japan line up. This was the case with the earlier Wagon R as well as the Estilo. Since this is a grounds up car, it uses various bits from Suzuki’s bin. The suspension is the typical Mcphersons up front and independent trailing arm at the rear. The Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic, even though it has a high ground clearance, just corners excellently. It can be said that it has the Suzuki Swift’s agility going for it. The electronic power steering is also not over assisted like the others from the Maruti’s stables. It is quite light at city or parking speeds and weighs up nicely once you reach triple speeds. There is one glitch though, it doesn’t adjust for height.

Due to the firm suspension, some hard bumps do filter into the cabin however the ride quality is far better than the similarly firm sprung Suzuki Swift. Actually speaking, the ride quality is quite good for a small car and a far better one from the Maruti Suzuki stables. There is a typical gruff idle note from the three pot cylinder when fired up however press the accelerator and this vanishes. There is no road noise filtering into the cabin however at high engine speeds, the engine note is quite audible. The shock absorbers are gas damped at all the four corners and this helps very much with the ride quality.

Space quotient isn’t helped much by the faded looking plastics and the not so big greenhouse.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

The Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic uses the same engine as the manual variant however its gear ratios have been tuned more for the city use than the tall ones on the manual. The heavy use of aluminium components and millions of man hours spent in developing this all new engine is now paying dividends with the same iteration used in many of the other Maruti Suzuki cars in India and abroad. The engine in question is the 998 cc 3 cylinder K10B engine putting out 66 bhp @  6000 rpm and about 90 Nm of torque @ 3,200 rpm. The transmission is the biggest change in the Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic and it is a 4 speed automatic unit. Prod the accelerator and select D, the Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic would show the same alertness as the manual one. It is quite nippy to travel around in city. Moreover it gives enough space to tall drivers to rest their left foot near the brake pedal. The top speed for the automatic is a cool 148 kmph. This is about 8 kmph less than the manual variant. The Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic goes from 0-100 kmph in 17.8 seconds. This is 2.6 seconds more to that of the A-star manual. However the 4 speed automatic transmission isn’t without its fault as you would be found hunting for a gear at the highway. Highway overtaking manouevers would have to be done better in the manual variant as the automatic seems sort of lethargic.

Braking is taken care by discs at the front and drums at the rear. There is also ABS and EBD supporting the braking cause. This do well to bring the Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic to a halt safely and without much drama.

Safety is also handled by the ample of crumple zones, side intrusion beams, pedestrian protecting high set bumpers, 2 air bags and 3 point ELR seat belts. There are also non removable front seat head rests.

Fuel efficiency which is so paramount in the Indian auto market sector is also addressed and not much off the mark from the manual’s high standards. The Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic returned 14 kmpl in the city with the AC on and about 21 kmpl on the highway at a steady speed of 80 kmph and with the AC on. This figures easily beat those of the other automatic car in its category, the Hyundai I10 Asta automatic. The Hyundai returns 13.6 kmpl in city and 19.1 on the highway. There are no other automatics offered in this segment as of now and till the competition comes up with a more solid answer, the Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic is the way to go as far as fuel efficiency is considered. That too in automatics.

All this credit goes to the K10B series engine family. It is light and fuel efficient along with been eco friendly. It meets the Euro 5 emission norms as well as the current BS4 emission ones. It is rumored that a slight tweak in the mill would make it comply to even distant Euro 6 norms. The small engine bay that houses this small engine also leaves lots of space. Such is the size of this engine that Maruti have no shoe horned it in the smaller Alto as well. It puts out only 90 kgm of CO2 per 100 kilometers and is by far the only car apart from the Tata Nano that can boast of such figures. That saying, the Tata Nano is only a 623 cc car and the Maruti one is 998 cc.

Verdict

The Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic is a sensible option considering the fact that most of the times we do our driving chores inside confines of the city. It is an excuse to give some much needed rest to your left leg which would be aching every time you think of changing the gear. It also doesn’t compromise much on the fuel efficiency as well as the peppiness of the K10B motor. It is reasonably built and has killer looks to go along with. One which would earn you a good distinction and not that of another small car driver types. It has good ride and handling qualities as well. What more could you ask from it? Probably some more space at the rear, the cool tachometer and better looking plastics. Its sticker price is also less by about 15 thousand from that of its nearest rival Hyundai I10 Asta automatic. Like the Hyundai, it is also offered in only one guise and it is the Vxi. The Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic is priced at Rs. 4.34 lakhs {ex-showroom, Mumbai}.

Technical specifications of the Maruti Suzuki A-star automatic

Displacement: 3 cylinder, 998cc, KB10, MPFi
Engine Type: Petrol
Maximum Power: 66 Bhp @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 90 Nm @ 3200 rpm
Length: 3400 mm
Width: 1600 mm
Height: 1490 mm
Tyre Size: 155/80 R13
Suspension:
Rear: Isolated Trailing-link
Front: MacPherson Strut
Steering: Electronic Power assisted speed sensitive
Brakes: Front Disc, Rear drums
Gears: 4 speed automatic
Turning Circle: 4.40 mtrs.
Ground Clearance: 170.00 mm
Boot Space: 129.00 ltrs.
Kerb Weight: 860.00 kgs
Fuel Tank: 36.00 liters

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