Maruti Suzuki’s replacement car for their hugely successful Maruti 800 began way back in 2001 when they introduced the Maruti Alto in India. However buyers who had initially shirked away from the Zen, in a similar fashion, ignored the Alto. However it was only after some price cuts and revisions to the interiors that Maruti could bring in people to the show rooms to check out this small new car. Even though in many countries, the Maruti or rather Suzuki Alto is now the entry level car, in India, the 800 still sells in BS3 cities. However there is a great more demand for a used Maruti Alto here in India. The reason being the Maruti badge and the Alto’s image of being an easy to drive car. Here are some tips on buying a used Maruti Alto in India.
As far as looks go, the newer K10 engined Altos look the best. The earlier generation Altos had only few changes to differentiate it from the jellybean design of the Maruti Zen. But Maruti quickly understood that the car buying public were getting confused and they went in for a slight revamp of this car. Now instead of looking more rounded, there was more of a sharpness associated with the design. The cars from the older batch of 2001 usually would have blackened out and a bit dull looking head lamp glass. Replacing the glass would hardly be a pinch on one’s pocket. The outside rear view mirrors are on the smaller side and aren’t body colored. No problems with them though and they are durable enough. Replacing one doesn’t even cost a bomb at Rs 450 apiece. At all costs, avoid the earlier models as they tend to have some rust as also body parts falling apart problem. Moreover many of them, over the years also have got CNG kits added on, which would be a tad unreliable. The front bumper costs Rs 1350 at a Maruti outlet whereas a non authorized dealer would give away the same for only Rs 800. The rear bumper is also priced similarly. However the head lamps cost a cool Rs 6000 at an authorized outlet whereas an independent dealer would quote Rs 3200 for it. Earlier on, the Alto was offered with a non power steering option however now since Maruti has two separate Altos with different engines under the hood, the non power steering version still sells with the F8 engine whereas the newer K10 engine comes with power steering. Finding a K10 engined car would be an uphill task but not nearly impossible. Its being almost a year and proper scouting would lead you to one albeit at a higher price.
The tail lamps would cost Rs 700 for a replacement. The Alto basically is a low cost car with the same methodology applying to its spares as well. The tyres last till 30000 kms, post which they have to be replaced. If the model that you are looking at has crossed this mark then, do enquire with the owner if he has replaced the tyres, if not, then insist on getting them replaced or just walk away from the deal. The Alto comes with MacPherson struts in the front and a multi link rear suspension. Due to the rough nature that Maruti cars are usually driven in, extensive damage on the suspension of used cars has been reported. The link arms at the front are more prone to damage and hence require a replacement. The Alto has a fairly high ground clearance and hence not much damage happens to the undercarriage.
Coming to the interiors, a second hand Maruti Alto would still feel the same as a new one now, barring the K10 variant. Interiors are bare basic however unlike the M800, a used Maruti Alto wouldn’t have wires dangling out of its dashboard. A big speedometer plays the dominating factor while no tachometer is offered. Earlier cars didn’t come with music system or cup holders. Even if the previous owner would have installed a music system, he would have removed it before he put the car up on sale. The 2 spoke steering wheel may feel archaic in this age but does its job well of guiding the car through the streets with the minimal effort. K10 cars come with 3 spoke steering wheel. Interiors would definitely feel plasticky but then the for the price you are paying, you are getting a far more hard wearing product. The Alto was also the first car from Maruti which felt a bit solid unlike the 800, Zen or the Esteem. Front seats are no comfortable for any one north of 6 feet whereas the rear ones are utterly cramped and only the shorter passengers would be comfortable out there. Head room is ample however it is the shoulder room and the leg room which creates a problem. Boot space is also nothing to write about but then it can carry shopping bags with ease.
Earlier on, Maruti had introduced a 1.1 liter motor with a 5 speed gear box and had renamed the car as Alto Spin. If you are looking for a good deal, find one such specimen. The Alto Spin was a very rewarding car to drive as it had more power plus the motor didn’t used to run out of breath easily. The gearbox whether it was a 4 speed or a 5 speed unit one isn’t butter smooth and feels a bit notchy but then it used to perform the task well. The clutch is also smooth and usually doesn’t warrant any attention until the 50,000 kms mark. If the car that you are looking out for, has crossed this mark, then it is better to get the clutch inspected. An unusually hard clutch is the first sign of this. Brakes have excellent bite but Altos have a perennial problem of brake pads sticking onto the wheels if the car hasn’t been used for too long. This can be easily taken care by servoing the brakes and getting them serviced. The steering wheel, if it has got power assist would only need some looking into if the model has crossed the 70,000 kms mark.
The Alto is a small car and hence the ride quality wasn’t that absorbent however belying its size, the Alto performed well in the ride quality stakes. A used Maruti Alto would have a slightly stiffer ride quality but it wouldn’t be bone jarring. On sharp edged irregularities, the car does get jolted out. On the handling front, this car was a better handler than the other small cars. Rattling panels can be fixed at service centers. Beware of cars which come with aftermarket CNG kits. There is no guarantee as to how the fitment of the CNG kits has been done. Engines on the Alto don’t need any big overhaul or replacements. If the second hand Maruti Alto that you are looking at has crossed the 1 lakh kilometers mark, then do note that it has to be given for an engine overhaul. Regular servicing has to be done in 7000 kms or 6 months and it would cost only Rs 1000 for the servicing. Chances are more that you will find an 800 cc motored used Maruti Alto.
Now, the price of a used Maruti Alto. Alto like all other Maruti products does retain its value over a period of time. The used Maruti Alto price for a 2005 batch car would be Rs 1.60 lakhs for the top end Lxi variant whereas the 2009 Lxi variant would be priced at Rs 2.40 lakhs. The Alto K10, if you do see one on sale, would be priced upwards of Rs 3 lakhs. The alternatives for the Maruti Alto would be the Chevrolet Spark or the Hyundai Santro.