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Maruti Suzuki A-star

The A-star is the international replacement for the Alto but in India both these cars are sold side by side. Launched in 1999 it uses the K-series engine by Suzuki. Its also available in an automatic variant. Its competitors are the Maruti Suzuki WagonR, Alto, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10, Chevrolet Beat.

2012 Maruti-Suzuki A-star

Budget doesn’t always equal boring and the Maruti Suzuki A-star is an example of just that. Launched in India in 2009, the A-Star is the international replacement for the Alto. Maruti Suzuki has now made some changes to the exteriors and the interiors of this small hatch which the manufacturer hopes will add life to the A-star. The small hatch afterall hasn’t exactly set the sale charts on fire. For years Maruti has been giving us reliable, efficient and practical cars but with the A-star they decided to add attitude and desirability into a hatch. Prices for the A-star start from Rs 3,76,300 to Rs 4,51,499 and Rs 4,58,346 for the automatic variant ex-showroom New Delhi.

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The A-star is the flagship export model for Maruti Suzuki and the manufacturer has exported over 2.81 lakh units so far to over 130 countries. The bulk of the exports have been to the European markets such as the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Germany. The hatch has also been sent to Australia and South Africa.

Design

The only exterior changes to the hatch have been the addition of a roof mounted spoiler and new alloy wheels. Glistening Grey and Pearl Caffeine Brown are the two additional colours that Maruti has added to the A-star but other than these changes the hatch remains the same. The A-star is three years old now but remains the best looking hatch in the country with its tucked-in-tight roof, the three-dimensional headlamps and the wide stance. The styling of this hatch makes it funky to look at and we particularly like the low slung stance. The nose is rounded with high-mounted headlights and the designers have given prominence to the wheel arches. The window line is rising and even from the rear the hatch looks good.

Interiors

Changes to the interiors are more obvious and to make it more appealing Maruti has made upgrades to the cabin. The interiors are now beige which give the cabin a more airy look. The seat fabric is beige too and the rear seats now split 50:50. Interior space on the A-star has always been an issue and to address that Maruti has curved the back of the front seats to increase the leg room.

There are no other changes to the ‘V’ shaped dashboard and you get the same pop-up tacho which is hidden behind the steering. The driver seat is low but visibility is hampered because of the thick A and C pillars. There are a few storage areas but while the front passengers get sufficient space, the rear passengers aren’t as lucky despite Maruti making alterations to the front seats. One area of complain with the A-star however is the cheap plastic bits and ill-fitting panels. The small boot is another of the A-star’s shortcomings.

The top of the line ZXi variant comes with four power windows, ABS, airbags, front fog lamps, rear defogger a CD player and remote locking. Standard features include air conditioner and power steering.

Engine and performance

No changes have been made to the A-star and if we are honest then this is one department where the A-star didn’t need any help in any case. The 3 cylinder K10B engine that powers the new A-star is a high-tech motor and has four valves per cylinder but also features twin overhead camshafts for better valve control. This 1-litre engine is the same which is on the Alto and the Wagon R and produces 67PS@6200rpm and 90Nm of torque@ 3500rpm. The engine is free-revving and responds well to throttle inputs. 100kmph is reached in around 15seconds and the engine is matched to a 5-speed manual gearbox which is slick and precise. The A-star delivers an ARAI claimed 19.59kmpl and there is also an option of an automatic gearbox which feels lazy. Overall the A-star feels light and agile to drive and the engine is particularly responsive after 2000rpm.

Ride

The A-star has a wide track and a stiff chassis which provides excellent ride quality. The front suspension is made up of independent MacPherson struts and at the rear is a three-link axel with gas charged shock absorbers. The ride quality is further aided by high-profile 155/80 13-inch tyres. The chassis and suspension inspires confidence around corners and there is minimal body roll. The A-star is the most agile handler in this segment and the steering too is well weighed. Overall the hatch is fun to drive and the Swift suspension components ensure that the car changes direction eagerly.

Competition

The Hyundai i10 is spacious and engine refinement is the best in the segment. Interior space is good as well and so is the build quality. The gearbox is slick and the ride quality is another of its strengths. The handling though isn’t comparable to the A-star. The Chevrolet Beat is the best looking small hatch, ride quality is plush and the diesel engine is extremely fuel efficient. The petrol engine though is harsh and lacks punch. The Ford Figo is the most spacious in the segment, build quality matches more expensive sedans and the ride and handling achieves a good mix.

Verdict

The A-star has to be your choice of hatch if you are looking for a car to attack corners. The A-star drives with confidence that’s infectious andMaruti seems to have found the ideal setup. The K-series engine is efficient and performance is adequate as well. Refinement though isn’t as good as the Hyundai i10 and the A-star is also short on interior space. The changes to the exteriors aren’t that telling for you to notice them but the new beige interiors lends the cabin a fresh look. The hatch is well equipped as well but plastic quality isn’t off the same standard as the Ford Figo or thei10.

Quotes from other reviews:

Autocar India: ‘The compact A-star with its buzzy and willing motor, easy handling and agility is a great city car. The cheeky styling and funky interiors give it lots of attitude as well. It is superbly equipped with safety features not found in other cars in this price bracket. Fuel efficiency is good and being a Maruti, the A-star should be easy on the pocket. The rear seats, however, are small and cramped, luggage space is severely compromised, and that makes it a less than an ideal family car, a role these cars are more often than not expected to play. But as a single owner driven car, it’s a lot of fun.’

Karanbir
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