The latest in Maruti Suzuki’s formidable platoon of small cars is the A-star. However, the Hyundai’s i10 has what it takes to make inroads into the Maruti small car bastion. It is a pretty good hatchback and claimed the OverDrive Car of the Year in 2008 by means of its international appeal, quality and value for money virtues. Maruti though intends to set things right with the A-star and bring back status quo.
The battle lines are drawn. OverDrive (Jan. ’09) brings to you the test results.
In terms of looks, focus on the international market has spurred design evolution for both cars. Both hatchbacks exude flair and attitude aimed at a youthful clientele but in differing ways.
The A-star appears muscular and solid despite its diminutive dimensions. The design is eye-catching, with a striking front end making for a contemporary square-jawed look. The tapered rear glass and tail-light are Alto-like. Though minimalistic, the A-star design is striking with overt, almost extravagant curves. The i10 on the other hand is subtle and classy, exuding understated European flair. Like the A-star, the i10 sports a large front fender and air dam that meld admirably into the entire design. The A-star is the smaller of the two with a wheelbase 20mm shorter than the Hyundai’s. A 5mm wider track makes it look more compact. The wider track and shorter wheelbase though do work wonders for its handling. Unfortunately the A-star’s fully independent suspension set-up with gas-charged shocks, MacPherson strut up front and isolated trailing link coil suspension at the rear are on the stiff side and compromise ride quality.
The i10 on the other hand, with MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar up front and coupled torsion beam axle with coil spring at the rear, offers a good ride even if it blunts the handling a bit. Body roll around the corners can be a mild annoyance for the corner carvers.
On the highway both cars feel adequate even when it is not really their comfort zone. The A-star feels exactly how it should, a grown-up Alto and the i10 feels like a grown-up Santro but with a better suspension setup. Both cars are capable of 140kmph plus speeds but given their small dimensions spirited highway driving is not their forte.
In the urban context both cars are in their element. The A-star’s stiffness shows up over concrete joints and speed-breakers while the i10 marginally feels plusher, but overall the A-star is slightly better to drive in the city, in the handling and maneuverability. Also both cars have ABS and meet safety norms.
Coming to the heart of the matter, both cars are equipped with lightweight, fuel efficient engines designed to comply with current and future, domestic and international emission norms. The A-star sports the all-new K10B engine, which has taken Suzuki three years in the making at a cost of Rs. 1200 core. This future-ready engine will eventually find its way into most Maruti small cars, starting with Ritz (Splash, renamed). The K10B makes 67PS of peak power at 6200rpm and max torque of 90Nm at 3500rpm.