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Which small Maruti should you buy?

Last updated on: May 24, 2010 16:55 IST

Which small Maruti should you buy?

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Bijoy Kumar Y in Mumbai

So you prefer going for the tried-and-trusted. You don't mind owning the same car as that of the Mehtas next door.

You want to be reassured that there is a friendly neighbourhood dealership wherever you go in India. In short, you are the picture-perfect Maruti Suzuki customer.

You can't go wrong with a Maruti, right? Well you can, if you end up with the wrong small car.

When there are seven - yes, count them all - Maruti Suzuki hatchbacks between Rs 200,000 and 600,000 (all prices ex-showroom Mumbai) vying for your attention, it's quite possible.

So we've put together a 'mini small Maruti Suzuki buyer's guide' to help you arrive at the right one.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Maruti Suzuki.
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Maruti Suzuki 800

Yes, it is still being produced and that too in four iterations, with two LPG versions stretching your money even further. These are Altos that are four generations old, but still surprisingly modern to look at and easy to pilot - especially in traffic.

Which version to pick?

Choose the AC LPG version if you want the most economical car in the whole world (this side of the Tata Nano, of course) for just Rs 270,000. But the Nano equivalent is the base standard model without air-conditioning at Rs 225,000, it's brilliant value.

Why should you stay away?

This car is terribly common on our roads and is almost at the rock bottom of the automotive food chain. Safety features have been improved a great deal in the last 25 years.

Anyway, it's not available new in the 13 metros in the country. If you insist, buy a low mileage example from the used car market and save even more!

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Photographs: Courtesy, Maruti Suzuki
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Maruti Suzuki Alto

A notch superior to the Maruti Suzuki 800, the Alto uses the same engine. Ride quality on our roads is better and it is as driveable in traffic as the 800.

This car should be a strong contender for a second car for the family - something to potter around to the closest mall in. Luggage room and overall versatility of the cabin is amazing too.

Which version to pick?

Spend Rs 330,000 and you get the top-end LXi model that can be all the car you need in the city. Not as stylish as the A-Star, but close to 18 kpl on a regular basis should warm your heart.

Why should you stay away?

It may be called the Alto in India but the real, genuine Alto is sold in the country as the A-Star, which looks more contemporary and hence stylish. The A-Star gets the new K-Series engine too.

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Maruti Suzuki A-Star

This is a contemporary car from the Maruti Suzuki stable and is being exported to Europe in large numbers too. That also translates to no compromise in the quality stakes.

The new age design may be a tough nut to crack for the elderly, but most others should find it cheerful. Unfortunately, the interior is not as spacious as it could have been and rear passengers do get a raw deal, with a narrow window opening.

Powered by a three-cylinder engine from the new K-series family, the A-Star is an agile car (60 kph under six seconds) that does not compromise on fuel consumption. 15 kpl-plus anyone?

Which version to pick?

The VXi trim with a pretty high spec level at Rs 4.4 lakh is the car to go for.

Why should you stay away?

Its animated looks are not to everyone's palate. And yes, it is cramped inside and is expensive for a small car with just a 1000cc engine.

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Maruti Suzuki Estilo

It came wearing the legendary Zen name tag but could not get support from prospective buyers. Reasons were many - the design looked half-baked while the handling was forgettable.

A new K-series engine has done wonders on the performance front. This car has no serious negatives that can be attributed towards it, but neither does it have strengths. Poor residual value amongst Marutis too.

Which version to pick?

The LXi version at just about Rs 400,000 offers a comprehensive modern car package for the money. It is neither too old nor too modern for comfort. The new engine offers 15 kpl-plus too.

Why should you stay away?

Neither here-nor-there school of design. Poor resale value.

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Maruti Suzuki Wagon R

The all-new Wagon R can be termed the best small car in the fleet now thanks to brilliant utilisation of space, effortlessness to drive (even for newcomers) and handsome looks. Needless to say, the new Wagon R has started from where the old one left.

The 998cc, 67 bhp engine from the K-series family is just adequate to power the new car, but it can return 14-16 kpl depending on driving conditions.

If you are in the market for the Hyundai i10 or even the Maruti Ritz, the new Wagon R may offer a quality, versatile alternative.

Which version to pick?

The new car may come with LPG variants soon, but the VXi version with optional airbags and ABS is a good bet at Rs 400,000.

Why should you stay away?

Park one next to the Swift and the Wagon R looks prehistoric despite being brand new. Maruti should have opted for the 1.2-litre engine from the Ritz instead of the puny three-cylinder unit from the A-Star.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Gaadi.com
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Maruti Suzuki Ritz

This is the grown-up small car from the manufacturer, and needless to say, winner of many a Car Of The Year awards.

The Ritz sports concept car lines and combines it with an extremely practical interior and a mature driving experience.

In fact, the 1.2-litre engine that powers the Ritz petrol is one of the finest small car engines in India today. The diesel versions can stretch a litre to 20 kpl - if only you can get delivery of one in this quarter.

Which version to pick?

The petrol ZXi version comes with ABS and two airbags and that makes it a sensible choice, even at a steep Rs 560,000. But hey, you get big car features. The VDi diesel version is now available with ABS too.

Why should you stay away?

Because the queue is long and there are scores of other cars to choose from in the segment.

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 Maruti Suzuki Swift

The Swift is five years old and yet does not look that old. Its biggest competitor, the Getz, came and went and the Swift still remains fresh.

So is the driving experience - the Swift is sporty when you want it to be and goes around corners well too.

This personal driving experience was partly the result of Suzuki employing a 1.3-litre engine from the old Esteem. Alas, that engine is gone and in comes the 1.2-litre motor from the Ritz - decent performer and more driveable, but one that lacks the high-revving character of its predecessor.

On the negative side, the rear seat is cramped for three and ride quality deteriorates with time.

Which version to pick?

The version with airbags and ABS comes at Rs 600,000 and hence it's the right buy. The VDi version of the diesel is good value compared to its sedan rival, the Dzire.

Why should you stay away?

A major facelift or even a new model is due, any time. And yes, cars are not available easily, especially the diesel variant. Also, there's temptation in the form of new competition!



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