A-Star is born

A-Star is born
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First Published: Tue, Dec 02 2008. 10 15 PM IST

Updated: Tue, Dec 02 2008. 10 15 PM IST
Can one car turn things around? Bring back the much-needed spark in sagging sales and some excitement into a dull market? Well, Maruti Suzuki’s A-Star was expected to do all that and more. And in many ways, the first impression is that it has. Of course, we can’t expect fireworks in an auto market that is seeing a slowdown—but after the diesel Swift, this seems like another Maruti model that will have long waiting lists for deliveries.
A first from Maruti was displaying and debuting a world concept car at India’s Auto Expo in January, and the world got the A-Star concept, which was flamboyant, innovative and slightly unusual-looking. The concept went to production in very little time, and we now have the A-Star in the market—it will sell as the Alto, Celerio and Nissan’s Pixo in Europe. In India, the older generation Alto will stay on and sell alongside the A-Star as an entry hatch.
Now, on with our review. A-Star stands for aerodynamic, sporty, trendy, aggressive, revolutionary engine design. Go figure! I like the fact that Suzuki and, by default, Maruti, has experimented with futuristic design. The car looks downright strange in some ways, but that is because the design is so new and different. Large headlights and an unconventional front grille and bumper add to the unusual styling. It’s a compact design, but thanks to intelligent use of space, the cabin is reasonably roomy for a car in this class, with a 2,360mm wheelbase. Ground clearance is not bad at 170mm.
What made me very happy was the overall interior trim levels, especially the quality of plastic used. The instruments are simple, except the top end model’s tachometer, which is mounted on top of the instruments—almost cockpit-like. That’s interesting but not necessarily effective. The in-dash music system is another nice touch, becoming a Maruti mainstay. The sound quality leaves much to be desired. Steering mounted controls are a plus, though.
One for the road: The A-star and its interiors
The real story in the new A-Star is the brand new K-series engine that Maruti has rolled out. This marks a departure from the past, which saw new global Suzuki models in India using older existing engines. But the new 1 litre K10B engine is lighter by 15-20% compared to existing Suzuki engines in this range, and noise reduction—which was a priority—is apparent. The punchy little tyke proves to be fun on the road. What a pleasure—great response, tight revs and neat delivery of power. And that’s significant after ages from a petrol Maruti. The A-Star’s also got a great suspension for its class, and handles cornering very well.
The price range (Rs3.46-4.12 lakh) makes it a good deal. Compare variant for variant and the Hyundai i10 and Chevrolet Spark look cheaper. But with dual airbags and ABS, the A-Star ZXi is aggressively priced.
It’s almost with a great sense of relief and admiration that I say this. I walked up to the A-Star—expecting not to be impressed, expecting another typical Maruti. But what I got was a world-class Suzuki, which is great news for many Maruti fans who were awaiting this launch. The A-Star is positioned between the Swift and Zen Estilo. Maruti will also launch the Splash (which was a WagonR replacement in Europe last year) in India early next year.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor, auto, NDTV. Write to us at roadrunner@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Dec 02 2008. 10 15 PM IST