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A-Star's new avatar
The A-Star has been a great peppy little hatch from the Maruti Suzuki stable. Its small size, ease of driving and overall versatility as a city car has given it quite a fan following in the two years it has been around. This latest generation Alto being sold in the European market has also been received well in India given the standing of its maker and the competence of the product itself.
Fitted with a neat 1. 0 litre, 3 cylinder Kseries engine that offers spirited driving and great mileage, the A-Star has made its mark.
Taking its versatility further, MSIL has plonked in a four-speed automatic gearbox in the A-Star. Most of us remember the A-Star as a hatchback that is cute to look at, and probably one of the most preferred compact cars for people who like to drive, given its great engine response and tight handling characteristics. The automatic avatar of the A-Star, however, transforms the car from an out-and-out peppy hatchback to a city slicker that is convenient and offers ease of use. The automatic does take away from the peppy driving slightly, since the car now offers a more sober driving experience.
Fire the A-Star up and shift into drive mode, and you will definitely notice the change. I wouldn't call it sluggish, but I wouldn't call it peppy either. It actually feels a bit heavy starting off from standstill;however, once the car shifts up, a bit of normalcy returns. It's not something to complain about and the car performs effortlessly as a whole. Gearshifts are reasonably smooth while going up. The automatic transmission is a decent box that does its duty well and certainly allows for an above average-driving experience. Overtaking does not require much effort and reaching three digit speeds isn't a monumental task either.
The true revelation about this new A-Star variant emerges while taking it for a drive around the city. The need to constantly shift gears or heavy clutch usage has been dispensed with and what you get is a relaxed hassle-free drive. It is in this department that the car really shines. The combination of a small car with a peppy engine mated to an automatic gearbox does add up to the perfect recipe for the ultimate urban hatchback.
Incidentally, Maruti Suzuki has worked hard at making the A-Star automatic a great package. Apart from the automatic box, the car boasts of alloy wheels, ABS, power steering, power windows both at the front and back and an integrated stereo system with CD/MP3 and an auxilliary input. The height of the driver's seat is adjustable, albeit with a manual lever, but that does help when a tall person has to drive this little hatch. Unfortunately, the ORVMs remain manually adjustable and the tachometer is definitely missed, but then again, costs have to be kept in check!
Overall the A-Star automatic works as a wellrounded city car. Its cute bugsy looks have not aged;it still remains a joy to drive despite the drop in 'peppiness' and comes with decent creature comforts. Mileage, according to ARAI data, is in the region of 17 kmpl, which is decent, but a definite drop from the 19. 8 kmpl that the manual version offers. Space remains a desired luxury in this small hatchback, but the overriding factor is that the car has all it takes to survive in the urban jungle and more importantly, with the ease of automatic transmission. Priced at Rs 4. 35 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, it isn't the cheapest hatchback to purchase, but it does out-price its direct competition by a large margin and when you add up the difference, the little A-Star automatic works out to be a formidable package.
TAKING ON THE COMPETITION
The A-Star automatic is pitted head-to-head with Hyundai i10 Magna 1. 2 Kappa automatic. Both cars are hatchbacks targeted at the young generation and feature 4-speed automatic gearboxes. However, that is where the similarity ends. Maruti has pulled out all stops in order to make A-Star a value-for-money proposition and override competition.
From valuable add-ons such as ABS, integrated music system, alloy wheels and height adjustments for the driver's seat to little, but helpful, touches such as the door ajar warning, boot-lid opener and cigarette lighter, A-Star features them all. i10, on the other hand, doesn't come as feature-packed, which is a bit of a letdown. Having said that, one must admit that i10 comes fitted with a more powerful 1. 2 litre Kappa engine and also offers more interior space than A-Star does. Basic utilities such as power windows, power steering and front seat arm rests are there, of course.
Mileage isn't that bad either, for the i10 automatic manages to offer an ARAI certified 16. 67 kmpl, which is just short of the 17 kmpl that A-Star automatic offers despite the larger capacity of the engine. Both cars have their pros and cons;however, it's in the price war that A-Star manages to triumph over i10 Magna 1. 2 Kappa AT. Priced almost Rs 22, 000 less than i10, the A-Star works out to be a better value-formoney package, with the only real negative feature being the rear-seat space.
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