Wagon R owner’s views on Maruti Alto 800: Mileage, space & much more

Overall, it is a great car for a small family and is any day better than buying a motorcycle or scooter.

BHPian RD410 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

My uncle bought a 2023 last batch Alto 800 BS6 and here are my observations. I drive a WagonR 1.1 F10D, so it will be my reference point.

What I really liked

  • Heavily improved F8D engine – The first time I drove it, I was like “Where is the AC lag!?”. Maruti engineers have done some black magic and completely eliminated the AC lag from the F8D 800c engine. The engine now feels way more mature and jerk-free. It revs cleanly and has strong midrange power. Overall, now It drives like a 1000cc for the most part. Unless you attempt an uphill overtake with full load. That’s the only situation where it reminded me that it’s still an 800cc. But on plains, 4 passengers + AC doing 90kph is effortless. You don’t even realise you’re doing 80-90, that’s how effortless it feels. WagonR with its bigger F10D engine still has minute AC lag, but BS6 Alto doesn’t have any!
  • NVH control – NVH is so much better than older Alto’s. Roll up all windows and it’s pretty much silent inside, with very little tyre and wind noise filters in. It just doesn’t feel like a budget car. Compared to this, my WagonR doesn’t have even half as good NVH.
  • Suspension – Ride quality is amazing for an entry-level car. It’s even better than some higher-segment cars. It just dismisses regular-sized potholes like nothing happened. It’s got gas-charged shocks with more suspension travel. The thick 80-profile 12-inch tyres also help in bump absorption. WagonR 1.1 with its stiff suspension is a letdown in this aspect.
  • Mileage – Fuel efficiency is lovely. Consistent 18-20+kpl with AC. Whereas I rarely get more than 15 kpl with the WagonR.

What I didn’t like

  • Steering – It is terrible (no offence). Vague, lifeless, no feel, feedback and zero return to center action. It’s not that light either. My 18-year-old WagonR’s EPS is much lighter, offers a decent feel and returns to center naturally. Not only Alto, but the steerings of all recent Maruti cars are the same. I don’t understand why Maruti has downgraded their steering systems.
  • Bodyroll – the improved ride comfort has come at a cost. Despite being a low-slung car it has significant body roll, due to the soft long-travel suspension. Believe it or not, my tallboy WagonR has less body roll than Alto because it has a stiffer suspension.
  • Handling – it understeers a lot due to those skinny 145-section tyres. Add the vague steering and body roll, it’s not that pleasant in corners.
  • Brakes – braking is bad. You have to press the pedal all the way in to get some braking. Maruti uses the smallest size disc brakes in the Alto 800. WagonR’s braking is much better and confidence-inspiring.
  • Throttle lag – BS6 Alto uses a drive-by-wire/electronic throttle. There is a split-second lag between giving throttle and engine response. This gets annoying, especially in the hills. When you stop on a steep uphill and try moving again, the car keeps stalling. My WagonR with old-school cable throttle and strong low-end torque is way better in this aspect.
  • Space – interiors, especially the rear, are cramped. Ingress and egress is also hard.

What I both like & don’t like

Low slung nature – I like sitting close to the ground, gives a better feel of handling. Perhaps, Alto 800 was the last low-slung budget car. It’s so easy to squeeze through narrow gaps and tight spaces. But you sit so low that literally every other vehicle is taller than you. Other cars, SUVs, buses, trucks, everything come too close and try to push you away from your lane. It’s a scary experience, something that I never encountered in my WagonR.

Gear shifts – Alto 800’s cable-operated gear shifts are far better than my WagonR’s archaic linkage-type shifter. But the shifts are still not as good as other latest Maruti cars.

Light build – it has airbags and ABS, but it just doesn’t feel safe. On the flip side, its light construction and good ground clearance give it incredible bad road capability. So much so that it has earned the name ‘Lord Alto’.

Overall, the Alto 800 BS6 is a great choice for a small family. It’s any day better than buying a motorcycle/scooter. It’s fun, peppy, comfy, efficient and extremely reliable. Sad that it’s no longer available.

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