labels: Automotive, Hyundai Motor, Maruti Udyog, Features (automotive), Cars
Hatchback wars: Maruti Suzuki A-Star v/s Hyundai i10 news
19 February 2009

Will the Maruti A-Star succeed in dislodging the Hyundai i10 from its perch? Sourya Biswas answers

After ruling the Indian small car roost for decades, Maruti found its dominance challenged in the early 2000s by the Hyundai Atos, or the Hyundai Santro as it was called in india.

Buoyed by positive reviews and an advertising campaign spearheaded by Bollywood super star Shah Rukh Khan, the Santro did manage to dislodge the Maruti Zen from the to spot in its category. But Maruti continued to sell more cars courtesy its workhorse the Alto.

Hyundai then sought to move up the hatchback value chain by offering the Getz.

However, the Indian consumer wasn't willing to pay top rupee for a premium hatch and sales weren't encouraging. Of course, things weren't improved by Maruti introducing the Swift soon after, which effectively monopolised the premium hatch segment.

Next, Hyundai came out with a car that not only captured the imagination of auto journalists nationwide, but also proved to be extremely popular with the Indian car-buyer - the i10.

It took a special kind of courage to introduce a vehicle in price-conscious India before showcasing it to the world, but Hyundai's gamble paid off. Winning all major ''car of the year'' awards in 2007, the i10 sent Hyundai's cash registers ringing as it made the mid-level hatchback segment its own.

Even as Hyundai basked in the i10's glory at the Auto Expo in New Delhi early this year, the newly rechristened Maruti-Suzuki was not sitting still.

At the Expo, before the world media, India's top car manufacturer unveiled a radically new hatchback design, the A-Star, conceptualised completely in India unlike the Japanese pedigree of its earlier offerings. This was supposed to be the car that recaptured the missing mid-hatchback superiority from the i10, even as Maruti topped sales in the entry and premium hatchback segments with the Alto and Swift.

Will it succeed in dislodging the i10 from its perch? Let's take a look.

First impressions of the A-Star are mixed - a stylish, sporty and youthful look that simultaneously exudes solidity and urban energy. However, people who actually saw the concept at the Auto Expo will be a tad disappointed, for the actual on-road vehicle is heavily toned down. Also, the car's miniscule rear windows will not escape notice, thanks to the butterfly design.

The concept

As one opens the doors, the cramped proportions become all the more visible. Even though the A-Star is a very comfortable driver's car with easy-to-read meters and well-designed instrument cluster with a first-of-its-segment dash mounted tachometer, the drab interiors do take away some of the shine. Also, as far as passenger comfort is concerned, six-footers will find life difficult in the rear seats.

Rear seat legroom leaves a lot to be desired
At the heart of the car, it has an all-new KB-Series 998cc engine, which is Euro 5-compliant with CO2 emissions and develops 67 Bhp of power with 90 Nm of torque. It delivers a predictable shortage of torque at very low revolutions, but once rolling it's commendably refined. Performance feels lively enough for a 1-litre and will take care of city duties with ease.

However, where it actually scores over the competition is in its chart-topping mileage. In a country where many a purchase decision is taken on the answer of ''litre pe kitne kilometre?'', the A-Star is a definite winner. Not for nothing do the advertisements featuring new youth icon Farhan ''Rock On'' Akhtar extol the virtues of travelling 19.5 kilometres on one litre of petrol.

The manufacturers describe the A-Star as being driven by Penta Drive - ''a culmination of five world class features'', namely engage drive, ergo drive, aero drive, assure drive and green drive.

While engage drive is supposed to engage the driver ''to the max'' with its ''speed sensitive power steering'' and ''low centre of gravity'', ergo drive refers to the engine with ''best-in-class fuel efficiency''.

Aero drive refers to the aerodynamic design (drag co-efficient of only 0.30) and digital instrument cluster, while assure drive draws attention to ''TECT or total effective control technology'' and ABS with dual airbags for the passengers' safety. Green drive refers to the extremely low engine emissions and its Euro 5-compliant status.

Now, how does it compare with the segment leader i10? Well, looks on a small car are definitely a matter of individual choice, and the A-Star's futuristic looks won't cut much ice with the Indian consumer. Especially since the Indian consumer is more concerned with ''what lies beneath''.

The king is not so easily dethroned

If interiors are compared, the i10 is the clear winner. With beige interiors and space enough to accommodate the occasional hefty relatives, the Hyundai car definitely scores over its cramped Maruti counterpart. However, on that other important factor in Indian cars - fuel economy, the A-Star's 19 kmpl beats the i10's 13 kmpl by a wide margin. However, that may not be enough to convince the customer to choose it over the i10.

The A-Star suffers from some other shortcomings that tilt the case towards the i10. One of these is the 3-cylinder engine. Although delivering more kilometres per litre, it is lacking in kick when compared to the i10's 4-cylinder powerplant.

Also, the A-Star engine is rather noisy at lower speeds. Another obvious drawback is the lack of decent boot space.

However, where the A-Star actually loses the battle is its price. At almost Rs3.5 lakh for the base model, the car certainly doesn't come cheap. Not only does it surpass the i10's basic model by a good Rs10,000, it's also uncomfortably close to its big brother, the Swift. Even though Rs.50,000 is a lot of money, the discerning and loyal Maruti customer may well opt for the premium hatchback Swift instead of putting his money on the new kid on the block.

A comparison of the base versions of the Maruti Suzuki A-Star and its two main competitors, the Hyundai i10, is given below:

Parameters

Maruti Suzuki A-Star Lxi

Hyundai i10 D-Lite

Dimensions

Overall length

3500 mm

3565mm

Overall width

1600 mm

1595 mm

Overall height

1490 mm

1550 mm

Wheelbase

2360 mm

2380 mm

Ground clearance

170 mm

165 mm

Front track

1405 mm

1400 mm

Rear track

1400 mm

1385 mm

Kerb weight

860 kg

860 kg

Fuel tank capacity

35 litre

35 litre

Fuel efficiency

Mileage (city)

14.8 km/litre

12.3 km/litre

Mileage (highway)

19.5 km/litre

16.8 km/litre

Mileage (overall)

16.3 km/litre

12.5 km/litre

Performance

Maximum speed

155 Km/Hour

152 Km/Hour

Engine

Engine type

K10B petrol

iRDE 1.1L Petrol

Displacement

998 cc

1086 cc

Power

67bhp@ 6200 rpm

67bhp@ 5500 rpm

Torque

90Nm@ 3500 rpm

99Nm@ 2800rpm

No. of cylinders

3 cylinder

4 cylinder

Transmission

Transmission type

Manual

Manual

Gears/Speeds

5 Gears

5 Gears

Suspensions

Front suspension

McPherson strut and coil

McPherson strut with stabilizer bar

Rear suspension

Isolated trailing link & coil

CTBA with coil spring

Brakes

Front brakes

Ventilated disc

Ventilated Disc

Rear brakes

Drum, leading & trailing

Drum

Wheels

Wheel type

Steel

Steel

Wheel size

13inch

13inch

Tyres

155/80R13

155/80R13

Price(Ex-showroom)

Price (Mumbai)

Rs.3.49 lakh

Rs.3.41 lakh


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Hatchback wars: Maruti Suzuki A-Star v/s Hyundai i10