About five years ago, car manufacturers were thinking about bringing affordable cars to India and they did. Since then we've seen a bunch of manufacturers like Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, and even Hyundai try their luck at making a car that was suited for a family of four and was good to drive around in city traffic conditions.
However, traffic conditions in the country have only worsened, and shifting gears continues to be a task. Cars with an auto-box seemed like a distant reality as car manufacturers said that the technology would only make small cars expensive and they needed to find an alternative. This saw the rise of the Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), which was not only affordable, but also served the purpose of freedom from the clutch and gear lever.
Maruti Suzuki was the first to bring this technology in the Celerio, and then we saw it in the Alto K10. Tata Motors too adopted this technology in the Zest diesel, making it the first sub-compact sedan in the diesel avatar with an AMT. It was only recently that the company decided to bring out the refurbished Nano and equip it with an AMT. It was an extremely smart move, but is it good enough? The GenX Nano AMT already has a challenger in the wings in the form of the Alto K10 - which also gets an AMT. We put both these affordable AMTs in the ring to find out which one scores better.
With the GenX Nano, Tata Motors is aiming to revive the Nano brand and position it as a more up-market product. In fact, the entire campaign designed for the car is to project it as a 'smart city car', thus doing away with the 'cheap' tag that worked against it the last time. Now, with a more up-market cabin, a slightly updated engine, bigger fuel tank and exterior changes, the company is looking to reach to a larger audience base.
Also Read: Tata Nano GenX AMT Review
When it comes to the Alto K10, Maruti Suzuki has put in a lot of effort, but much like the Nano, it's not exactly a completely new product. The car sports subtle changes and looks only slightly different than the existing Alto K10. Long story short, it comparatively more bold and contemporary - at least in terms of design.
Both the cars are compact in terms of dimensions. While the Alto is longer and has more wheelbase on offer, the Nano is taller and wider. Therefore, a big bloke like me is more comfortable in a Nano than in the Alto K10. The Alto feels a bit crammed and, for me, there was hardly any room to move. The the lack of space caused the person sitting behind me to suffered too.
Thanks to the openable rear door, Tata has finally managed to offer some boot space in the Nano - 94 litres to be precise. Remember, the engine is at the rear and there is just enough space for one carry-on suitcase and 2 handbags. The Alto K10, on the other hand, gets 177 litres, which is quite good as it gobbles up a lot more luggage than the Nano can.
Engine and Transmission
Both the Maruti Alto K10 and the GenX Nano are only available with petrol engines. The Nano comes equipped with the 624cc engine that develops 37bhp and both, the torque and the power figures, are significantly less than that of the Alto K10. Maruti has equipped the K10 with a 1.0-litre K-series unit that churns out 67bhp (a bump of about 29bhp over the Nano's number) and there is more torque on offer too.
The most significant update in both cars is the AMT gearbox for the transfer of power to the wheels. That said, one must know the two companies use different terms for the AMT; while Maruti Suzuki prefers AGS (Auto Gear Shift), and Tata calls it the Easy Shift. However, the AMT actuator for both cars is sourced from the same place - Magnetti Marelli, which leads one to wonder how different could they be?
Also Read: Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 AMT Review
Well, very different. The power and torque figures favour the Alto K10, which is why, though there is a delay in the car receiving power, it is better and more fun to drive. Even when you shift to manual mode, the gear changes are slicker and on the money, which is great if you're overtaking. The 90Nm of torque kicks in late at 3500rpm, and there is a slight delay in the power to reach the wheels.
The 5-speed AMT in the Nano, however, has to work overtime to feed power to the wheels. To begin with, there are only 37 horses and 51Nm of torque to deal with. The torque kicks in as late as 4000rpm, and by then there is a lot of whizzing (the engine sounds like that) that is not easy on the ears. There are small delays, and the car lurches as the gears shift.
Unlike the Alto K10, the Nano also gets a Sports Mode button. Usually, in most cars, we see that this button firms up the suspension and changes the mood of the car; makes it more race ready (maybe). However, in the Nano, it only changes the gear ratios. Where it does help is when you're trying to overtake or quickly accelerate. Being in Sport Mode helps you to hold on to a lower gear to get the right burst of energy.
Moving on to another important bit - the mileage. The Alto wins this one, hands down. The Nano AMT returns 21.9Km/l, while the Alto K10 offers a fuel-efficiency number of 24.71Km/l, thus allowing Maruti to sway the customer in its favour.
The Alto K10 and the GenX Nano are available in only one trim with the AMT gearbox. Trust Tata to bring in some new features to the car; the Nano comes with Bluetooth, an audio system with speakers at the front and rear, keyless entry and front fog-lamps. Interestingly, all of the aforementioned features are missing on the Alto K10. However, it does come with front disc brakes and manually-adjustable wing mirrors that do not make their way in the Nano. Both cars also get power windows at the front.
The GenX Nano has come a long way indeed; from donning the 'cheapest car in the world' tag to becoming the 'most affordable' automatic car in India. The GenX Nano with AMT comes priced at ₹ 2.19 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and is not cheap anymore but what it is - is spacious and the ideal size for a city car. It's been through a long journey from the original model and somewhere, you feel that had they launched this one in the first place, the story would have been a different one.
The Alto K10 too is great in terms of proportions but is more expensive than the Nano. The Alto K10 AMT comes priced at ₹ 3.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and though it misses out on a bunch of features, it still reigns in terms of ride quality and the AMT. It is only in the department of cabin space that the Alto suffers, but if you can live with that then the Alto K10 is right on the money.
Photography: Ashutosh Amin