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The Maruti Suzuki Alto (or Lord Alto, as everyone calls it), is a car that a lot of us still swear by. I still believe it is probably the best first car to consider if you’re on a tight budget. Except that even the Alto is now somewhat encroaching closer to the Rs 8-lakh mark in certain cities, which can make people question the value-for-money quotient.

Make no mistake, the Alto is still a very capable car, it’s got more features for the modern customer too, and don’t you forget its capabilities in the Himalayas. However, the range-topping Alto K10 is the S-CNG variant, costing Rs 6.60 lakh (on-road, Delhi).

Renault says the Kwid is the most affordable car to offer an AMT

For just Rs 11,000 more, you could consider a fully-loaded Renault Kwid, in the Climber dual-tone trim, giving you kit such as power windows for both rows, an 8-inch touch screen with CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a reverse parking camera with guidelines, day/night IRVM, tyre-pressure monitoring system, power-adjustable ORVMs, rear power windows, and traction control among other things. In comparison, the Alto K10 S-CNG gets a regular infotainment screen with bluetooth/USB/AUX connectivity, along with reverse parking sensors, front airbags, front power windows only (!), steering-wheel mounted audio controls, and a four-speaker sound system. However, the Kwid gets just two front speakers.

Those looking for automatic convenience will notice the Alto K10 VXi AGS and the Kwid RXL (O) AMT with near identical price tags, both costing Rs 6.12 lakh on-road, Delhi. We can assume some first-time buyers who may not know how to drive a manual car will be leaning in this direction. Even here, the Kwid has the Alto beat by offering more equipment, similar to the top-end manual variants. However, both cars do get you reverse parking sensors, which will be helpful for first-timers and new buyers.

Nissan Magnite - Magnite Journeys Part 2

However, should you be looking for something marginally bigger, and if you are willing to spend marginally extra, you could also consider the base variants of the Nissan Magnite, Renault Kiger, and even the Hyundai Exter. On the base variants, neither car will offer you a sound system, infotainment screen, smartphone connectivity, and rear power windows, but they do offer ABS and reverse parking sensors.

Hyundai Exter Review
The Hyundai Exter edged past the Jimny, Elevate, and the Innova Hycross to win the ICOTY 2024 title

While the Exter comes with six airbags, things like hill-start assist, traction control, and ESC are available from the EX (O) trim onwards. Meanwhile, the Kiger and Magnite get these as standard, but with lesser airbags. The base Hyundai Exter EX comes in at Rs 6.95 lakh, on-road, Delhi, while the Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger are both priced at Rs 6.71 lakh, on-road Delhi.

Under the hood, the Alto K10 packs a 998 cc mill with 66 bhp and 9.08 kgm of torque, which can be paired to either a 5-speed manual or an AMT. The Renault Kwid’s 999 cc squeezes out just a little bit more, at 67 bhp and 9.2 kgm of torque, similarly equipped with a 5-speed manual and an AMT. Meanwhile, the base variants of the Exter, Magnite, and the Kiger can only be had with manual transmissions, which may lead a first-time buyer in the direction of the Kwid or the Alto. The base Kiger and Magnite share a 1.0-litre nat-asp powertrain with 71 bhp and 9.7 kgm of torque on offer, while the Exter has them beat with a 1.2-litre mill, churning 81 bhp and 11.6 kgm.

The non-turbo Kiger can be had from a lower-spec variant now

Given that the Kiger, Magnite, and the Exter are compact SUVs, they also have a larger wheelbase, with the Kiger and Magnite measuring at 2500 mm, while the Exter is a close second at 2450 mm. The Alto K10’s 2380 mm wheelbase makes it lesser than the Kwid’s 2480 mm. However, the Alto K10 is taller than the Kwid.

The question remains; a compact SUV or a hatchback? It is likely that a lot of first-time buyers will be driving with their families, and they definitely will have comfort and practicality on their minds, which all three compact SUVs will provide. However, the base variants obviously don’t offer that much equipment. Moreover, the Magnite and Kiger, as good as they are, are now beginning to look and feel dated. Fortunately, a Magnite facelift is around the corner. The Exter has Hyundai’s reliability and service network going for it, and while the Kwid trumps the Alto K10 when it comes to equipment, it is likely to remain the same car before eventually getting phased out.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Alto K10
The perfect beginner car to learn such antics on!

However, should peace of mind be thought of, nothing comes close to dethroning a Maruti Suzuki. If your budget is absolutely tight and you want a… erm, safe purchase (see what we did there?), just close your eyes and go for the Alto K10. Jokes aside, Maruti Suzuki has a very wide service network, and the Alto has a reputation for taking a lot of abuse; ask anyone living in the hills. While we’ve only tried giving you a slightly clearer picture, the next best thing to do would be to take a test drive; spend some time with either of these cars, see how they make you feel, whether they have the things you’re looking for or not, and then make the big decision. Happy Motoring!