Competition is finally heating up for Maruti in its traditional domain—the entry-level small car segment. Last year volumes for the Alto, the country’s largest selling car, stayed flat, with sales in March dropping 11.46%, to 22,101 units. The Renault Kwid, which was launched in October 2015, had notched up sales of 41,000 till March, with average monthly sales of 7,000-8,000 units.

Next month, Renault’s alliance partner Nissan will launch another Alto competitor under its Datsun sub-brand—the car is called the redi-GO and it will be likely priced Rs 2.5-3.5 lakh. Maruti has now readied the new Alto 800. Apart from cosmetic changes—headlamps, bumper and front grille have been redesigned, and there is a foglamp housing—Maruti has enhanced the car’s fuel-efficiency by 9%. The new Alto 800, the company claims, now returns a mileage of 24.77kpl.

The new Alto 800 is longer by 35mm which translates into more cabin space. The interior, too, has been reworked. It gets new dark grey colour theme, rear seats come with integrated headrests, and both the seats and door trim get new fabric. The front passenger seat has a pocket, and all variants will get rear child lock. Internally-adjustable ORVMs are available from base variant onwards.

The new Alto 800 will be available with driver airbag as an option from base variant onwards. The airbag is priced only Rs 6,000. The car would also be launched in a CNG variant which, the company claims, will return a mileage of 33.44 km per kg. Considering the heat Maruti is facing in the entry-level small car segment, we don’t expect Maruti to increase the price substantially. The outgoing Alto 800 was priced Rs 2.57 lakh.

Engine: Improved high thermal efficiency gasoline engine, with low friction losses Electronic throttle body for a peppier and smoother driving experience 2016 Maruti Alto 800 Fuel-efficiency: Alto 800 Std petrol: 24.7kpl Alto 800 LXi CNG (CNG mode): 33.44 km per kg Alto 800 LXi CNG (Petrol mode): 23.25kpl .