| ||A-star car? || || |
| || || |
| ||Mumbai: Cruising at about 110 kph, I somehow cant come around to the fact that its a little three-cylinder motor thats powering this new supermini from Maruti Suzuki. The top-end ZXi version of the A-star comes with a tachometer thats housed in a spherical pod above the main instrument console, looking as if you just got it fitted at your neighbourhood performance tuning shop. |
I take my eyes off the road to look at it, and the needle is nestled at 3500 rpm. If needed I could push the car a little more, and I do just that, till the little A-star runs out of steam when it reaches the 155 kph mark on the speedo. This is okay by me in a car of this size.
Yup, its quite a compact car. The A-star is not in the tall-boy mode of small cars that we are getting too familiar with. Its like a grown-up Alto which, in fact, it replaces in many markets across the world. But it is better looking than the Alto, and is indeed the 21st century version all right. But other than its newness in its appearance, it is whats inside that compact bonnet thats really special a new engine and a new gearbox.
The A-star is powered by a 998cc three-cylinder three valve per cylinder DOHC motor that produces 66 bhp at 6200 rpm and 9.3 kgm at just 3500 rpm. Its paired to a five-speed manual gearbox. Now the new drivetrain combination makes the A-star a bit different to the other little Suzuki motors around.
For one, it does not rev like a motorcycle engine and makes its torque a little early in life the benefit of course is that in-city driveability is good, and ensures that you dont have to keep stirring that gear lever too often. This brings me to the second nice aspect about the A-star. The gearshift quality is a vast improvement over most other Suzukis; the stubby gear lever borrowed from the Swift shifts much more positively and it is flickable, though I must mention that its not as good as the Hyundai i10s.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the way the engine moves the lightweight A-star around makes you feel as if its an inline-four inside. Though it gets a little buzzy at higher revs, most of the time, the engine comes through as pretty refined. The easy access to torque means that you can tuck your nose in between other cars in our tightly packed streets and get away with ease. Sitting on a wide track, the A-star is well-planted and confident on the curves.
Its handling is sorted and roadholding is decent too. When it comes to the rough patches, the ride is firm, but the damping is much better thanks to the gas-charged shock-absorbers that the A-star gets. The steering wheel is borrowed from the Swift; it feels a little large in this application and the steering setup could do with some more feel.
With its perfect, compact dimensions and the driver-friendly drivetrain, the A-star looks quite promising as a good city runabout. Besides that, the quality of the plastics that has gone in is also an improvement over most of the existing Suzukis its duo-tone grey is also a relief compared to the beige interiors. Still, its a small car, so while you are quite okay at the front, seating three adults at the rear could only lead to a rather intimate experience.
The base LXi version of the A-star retails for Rs 3.61 lakh in Mumbai, while the top-end ZXi version (which comes with ABS/EBD and dual airbags) is priced at Rs 4.28 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai. The pricing, remember, is introductory. So till the moment Maruti Suzuki takes the price up, the A-star pricing right now is quite competitive. Okay, it may have a three-cylinder motor like the M-800/Omni and the Alto, but it is pretty evident that Suzuki has ensured that you get four-cylinder engine like performance with the frugal fuel drinking habits of a three-cylinder motor... now who can argue with that?