My experience bringing a 2002 Maruti Alto 1.1 SPIN back to former glory

It’s all very well about how people love their Altos for the 3 cylinder frugality and ease of maintenance. However, few remember this Wolf in Sheep’s clothing.

BHPian BeemerBug_006 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.


Regarding cars in India, the name ‘Alto’ happens to be one of the most familiar, if not the most familiar. Considering that the little Maruti Alto is India’s best-selling car, everyone is reasonably well versed with it, even non-car people. The Alto was launched in 2000 and was a sign of good things to come. Initially, it took a little while for the sales to pick up, but once they did, there was no looking back.

Now most of us here would identify the Alto as the jolly little three-pot hatchback that continues to win hearts all over the nation year after year after year. The older cars got the F8D 3 cylinder 796 cc engine which was shared with the 800 5 speed and later went into the Alto 800. In 2010, MS introduced the K10 3-cylinder 997cc engine and dubbed the model the Alto K10.

Now it’s all very well about how people love their Altos for the 3 cylinder frugality and ease of maintenance. However, few remember the Wolf in Sheep’s clothing.

Let me jog your memories

Say Hello once again to the notorious sibling of the composed 796cc Alto

This hatchback sadly died an early death and eventually went on to be forgotten for good by most, except for the few that owned them. This here is the Alto 1.1, a car that I would confidently call a sleeper!

Now it’s time for a little bit of a history lesson.

The Alto was launched by MS in September 2000 and sold two variants at the beginning. The LX variant which was the base containing the 796cc 3 cylinder F8D engine and the VX variant which got the 1097cc 4 cylinder F10D engine. While the LX was completely bare-bones, it is the VX that had all the bells and whistles. Sadly, not many consumers were keen to pay a hefty sum of 3.7 lakh rupees for the VX, furthermore, it was eating into the sales of the then also new WagonR which carried the same F10D motor. Several people eventually went on to pick the WagonR. This led to Maruti Suzuki axing the 1.1 Alto in mid-2004.

The car you see in the image doesn’t belong to me. It’s a car that I happened to babysit and shelter for a friend for a couple of months or so, earlier this year.

So here’s how it happened.

A friend of mine named Nirmal from Coimbatore who also happens to be a car enthusiast called me one day in April 2022 saying that his sister was moving to Mumbai in a couple of months and needed a nice small car for running about. While their budget was a bit sub 1 lakh rupees, I decided to narrow it down to the best cars we could find for that price. He was very keen on an Alto itself because he happens to own one back home (also a 1.1) and she would find it comfortable to use and drive in the city due to familiarity.

So I began to help search for a nice Alto for them. My mechanic Ravi had a very clean Alto LXi at the time which he had purchased from a client, but he was in no mood to sell. So that was out. Eventually, through a known source, I came to know about the 1.1.

The source was someone in the mechanical line itself and he said his friend in Mazgaon had a nice single owner Alto for sale. The ‘friend’ happened to be a middleman who had also posted the car for sale on OLX. I showed pics of the car to Nirmal and he was keen, so one sultry Saturday afternoon I decided to go take a look at the car on his behalf. I took Ravi uncle along for a better examination.

On first look, this car went straight onto my reject list. It was parked in one corner of the road under a tree, looking rather sad. It seemed very shabbily kept, was dusty and covered in bird poo , had faded paint, and ants crawling all over the roof. I almost considered walking away there itself. However, since we had come all the way I decided to complete the scrutiny before leaving. The middleman was a decent chap and apologized for the unkept condition of the car saying that his cleaner had not been coming for a few days. Well, whatever..

I opened the door and was instantly greeted by the Tachometer, which the regular Alto did not get. The interior was a little dirty but it was immaculately kept otherwise. The seat fabric was intact, it retained the original Head unit and the two front power windows worked too! That was a win.

Soon after that, I started the car and it started as it should in half a crank. The engine was super quiet and smooth, I could barely hear it with bonnet down. It did sound a little course in parts though owing to old oil. The car had run only 40k km, a pittance and owing to the way she ran, post Ravi’s examination, we knew it was genuine.

The test drive really had me in awe of the car. The low end torque of the motor was fabulous and when I put my foot down, the car went right like a bat out of hell. The clutch was so light, complimented by smooth gearshifts and a chilling AC. It felt amazing to drive. So I was convinced this was the car to get. Later, that evening I spoke to Nirmal at length and a couple of days later he sealed the deal.

Continue reading BHPian BeemerBug_006’s thread on the elusive Maruti Alto 1.1 for more insights and information.

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