Maruti Suzuki India has launched a cheaper, more powerful and fuel-efficient version of its Alto – the world’s best-selling small car.

Exports will start in January, 2013, the company said.

Since 1984, Maruti’s entry-level models have outsold anything in India’s car market, as millions of middle-class families and first-time owners in the developing country flocked to its Maruti 800 model and its successor, the Alto, Reuters reported.

Sales of Maruti’s entry-level models are down 21% so far this current fiscal year, hit by greater competition from rivals including the Hyundai Eon and Tata’s Nano.

Maruti has priced the new Alto 800 at INR244,000 (US$4,600), cheaper than its predecessor but still more costly than the Nano which starts around $2,685.

India’s per capita income in the 2010-2011 fiscal year was estimated at INR53,331, according to government data.

“This is certainly going to boost Alto sales that have lagged recently. It will boost the brand,” Ashish Nigam, auto analyst at Antique Stockbroking in Mumbai, told Reuters. “But given the competition… this won’t be a game-changer.”

Maruti spent INR4.7bn developing the car. The petrol model offers 15% greater fuel efficiency than its predecessor, the company said.

“I am sure it will help us in reviving the numbers,” managing executive director Mayank Pareek told Reuters at the launch event. “The proof is in the pudding. 10,000 customers have booked [ordered] the car already, without having any idea of the price.”

In the fiscal year to last 31 March, Maruti sold over 310,000 Altos, making it the world’s biggest selling small car. Indians bought 2.02m cars that year.