By Wayne Gorrett
Note: The Suzuki Alto and Splash models have now been discontinued in the UK, replaced by the Celerio.
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With an on-trend 3-cylinder, sub-1.0-litre engine, the Alto is one of the
cheapest cars you can buy, but does it deliver the value demanded in
a busy A-segment?
We took a shining to….
* 1.0-litre 3-pot engine shows willing * Everyday 60mpg * No road tax *
* Cheap to buy, insure and run * Easy to drive * Tight turning circle *
…but noted that…
* Runs out of puff too quickly * Intrusive motorway road and wind noise *
* Cabin evidently built to a budget * Cramped rear *
☀ ☀ ☀
Suzuki does most things very well. Small city cars they do exceptionally well. Take for example the Alto – the starter car in the current Suzuki UK line-up…it has the prerequisite wheel at each corner, five doors, a roof and an engine with sufficient will to tootle along quite happily – what more could you possibly want for your money?
The Alto has been around in various guises for 33 years and, now in its seventh generation having undergone a minor image update last year, it’s not as if the visual design is especially dowdy. In fact, we think it’s quite cute, and certainly makes its DNA-sharing cousin – the frankly awful Nissan Pixo look even more depressing.
From the driver’s seat, it gets flash and jazzy around the dashboard and the funky RPM pod stands proud of the instrument binnacle. Visibility of all instruments and controls is good, all are clearly labelled and nothing feels like it’s going to fall apart in your hands. There’s rotary heater dials, chunky stereo buttons and even a ‘retro’ slider for air reticulation. All-round vision is impressive and with driver’s seat height adjustment on all but the entry-level model, you should be able to get reasonably comfy at the wheel, although there is no reach adjustment for the steering.
Four people could fit in the Alto as long as they’re not too tall. However, they’ll struggle to find space for any type of luggage outside of an average aeroplane carry-on because the boot is really rather pointless and is effected by some fundamental design flaws: The parcel shelf doesn’t rise when the door is opened and getting it to stay up manually – which it does until a sparrow lands on the bonnet – is nigh on impossible. And the loading lip is high. The split-folding rear seats extend the boot, but the new space created is sloped. It would have been better to remove the boot ‘space’ altogether and give it to rear seat passengers. Folding down the rear seat backs can then be implemented when needing all or part of the rear seat space for shopping or other everyday loads.
The cabin is woefully short on practical storage space for everyday in-car tat. While there are a few token space provisions, there’s only a shelf in place of the glove box, and the door ‘pockets’ are ridiculously inadequate and may understandably be mistaken for a 5mm letter thickness tester.
The cabin feels quite solid. However, it’s not very appealing because there are exposed screw heads and lots of hard, shiny plastics. The rear windows pop out 80’s style instead of winding down, an unsubtle (and uncool) reference to obvious cost-cutting. Suzuki has a good reliability record and the Alto is covered by a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.
The revised 68bhp, three-cylinder engine now features dual variable valve timing (VVT) and actually comes across as pretty perky and shows willing on the move. Like most 3-pot engines now available in the UK market, it has a distinctive audio tinge, is eager to rev but is a tad dronish on the motorway, to the point of inducing drowsiness. The five-speed gearbox requires frequent re-slotting to maintain momentum, but does so calmly and without fuss. While the Alto seems happy on a motorway, a distinctly urban environment is more its raison d’etre.
While the combination of dinky 14in wheels and standard-profile tyres (remember them?) the Alto gives a surprisingly supple ride, but coarse and uneven surfaces are best avoided. The steering is a little heavier than expected but is reassuringly direct, and although it’s not hard to expose the Alto’s limits around ‘enthusiastic’ corners, it’s impressively composed at speed for a small car.
Fast Facts – Suzuki Alto 1.0 SZ4
Recommended retail price > £9.599.
Suzuki Alto price range > From £7,199 to £10,349.
Power / Torque > 68bhp (50kW) @ 6,000rpm / 90Nm @ 3,400rpm.
Top speed > 96mph.
Acceleration > 0-62mph in 13,5 seconds.
Fuel tank > 35.0 litres (7.7 gallons).
Fuel economy (combined) > Official 65.7mpg / Tested (over 441 miles): 59.3mpg.
Full tank range > Official 505 miles, Tested 457 miles.
CO2 Emissions > Class Euro V: 99g/km (yr1 BIK 10%).
Load capacity to window line > Row 2 up: 129 litres > Row 2 down: 367 litres.
VED Band / Cost > A / £0 first year, £0 thereafter.
Euro NCAP rating > 3-Stars in 2009.
Insurance group model tested > 4.
Warranty > 3yr / 60,000 miles, 12yr Corrosion.
* Chevrolet Spark * Citroen C1 * Dacia Sandero * Kia Picanto * Mitsubishi Mirage *