If you’re fed up of cycling in the rain or don’t want to take the bus anymore, Suzuki’s extremely affordable Alto might just be the car to come to your rescue. This small five-door hatchback is perfect for those taking their first step on their motoring journey and people on a tight budget.
They say money can’t buy you class. Equally, just because you only have a small amount to spend on a car, it doesn’t mean you should have to settle for second-rate styling. The inexpensive Suzuki Alto proves that last point perfectly. It looks solid, cheery and far from cheap.
The front bumper, bonnet, grille and headlamp combination seems to give you a great big grin as you walk up to the car.
The side profile is quite nifty, too. We like the way the windscreen pillar sweeps backwards into the roof line, and the tightly tailored rear finishes the whole thing off nicely.
What's it like to drive?
Suzuki offers the Alto with a single engine choice - a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit. If you’ve not tried an engine of this size before, we’re sure you’ll like the distinct sound it makes and the additional character it brings to the car.
The engine has enough performance to pull the Alto up steep hills, and the only thing you do need to decide upon is whether you go for an automatic or manual gearbox.
Having the automatic takes care of all the gear changes for you and makes town driving a little easier, but you should find the manual gearbox a doddle to use too.
The Alto is at its best around town, where its good visibility, tight turning circle, a comfortable ride and light steering make it super-easy to manoeuvre. It’ll cope with country roads and motorways too of course, but it never feels quite as polished there as it does in the city.
The Alto is at its best around town, thanks to its good visibility, tight turning circle and light steering.
Yes, the Alto may look like an itty-bitty city car from the outside – yet you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the amount of space in the front.
There’s nothing too shabby or ‘budget’ about the front seats, which will give you plenty of comfort and support and a good range of driving positions, although height adjustment is only available on top trim levels. It’s less good news in the back, where space is quite tight and not really suitable for adults or tall teenagers on long journeys – younger kids should be fine though.
Suzuki stopped selling the Alto in the UK in 2014, so it’s beginning to show its age a little inside. Everything feels solidly screwed together and constructed – there’s just no nice soft-touch plastics to be found. There’s nothing too flash about the Alto’s dashboard. The controls nice and easy to use, thanks to big chunky buttons and switches.
The entry-level SZ2 model is equipped with features such as remote central locking, electric front windows and a CD player, while the SZ3 adds air-conditioning. Upgrading to the SZ4 brings stylish alloy wheels.
The door bins are very narrow and general stowage is not that great throughout the cabin, with no glovebox fitted.
Unfortunately, things don’t get much better when you move around to the boot. It’s big enough to hold a couple of soft sports bags or a medium amount of shopping, and not much more. There’s also quite a high load lip to lift items over.
Remember, the Alto is not meant to be a family car and if you’re living the student life, or just nipping about town picking up a few bits and pieces, it should be absolutely fine. If you do need to fit bigger items in, you can easily fold the back seats down.
Reliability and running costs
his is where the Alto scores big. As it’s aged, it hasn’t held on to its value as well as some of its posher rivals, and that means you’ll find it much more affordable to buy now.
You should also find it very cheap to run. Insurance costs are just about as low as they can get, and servicing costs should be minimal, too.
You won’t have to stop for fuel too often either as the engine should return high-50s mpg with the manual gearbox, a little bit less with the automatic transmission. The Alto enjoys a good reputation for reliability, so should provide you with relatively trouble-free driving.
What we love
We’re big fans of the Suzuki Alto’s cute styling. With that smiling front face, there really is a lot of character with this car. The Alto is also super-easy to live with, especially in the city, and it won’t break the bank to either purchase or run.
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Affordable to buy and cheap to run, value for money is the Suzuki Alto’s undoubted strong point. It makes a great first car, but will also suit older drivers as it’s effortless to drive, especially in busy cities. Solidly built and reliable, it should provide low-cost, low-worry (and admittedly low-frills) motoring.
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