Suzuki Alto: Sub-Light Hatch comparison

27 Sep 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Suzuki Alto: Sub-Light Hatch comparison

Suzuki Alto

: Sub-Light Hatch comparison

Suzuki Alto

What we liked:

Tractable three-cylinder engine

Commendable fuel consumption

Simple, user-friendly controls

Not so much:


 Very poor braking performance

Questionable value proposition

Sub-par materials, fit and finish

ON THE ROAD


While the Alto may have proved surprisingly competent overall, its suspension and tyres let it down severely where handling and braking were concerned. The car understeered dramatically in the damp conditions encountered on test and was the worst performer under brakes. From 60km/h the Alto took 19.0m to stop, the worst here.

The body was slow in its reaction to steering input, which was frustrating given the Alto’s good level of steering feedback. The weighting of the steering, however, was inconsistent, the hydraulic system loading heavily at low engine speeds when making quick directional changes (think parallel parking).

A torquey and tractable 1.0-litre engine provided the Alto with deceptively brisk and impressively linear acceleration. The car was happy to pull away from low speeds in second gear which is a good thing considering that first gear was too tall for most applications. Climbing the steep grade on test the

Alto had no trouble holding second gear (at a low 2300rpm!) with a full complement of passengers on board.

From zero to 60km/h the Alto managed 6.8sec, making it the second-best accelerating entrant here. The car also achieved one of the best fuel consumption results on test (6.9L/100km), ranking second behind the Volkswagen up!.

Despite offering less suspension travel than many of the others here, the Alto still performed admirably when loaded with passengers proving well composed at suburban speeds. The gearshift felt taut and quite positive, a shame, then, the clutch became ‘sticky’ when hot.

VALUE FOR MONEY


Courtesy of its three-cylinder engine, the Alto was originally able to lay claim as Australia’s most economical non-hybrid car. Today, with the advent of the Volkswagen up! and Mitsubishi Mirage, that advantage has been eroded — although, at a quoted average of 4.7L/100km, the Alto is hardly a gas guzzler.

And it remains the cheapest car here.

With the five-speed manual-transmission GL version tagged at $11,790, and the four-speed auto at $13,290, the latter fits below manual versions of the Nissan Micra and Volkswagen up.

But don’t go looking for any favours where standard equipment is concerned. The Alto has air-conditioning, (non-remote) central locking and front power windows, but no trip computer, no multi-function steering wheel and no electric mirrors.

It is also the smallest car here, which is evident in its interior dimensions, although it is not the lightest: The Mirage and the up! have (slightly) fewer kilograms to carry. Like all the others except the Mirage, the Alto is fitted with steel wheels (including the full-size spare), in this case running super-skinny 155/65R14 tyres – the smallest in the group.

Although the Alto has the recognition of Australian motoring clubs as the cheapest car to own and operate, and comes with a standard three-year 100,000km new car warranty, it offers no included roadside assist.

A four-passenger capacity, as well as a four-star ANCAP safety rating, goes against the Alto’s score, too.

FIT, FINISH AND FINESSE


The Alto didn’t get off to a great start when we opened the door. The cloth upholstery around the seat height adjuster was loose and ill-fitting, not to mention unhemmed and ragged around the edges.

Marks were already evident on the door cards and lower dash plastics too, not a good sign. Exterior paint quality is exceptionally poor too, with heaps of orange peel, especially on painted plastic surfaces.

The dark grey upper dash and light grey lower dash look good from afar, but upon close inspection prove there are more than a few inconsistencies in panel gaps. The outer air vents also feel flimsy, as do the indicator/wiper stalks.

Plastic textures are another low point. The gearknob in particular is too coarsely-grained to feel comfortable in the palm of your hand, and the urethane steering wheel is similarly unpleasant. The tachometer sprouting from the dashboard also looks decidedly naff, and hinders visibility for shorter drivers.

The USB port is an obvious afterthought, given its poor integration into the dashboard. Curiously though, the Alto had one of the more extensively-trimmed boot areas — it’s just a shame that there were a few rattly plastics back there.

EXECUTION OF INTENDED PURPOSE


Despite having four doors, Alto only offers four seats and, to be frank, even that is somewhat of a stretch. Alto also suffers from a shallow entry to its cargo compartment, which holds a group-worst 110 litres. This is expanded to 345 litres with the 50:50 split-fold seat in its down position.

Although the rear seating offers some cosseting contours, head, knee and footroom are all at a premium, leaving the front-seat occupants feeling knees in their backs through their thin pews (which, incidentally, lack separate headrests). Rear passengers do have good elbow width, thanks to low door arm-rests.

Things improve up-front with a nicely adjustable driving position and a seat squab which could be lowered to give a good angle of attack on the major controls. Visibility is also good front and rear, though the thick A- and B-pillars, and rear door up-sweep, reduce lateral vision.

The centre console is uncluttered and easy to use, which is handy because there are no steering wheel-mounted controls. The biggest negative is the lack of powered mirrors, leaving the driver to reach across the cabin when off-side adjustment is required.

On the road the Alto’s characterful three-pot does intrude when revved, but on initial start-up is very smooth – in fact you could be forgiven for thinking it had stalled! Curiously, once warmed up, the return to idle (say, at the traffic lights) produces quite a vibration, which is felt through the cabin. Otherwise tyre noise is minimal and the ride is soft enough not to disturb passengers.

SUITABLE INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY

The Suzuki Alto’s technology struggles to compete with the competition in our line-up. There’s no Bluetooth connectivity and no multi-function steering wheel controls. The manual adjust mirrors also see the Alto on the back foot before any in-depth investigation has begun.

The Alto’s audio interface offers (single) CD, MP3, auxiliary and USB compatibility controlled through buttons on the centre stack. The six speakers deliver good sound, although the top of dash position of the front speakers is questionable for optimal clarity.

The driver and front passenger get electric windows, but the second row windows are manually controlled. The driver has control over all door locks, but they cannot control the front passenger window.

The Suzuki Alto is a simple car that is relatively user-friendly, largely due to the lack of any modern equipment. Catering to a target market where in-cabin gadgetry thrills and connectivity is king, the Alto, sadly, disappoints.

SPECIFICATIONS

Suzuki Alto (from $11,790 / as tested $11,790)

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol

Output: 50kW/90Nm

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Fuel/CO2: 4.7L/100km / 110g/km

Wheels/Tyres: 14×4.5-inch / 155/65

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