Suzuki Alto review (2009 onwards model) – MSN Cars UK

6 Jul 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Suzuki Alto review (2009 onwards model) – MSN Cars UK

Suzuki Alto

review (2009 onwards model)

What – Suzuki Alto

Where – Rome, Italy

Date – March 2009

Price – £6,795 – £7,960

Available – Now

Key rivals – Hyundai i10, Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1, Peugeot 107, Kia Picanto, Ford Ka, Volkswagen Fox, Fiat 500

GALLERY: Suzuki Alto

Suzuki introduces an all new Alto. It’s got super low emissions and excellent mpg for a petrol. But is it good enough to see off current budget city car champ, the Hyundai i10?

We like – best in class petrol fuel economy, very low CO2 emissions, rides well, predictable handling, low price

We don’t like – limited passenger room (even for a city car), boot, performance, outclassed by i10 for value, space and warranty

First impressions

Image © Suzuki

Click images to enlarge

From the moment the door went ‘clang!’ rather than ‘thunk’, we began to fear the Suzuki Alto a compromise too far. We really want to like this car – it seems to have so much potential. A small, perky city car that emits just 103g/km CO2 and sips petrol.

There’s got to be a place for that.

But while the Alto does have its strengths – we’ll get to exactly what those are in a moment – there’s also plenty about this car which instils a basic, primary What the. kind of reaction. And unfortunately, this tends to happen with regard to basic, primary functions. Like the boot.

Image © Suzuki

The Alto is priced from just £6,795 for the entry-level SZ2 specification. That makes it very cheap – especially for a brand new design. Visually successful from some angles, decidedly gawky where not, but certainly better looking than the version Suzuki is building for Nissan, rebadged Pixo.

Problematically, however, if you want air conditioning, you’ll need to upgrade to an Alto SZ3 at £7,245. That’s actually more than an entry-level Hyundai i10 1.1 Classic, which at £7,000 includes air con as standard. The Hyundai is roomier inside, at least as well built, and it includes a five-year warranty.

Starting the engine doesn’t inspire any instant sensations of renewed optimism, either. Is it unfair to describe a car as sounding like a washing machine when it actually does? The Alto’s three-cylinder, 1.0-litre engine (already available in the Suzuki Splash/Vauxhall Meriva – heavens. ) thrums, and then thrums some more.

It sounds exactly like a Hot Point building up to its maximum spin cycle. Smooth enough if you are, the engine nevertheless gets upset at sudden, aggressive applications of the throttle. And at idle there’s noticeable vibration through not only the pedals but especially the front passenger footwell.

With just 68hp – not to mention a teeny 66lb ft of torque – the Alto feels slooow. That’s to be expected. 0-62mph officially takes 13.5 seconds in the five-speed manual (17 dead in the optional four-speed automatic) – which is actually quicker than the 1.1-litre Hyundai i10.

The problem is the gearing.

According to the speedometer, this car will do 100km/h in second. That’s 62mph. Unusual for a small car.

Around hilly Italian mountainside towns we found ourselves hanging on to first for ages; the lack of torque combined with the length of the gears making progress either noisy and frantic, or – again – slow.

Presumably the long-winded ratios are there to help the economy figures. They may also help manage that official acceleration time (one fewer shift before the magic 62mph; difficult to be sure without proper timing equipment). It certainly boosts the refinement on motorways – but at the expense of in-gear acceleration at such speeds.

Once wound up, the Alto is more than happy to buzz along at pace with everyone else on the autostrada – wind, engine and road noise impressively muted. However, four-up with luggage, and even slight hills are going to present a challenge. The manual gearbox is rather vague, too.

If anything really lets the Alto down it’s the interior. The quality of the plastics isn’t dreadful, but the choice of light grey for large slabs of door and dash might have looked good in the design studio – on the road it just seems very early 90s Toyota. The occasional exposed screw only lessens this ambience.

The real issue is the accommodation. Even supposing this is a 2+2 type of city car, intended for couples with small children, there really isn’t much rear legroom for adults – you’ll find your knees pressed into the seat in front. Which won’t be comfortable for long for either party.

There’s no proper glovebox. Instead you get a slot that’s apparently big enough for six 500-litre bottles of water. Or a handbag, according to the press pack.

The steering wheel adjusts for height but not reach. On the plus side, the speedo is large and clear to read.

Finally, a special mention for the boot. At 129 litres, this is tiny – 10 litres shy of even Toyota’s Aygo; the i10 offers 225 litres. The sill is very high. And the parcelshelf isn’t hinged at its furthest edge, meaning you can’t fill the space to its maximum height because the shelf gets in the way.

Really poor.

Image © Suzuki

In addition to the SZ2 and SZ3 specifications mentioned already, the Alto is also available in range-topping SZ4 trim. This adds ESP and curtain airbags – the two other versions get just front and side protection (though it is worth noting that’s still more than what’s standard on the Ford Ka).

Three grades of ultra high tensile steel are used in the Alto’s construction for improved crash protection (there is no Euro NCAP score yet) but more importantly, reduced heft. The Alto weighs just 885kg. Fuel economy is a highly impressive 64.2mpg – better than any other petrol in its class and most definitely Suzuki’s trump card.

The Suzuki Alto is highly efficient. It does emit very low levels of CO2. And it does drive nicely. But the engine is gutless, the interior disappointing, there’s not much passenger space and the boot is badly designed.

Spend more, or buy a Hyundai.

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