Week at the Wheel: Suzuki Alto

7 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Week at the Wheel: Suzuki Alto

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Week at the Wheel | Suzuki Alto |

Inside Out:

At just 3.5-metres long, the Suzuki Alto is one of the smallest cars on the road, but that doesn’t stop it packing five doors into its hatchback form. The way it does this is to forego windows in the rear pillars, which in turn allows the rear pair of doors to extend far back into this space. Due to the upsweep of the rear doors’ window line and to save some weight, the rear windows open on a hinge rather than slide up and down.

We’re not averse to this solution as the Alto tips the scales at just 885kg to make it a proper lightweight machine.

The downside of the short length is a very small boot space, though this could be easily extended in our SZ4 test car thanks to a split and fold rear bench seat. Go for the cheaper SZ2 or SZ3 versions of the Alto, though, and the tip and flip rear bench is not fitted. For passengers, space is more readily available and the Alto can fit four adults when required in decent comfort.

The driver has an upright seating position, which helps with good visibility, while the dashboard is simple and functional. Why the Alto misses a three-star rating here is that there are some poorly finished areas, such as exposed screw heads and coarsely surfaced plastic mouldings. It’s a shame the Alto is let down by these details as it’s otherwise a good environment to spend time in.

Engine Transmission:

There’s no denying that the whole Car Enthusiast team loves big, pokey engines, but that doesn’t mean we don’t delight in a pint-pot motor with as much cheer as the Suzuki’s. Displacing 1.0-litre and producing 67bhp, this three-cylinder engine thrives on revs and it’s this that makes the Alto more fun around town than many of its rivals.

Okay, so 0-62mph in 14 seconds isn’t going to intimidate motorcycle couriers in the city, but use the fell spread of revs and the Alto has no trouble keeping up with traffic, and it even finds its feet on the motorway with some ease. Granted, the engine makes itself heard at most speeds, but the three-cylinder whirr is much more pleasant than a lot of other engine noises we can think of for similar money and the Suzuki keeps wind and road noise to acceptable levels. The Alto also shades many rivals’ gearchanges thanks to the short throw of its five-speed manual ‘box

Ride Handling:

If you rarely venture outside of the ring road, the Alto makes a case for itself. A superbly tight turning circle makes a mockery of three-point turns, while there’s enough grip for roundabouts to be taken without the need to scrub off too much speed with the Suzuki’s decent brakes. It’s not all urban delight, though, as the ride is ‘jiggly’ on all but the most ironed flat roads.

The 14-inch wheels of the Alto – alloys on the SZ4 – also catch too readily on potholes and creases in the road’s surface. Beyond the urban sprawl, the Alto still hangs on gamely in corners, but faster lanes show up a considerable amount of body lean. Such bends also expose the Alto’s light steering, which offers minimal feel but is good for slotting the car home into the tiniest of parking bays.

Higher speeds also do nothing to calm the tormented ride quality.

Equipment, Economy Value for Money:

The Suzuki Alto is all about value, so combined economy of 64.2mpg is spot on for those looking for a frugal car. Carbon dioxide emissions of 103g/km may just miss out on free road tax, but it still qualifies the Alto for low-rate VED and that won’t break the bank. Add Suzuki’s reasonable servicing costs to 9,000-mile service intervals and most Altos are unlikely to see their dealer’s service bay more than once a year.

Insurance in group 2 for the SZ4 is very affordable, but for those looking to pinch every penny will find the group 1 rating of the SZ2 and SZ3 models more appealing.

However, the SZ4 is the one we’d recommend as it comes with niceties such as alloy wheels, rev counter and that split and fold rear bench that adds to the practical side of the Alto. Every Alto has twin front and side airbags, but the SZ4 is the only one with curtain airbags and ESP traction control, so this is another reason it wins our vote. The SZ2 has electric front windows, CD stereo and remote central locking, but misses the air conditioning of the two upper trim levels.

Overall:

We wanted to find out if the Suzuki Alto can pull off being cheap and cheerful at the same time. It just about manages it, but partly through some of its key rivals going up considerably in price in the past 12 months.

We’d like to see some of the rough edges in build quality addressed, but there’s no quibbling with the amount of equipment the top-spec SZ4 comes with. The chirpy nature of the engine and sheer zip-ability of the Alto around town do a lot to negate the bouncy ride, though most Alto buyers will be more concerned with the fine economy and low emissions. For them, the Suzuki is a cost-effective choice.

Alisdair Suttie – 13 Jan 2010

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