Sep 5 2009 Edward Stephens
Suzuki Alto 1.0 SZ4
FOR a lot of people buying new cars today it's all about balance.
They want something that's sensibly priced, is economical on fuel, has low road tax yet offers good interior space and is happy to cruise comfortably at motorway speeds.
Enter the new Suzuki Alto - priced from just £7,245.
The latest generation of Alto - the seventh - is curvaceously cute and boasts an abundance of kerbside appeal.
Soft flowing lines on the front wings and bonnet and teardrop shaped headlights give it a very distinctive 'face'.
The car is available in three different spec levels, the SZ2, SZ3 and SZ4, and all are five door and come with the same one-litre, three cylinder engine.
But while it may be small on CCs and cylinders this Suzuki engine is certainly a willing workhorse which is rarely found wanting.
With a slick five-speed gearbox it gives a very respectable account of itself both in the city and on the motorways, although you do have to work the gearbox on some long gradients if you have more than two people on board.
Having said that I encountered few pulling problems and certainly with just one or two people inside, the little car is well up to anything you might throw at it.
For a car of these dimensions the Alto offers generous space for front seat passengers and adequate leg room in the rear.
And while the Alto is small in size it's big on build quality. The doors close with the gentlest of pushes and a very up-market clunk.
Inside the little car is neat and well thought out with everything falling easily to hand. The dashboard is functional rather than flashy, although I did miss the lid on the open fronted glove box to stow things out of sight when leaving the car.
Boot space is fine for small bags but you would struggle with large suitcases and would have to drop the rear seat backs for extra space, although this is a very simple, one-handed job.
Although the Alto is built in India, design work for it was conducted by a team based at Suzuki's headquarters in Japan and involved extensive studies in Europe.
My SZ4 test car came with a host of refinements as standard, including electronic stability programme, 14-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps and five airbags, including a curtain airbag.
The Alto model was first introduced in Japan in 1979 to provide motorists with a city car which combined fun, practicality, affordability and low running costs.
Suzuki says that during the last 30 years, this ethos has been maintained, and these values remain at the heart of the new seventh generation Alto.
Certainly it would be hard to find a car which offers such value for money. A car which, despite its dimensions, feels very grown up.
Suzuki Alto 1.0 SZ4 5dr
Mechanical: 68bhp, 996cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox.
Max speed: 96mph
0-62mph: 13.5 seconds
Combined mpg: 64.2
Insurance group: 2
C02 emissions: 103g/km
BIK rating: 15%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles