Is it fast?
There’s no beating around the bush here, Suzuki’s Alto is anything but fast. It packs a dinky, 1-litre engine under its silver hood which, like its 107 and Aygo rivals, churns out a stingy 67bhp. That makes 0-62mph ‘achievable’ in an extremely modest 13.5 seconds, with a top speed not even earning the three-figure stamp of approval.
Is it sexy?
Despite our tester being clothed in SZ4 trim – that includes alloy wheels, yo! – it’s hard for me to call the Alto a sexual stunner. It’s boxy, bug-eyed, and has a rear flatter than Taylor Swift’s. Its redeeming feature is its sporty, chrome grille but you only need to glance at the spartan interior to realise that Suzuki’s Alto has been produced on budget.
What’s it like to drive?
The Alto’s 3-cylinder, petrol unit springs to life on the turn of a key (no fancy keyless start here as you can imagine) and you’re greeted with the familiar thrum of a small-pot engine. However, all the controls have been crafted to suit one imaginary Joe Bloggs and his 17-year-old, weed of a son. The steering is light at low-speeds… and light at high speeds. This has the cruel effect of making fast, motorway cruising something of an art to master.
And it’s when young Adam Bloggs is making his bi-annual trip up to University in Manchester that he’ll begin to realise why the Suzuki Alto is such a bargain, with the base SZ starting at £7,199; wind roar is a real nuisance and the ride is just bearable, not supremely comfortable.
To get anywhere on time, you drive the Alto with your foot flat to the floor, making the most of the petrol engine’s modest shove and trying to row through the gears with as much intensity as you can muster. As a result mileage will fall, but thanks to its light shell, tight manoeuvres and B-road blasts are surprisingly fun.
How about the inside?
The Alto SZ4 features four-speakers (as opposed to just two in the entry-level SZ) but the entertainment setup on the whole lacks quality (and thumping bass). This is an inexpensive car so the materials used are understandably dreary and practical. It might be a cliché too far, but the Alto epitomises no-frills motoring.
Will my mates rate it?
If by night you double up as the local campus ‘designated driver‘, your mates will definitely rate the Alto’s five-door setup and decent rear room. Lads over six foot may struggle to squeeze their bulky frames onto the rear bench, and if by chance they do, you’ll be kicking down into second on the regular to maintain momentum.
Can I afford it?
Suzuki are up against it in this segment. On top of the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107, there are new competitors in the form of Volkswagen’s good-looking Up and the rest of the VAG crew. Once you’ve added options to your Alto, you’ll be in Up territory (our tester cost £10k OTR) which makes this a hard car to sell. On the plus side, 99g/km means no London congestion charge and no road tax. 65.7mpg when driven kindly means your wallet won’t face further punishment.
Show me three used alternatives
If you scour Auto Trader with devilish ferocity, you can find a used Citroen Saxo for under £1500. For extra Sherlock points, opt for the sporty, 120bhp VTS which is both lightweight and modestly-sized.
TopGear named the first-gen Toyota Yaris one of the best superminis money could buy. Ten years later, you can grab a 10-year-old, Mark I Yaris for under a grand. It’s light, frugal and solidly built. Just ask your humble author: I’ve pedalled an ’03 Yaris to 100k miles without so much as a busted rear brake light!
If you’ve got the moolah for something a little more ‘21st Century‘, Fiat’s good-looking 500 may be right up your street. For £4,650 you can pick up a 2009 model with less than 30k miles on the clock. Whilst the Twin Air engine has the most character, we suggest looking at the more popular 1.2-litre Pop.Suzuki Alto Review: The Perfect First-Timer's Car?,