Car review: Suzuki Alto SZ

CHEERFUL. With its front-end style, which gives the car a charming ‘face’ and the delightful thrumming note on start-up of its busy three-cylinder engine, the Suzuki Alto can be characterised in that one word.

And another reason to be cheerful is the current price, with the manufacturer offering the city car at £5,999 until the end of next month (June 2013). A new car for a whisker under six grand … and one with a lot to offer, as I found in my road test week with the Alto SZ. As well as serving up real wallet appeal, the Alto can boast a substantial pedigree.

Suzuki Alto SZ Review
Suzuki Alto SZ Review

How many models are entering a fourth decade of sales in their millions?

The first generation, 543cc, three-cylinder Alto was launched in 1979, designed for the Kei Class of the Japanese automobile sector. This allows small vehicles with an engine capacity of up to 660cc to benefit from cheaper tax rates and other incentives, a regulation which still stands today.

A 40bhp, 796cc version of the Alto, again a three-cylinder, was also produced, which proved more popular with export markets, including the UK, where the car went on sale in 1981.
Successful model followed model, and in 2003 the UK saw the arrival of the sixth generation motor, with the following generation going on sale here in 2009, celebrating its 30th anniversary.
The Alto is made in India, at the Maruti Suzuki plant near Delhi, and the country has embraced the little car, with more than four and a half million on the roads there.

With its five-door configuration the Alto is eminently practical, and there’s appealing design for both exterior and interior and the driving experience Is rewarding. With a smooth-changing manual five-speed gearbox and spirited 68bhp petrol engine, the Alto is a treat around town, with comfortable ride, assured handling and great ease-of-use. Parking is a doddle.

The car also holds its own on the motorway. The Alto proved a worthy companion on a day’s 350-mile, mainly three-lane, round trip, and the fuel gauge left me with a smile on my face.
For the little Suzuki has an economy ace up its sleeve. In these straitened times there’s a lot to be said for a car that shuns petrol pumps and is a winner in the road tax stakes, its 99g/km CO2 emissions making it VED exempt. Group 4E insurance is easy on the pocket, too.

The specification includes tilt adjustable steering column, front electric windows, lights-on and key-in reminder, door ajar warning lamp, an accessory socket and an MP3-enabled radio/CD player. Cup holders, bottle holders, storage pockets and a rear single-folding bench seat tick the practicality boxes.

On the safety front, there’s the assurance of anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

Suzuki Alto SZ Review
Suzuki Alto SZ Review

Commuting, shopping and that long-distance haul … my week with the Alto showed the car’s versatility… and charm.

Make-model: Suzuki Alto SZ
Technical: Three-cylinder, 996cc, petrol engine, with five speed manual gearbox.
Performance: 0 to 62mph, 13.5 seconds; top speed, 96mph.
Fuel: 65.7mpg (combined)
Emissions: 99 g/km
Price: £5,999 (until end of June 2013)

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Frank Turner

Frank Turner is a triple award-winning journalist and a member of the Northern Group of Motoring Writers. Contact him at