Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
by Matt Brogan

12 hours, one mission: to test the economy claims of Suzuki’s new Alto.

By Matt Brogan

In addition to my regular review this week I thought I’d throw an additional challenge at Suzuki’s pint-sized warrior and put the car’s impressive fuel economy claims – and perhaps that of my rather limited patience – to the ultimate test: a 12 hour economy drive around Melbourne’s inner-city and suburbs.

The idea for the 12 hour challenge came to me when reading Alborz first steer on the Alto last month, which went on to say that he couldn’t believe the car’s incredible fuel efficiency figures.

Well, neither did I, so being the smallest member of the team it was decided that I was to be folded like an origami swan in to the driver’s seat for half a day of discovering where the 1.0-litre Alto’s strengths lie.

Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge

My plan was to run a loop of approximately 50 kilometres, or roughly that of the daily commute, through the city and surrounding suburbs for a 12 hour period, and at the end of that time, calculate the average fuel used against that of the ADR claims.

To make sure we couldn’t cheat, we enlisted the services of our good friends at Applied Measurement and set the car up with a Racelogic V-Box diagnostic unit. The V-box, or Velocity Box, is  a non-contact speed and distance measurement device that uses GPS to accurately determine speed, position, acceleration, braking, cornering forces – and much more if so required – of a moving vehicle.

Then at the end of each lap we’d then top up the fuel tank to see how much fuel the car used and plug this in to the laptop computer.

Suzuki was rather proud of its achievement in the Indian built Alto – and rightly so – with its entry in to the Australian market coming at a time when we’re all expected more-from-less, as Suzuki Australia General Manager Tony Devers explains:

“At the heart of the concept is Suzuki’s belief that people should be able to choose economical, eco-friendly motoring without sacrificing style, comfort, practicality, safety or performance,” said Mr Denvers.

Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge

“More importantly, Suzuki believes drivers should not have to pay a premium price for the package. This is why we have made a conscious decision not to use costly technology such as a hybrid powertrain in our new sub-light car.”

With all this pressure now resting squarely on Alto’s narrow shoulders I set to task for the 12 hour challenge with a foggy, and rather brisk, 6am start.

Leaving the CarAdvice office and heading across the Westgate Bridge for Melbourne’s industrial western suburbs the Alto seemed to laugh in the face of stop-start traffic with its light clutch and easy shifting five-speed gearbox making short work of the intermittent progress.

Alto managed to maintain pace with traffic in all speed zones encountered on the test loop, ranging from 40km/h to 100km/h, though did see a few first-gear episodes when tackling the very steep hills around the Maribrynong River area.

After winding through the back of Niddrie and Airport West a brief freeway stint past the Essendon Airport was followed with a very slow grind through the tram-riddled and pot-hole corrugated side streets of Coburg and Brunswick as I made my way back in to the heart of the CBD.

Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge

The inner-city run highlighted just how good visibility from Alto was with pedestrians, and all important parking spaces, both very easy to spot.

After a run around Melbourne’s gardens, to test Alto’s capabilities over speed humps, I finished back where I’d started to top up the tank and set out again, much to the dismay of the service station attendant who seemed near irate at accepting $3.00 for the fuel purchased on each lap.

The last lap of the evening finished up just after dusk at around 6.30pm with more than 12 hours in Alto proving not only its economy, but its comfort and utility as a city runabout too.

Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge
Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge


It’s an easy car to drive, offers a surprising level of suspension compliance and cabin space – in spite of my earlier dig – as well as an amiable personality that just somehow seems to grow on you. Though perhaps next time, I’d prefer something a little less pink.

V-Box records indicate the following averages:

  • Loop: 53.65 kilometres (AVG)
  • Speed: 27.72 km/h (AVG)
  • Fuel Consumption: 4.51 litres per 100km (AVG)


Suzuki Alto - 12 Hour Economy Challenge




  • Reckless1

    Can’t really see the point in filling up so often. The smaller the quantity you put in each time, the bigger the error across each time. what I mean is, if you are putting in 100ml different quantities each fill, it distorts the result much more than by filling once only for a 100ml error.

  • Rongway

    I agree with Reckless1. It looks like you would have done 6 laps using a little over 14 litres of fuel – since the tank holds 35 litres, filling it at the end of the day would give less cumulative error.

    However I love the concept of the test and would like to see it repeated with a few other cars – say the VW Golf 118TSI, a Prius, and just for laughs a HSV R8.

    12 hours of almost real world driving has got to give a pretty accurate impression of what we, the consumer, will live with.

  • http://Caradvice.com.au Baddass

    Great article Matt, very well written.
    Driving Simplicity is back!

  • Hagar

    Well done CA, I would like to see this kind of test with any vehicle that claims fuel economy as a selling point. Excellent stuff :) This Alto would make a great city runabout. I might even buy one as a run around car for the farm here.

  • Casey

    Good to see a car’s claims proven. Too often manufacturer claims are a joke.

    More of these please!

  • http://Caradvice.com.au Baddass

    That would be handy for taking the sheep to market eh Hagar? Just joking mate. Perhaps a Suzuki Jimny would satisfy your needs?

  • Simon

    Thanks Matt for a great article. I appreciate your efforts in regards to detail and the use of technology.
    Out of curiosity, how does fuel consumption go on the highway? Normaly I’d expect it to drop, but given the capacity of the engine, it might need to work harder?

  • Hagar

    Baddass, no ESP means heaps O fun on the dirt tracks here. Jimny sounds ok but it is 23K drive away in WA, we can get two of these Alto for nearly the same….

  • realcars

    About the same dollars per 100 klms as my Egas BF Falcon.Bravo.LOL.

  • Hagar

    Having a look around the Suzi website…. the SX4 4X4 is the same price as Subaru Impreza R. Am I seeing this wrong?? Can some one please explain!

  • Sam, the original

    I had this type of car in mind for my 11 year old Corolla replacement. Not that the corolla is stuffed, far from it. I just want to drive something different. Cheap to buy, cheap to run, rewarding to own, and different. Retro perhaps. So sick of driving what everyone else drives….. Introducing my new, well second hand, ride. A 1981 Mercedes 300TD. Under 100k on the odometer. Amazing condition. I am so looking forward to it. Going to get it next month…..

    From now on I am ‘Sam 300TD’

  • Carlover

    (Replying to Hagar, above)
    The SX4 come in a Std and an “S” Model. Start List Price for an SX4 AWD (M) is $22790 + ORC. Autos are $2000 more. Standard features include air cond, power steering/windows/mirrors, Dual airbags, ABS/EBD/EBA Brakes etc…
    The pick of the bunch, however, is the “S” Model, which adds Alloys, Foglights, Cruise, Climate Air, Keyless-start (proximity key feature), 6 Airbags (inc. side & air curtains) and a leather steering wheel, for $25490 + ORC.
    The starting price of an Impreza R is $23490 +ORC, so its $700 more then the Std Mdl SX4…plus at the present moment, Suzuki is giving “Free Auto Transmission”, ie you only pay the asking price of $22790 and get the Auto.
    Different cars appeal to different buyers, so take both for a drive and decide which suits you better…. Not only the way they drive, but the interior dash layout and space and equipment level etc…

  • Sumodog

    Sam 300TD – the old Merc is hardly a competition for a little Alto (or a Corolla).Yearly maintenance on Merc would cost as much as half of new Altos price.

  • http://Caradvice.com.au Baddass

    Alright Hagar, have your Alto, but even without ESP, you’ll have a hard time sliding the tail of that 5oKW monster out when you do some dirt track drifting. It does sound like fun trying though! Enjoy!
    P.S: You can get a good 2004 example of a Jimny for about 14 grand. Think about it.

  • GoDaciaSandero

    In South Africa [RHD like us] they [Renault] are now selling DaciaSandero’s rebadged which is EURO quality, full sized compact [ie Corolla size]at a great low price.

    It is available with factory fitted Landi Italian LPG system which gives 1200km range out of both small tanks, and in EU markets you get 20% refund for fitting lean-green-lpg.

    It’s THE best smaller car [not Tonka Toy sized like this Buzzuki] cheapest car on the planet, BUT its not tinny juck small micro like this Buzzuki.

    As for the Buzzuki Basso a Falcon on LPG will near smash its $/km ration to pieces.

    These micro cars should be $5000, like the TataNano will be

    Cheers

    D/S

  • Sam 300TD

    Sumodog, thanks for the feedback but its not really true. Its a commonly held misconception that Mercedes are expensive to keep. They are reliable and their parts aren’t that expensive, and they can be worked on by anybody. Besides, my 300TD is a keeper and its worth paying what it takes to keep it so original and immaculate. It truly is a classic.

  • Sam 300TD

    Besides, for motoring enthusiasts the decision to buy a car wont come down to the dollars. The look, feel and presence of the car can easily counterbalance a negative financial point. I guess this is where I see much of the value in my new ride, its unique value.

  • Sumodog

    Sam300TD older Mercs are great classic cars. I know of cost of upkeep from personal experience ;-)

  • Sam 300TD

    Fingers crossed for me then I guess. Only time will tell I spose.

  • Toxic_Horse

    I brought a 4×4 SX4 over a impreza. I wanted the higher ride height. Also the Suzi feels a lot more torkie and fun to drive.
    The other problem with Subaru’s is they can cost a fortune to maintain and can suffer mechanical problems that are very costly and complicated to get fixed. ( i know this will start debate but i have owned a few )

  • Tonka

    Great read, love those little simple cars they look like great fun. Just worked out that my fully loaded company car which is a big 4 litre auto eGas Falcon wagon is cheaper than the Alto to run. Incredible how LPG is not utilised more really.

  • Paul Doubya

    Shhhhh Tonka, please, don’t try and convert the other punters out there to LPG as it will lead to longer queues at the pumps, I keep telling the story how taxis are always blowing up just no one reports it in the news as its so common, if we keep that myth alive LPG pricing will stay as it is.

    PS: Sequential vapour and liquid lpg injection are just the best, you get a power and torque increase and often the same fuel consumption figures as you do on petrol, just keep them valves lubricated.

    10% reduction in CO2 emission are quite common, my sequential system gives me a Euro IV rating, better than the original cars fuel system.

    LPG the Greener, under estimated alternative.

  • Lot6

    LIGHT CLUTCH?

Suzuki Alto Specs

Car Details
Make
SUZUKI
Model
ALTO
Year
1996
Body Type
5D HATCHBACK
Seats
5
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
CARB
Engine Size
1.0L
Cylinders
INLINE 4
Max. Torque
72Nm @  0rpm
Max. Power
39kW @  0rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
53.9W/kg
Bore & Stroke
72x61mm
Compression Ratio
9.4
Valve Gear
SINGLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
5 SP MANUAL
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
3.947
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
35
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.2L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
723
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1405mm
Length
3495mm
Width
1495mm
Ground Clearance
170mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:0  Unbrake:0
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION
Turning Circle
9.8
Front Rim Size
4x13
Rear Rim Size
4x13
Wheel Base
2335
Front Track
1335
Rear Track
1305
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DRUM
Standard Features
Entertainment
Radio Cassette
Optional Features
Comfort
Air Conditioning
Exterior
Metallic Paint
Other
Service Interval
6 months /  10,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  60,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
9-H-15
Country of Origin
JAPAN