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  • Fuel economy; price; eager performance
  • No ESC; boot space; open storage areas

OUR RATING
6 / 10



Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test
Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test

2009 Suzuki Alto GL Review & Road Test

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight…

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Suzuki Alto GL; 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol; five-speed manual; five-door hatch – $12,490*

Options:

  • Metallic Paint $475 (Fitted – Fortune Rose)

CarAdvice Rating:

Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test
Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test
Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test

By Matt Brogan

When it comes to saving a buck, buying new is often a trap when it comes to small cars with price tags that just seem to creep forever northward – not to mention their physical size.

So when it comes to buying something that won’t break the bank, yet still ticks all the boxes in terms of safety, performance and economy, this end of the scale could well be considered slim pickings – until now.

The Suzuki Alto sits in the sub-light category beneath such players as Holden Barina, Ford Fiesta and its sibling the Swift to fill a void that was until now met by only one other challenger – the Proton Savvy.

Suzuki’s latest effort, the Indian built Alto, revives a nameplate that dates back to the two-stroke models of the late 1970s, which in turn replaced Suzuki’s Fronte badge.

Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test
Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test
Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test
Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test

Alto’s have always been a rather basic offering and in comparison to other cars on the road the same is true today, but that doesn’t mean this latest comer is a bare-bones budget bomb you wouldn’t let you dog sleep in, no, this amiable little character actually boasts a lot of merit, and not all of it in the fiduciary department either.

Despite its minimalist exterior proportions you’ll find Alto’s cabin is actually rather spacious thanks to some clever packaging techniques, and although it’s hardly the Taj Mahal, does provide enough interest through its two-toned decor and blend of colours to make for a cheerful occupation.

One of the first things I noticed, in addition to the omission of a tachometer (only available in GLX models), was the lack of a day-night mirror on my evening commute home. Given the Alto’s short stance this meant copping a lot of headlight reflection, and in turn, more looking around the cabin. In fact the more I looked, the more I discovered this wasn’t the only thing missing.

The small but well-heeled cabin also features a dashboard sans lidded glove box with instead, as I dubbed it, a glove bucket filling the void. Alto also misses out on power exterior mirrors and rear power windows as well as any form of remote boot opening, you’ll need the key for that one.

On the glass-half-full side though Alto does include front power windows, air-conditioning, power steering and a MP3/WMA compatible single CD tuner with auxiliary jack, and perhaps surprisingly, offers accommodating seats for four passengers with ample space in all dimensions.

Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test

The one small area you may find a little close for comfort is the proximity of the passenger’s knee to the gear lever, but a little manoeuvring from the left seat can sort this one out rather readily.

The cabin is quiet when cruising too managing an impressive 72dB at 100km/h, but under heavy acceleration, the sub-litre unit can prove a little vocal and at idle, is a little lumpy.

When it comes to engines this remarkable little 996cc, three-cylinder offering epitomises the old adage about the size of the dog in the fight, punching well above its weight when it comes to “on paper” results.

With a mere 50kW/90Nm on offer in full swing the Alto may not seem like a solid performer, but thanks to a low kerb weight of 880kg and a well cogged gearbox, the little Suzuki offers an eagerness about its performance not dissimilar to that of the original Mini – even with four adults on board.

Sure you’ll need to keep it on cam to maintain uphill flow with highway traffic, but around town the Alto sings through traffic with ease, and best of all, our week saw an average fuel return of 4.95L/100km through mixed urban and freeway driving – that’s only 0.15 litres more than the ADR claimed average!

It’s a nimble handling little number too with a rather advanced strut front/multi-link rear suspension arrangement shaming bigger, more expensive cars not only in terms of handling, but in providing a comfortable ride as well.

Mid-corner lumps and bumps don’t seem to unsettle the Alto from its intended course at all though a stiff breeze can make spanning a large bridge a somewhat nervous proposition.

Never fear because in addition to the Alto’s quick steering and stop-on-a-dime braking safety is about as good as you can get in this category with such standard features as dual front, side and curtain airbags, disc/drum brakes with ABS, EBA and EBD to provide the baby Suzuki with a four-star ANCAP rating.

Unfortunately the Australian GL variant of Alto excludes Electronic Stability Control (ESC), which earns it a five-star rating in Europe, although ESC is standard on the GLX model.

Up back the Alto offers a cargo capacity of 110 litres, which although a little tight, can be expanded thanks to a 50:50 split fold rear seat and was even big enough to carry the step ladder we use for our photography.

At the end of an entertaining week with the Alto, even if Fortune Rose wasn’t my first pick in colour, the pint-sized pink pill box has proved its worth as a city car that boasts a lot of personality as well as an ego to challenge even the fittest of next-sized rivals.

Sure, it’s not going to set your world on fire but if you’re hunting the low end of the market, be sure to add this one to the test drive list.

  • To read about our Suzuki Alto 12 Hour Economy Challenge, click here.

*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.

Ratings:

CarAdvice Overall Rating:
How does it Drive:
How does it Look:
How does it Go:



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SUZUKI ALTO BREAKDOWN

Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test
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  • http://Caradvice.com.au Baddass

    A good looking little bugger, and brands costing twice the price don’t have as much character. Also, brands of all kinds could take a lesson in steering wheel simplicity. This example is the best I’ve seen in a while.

  • http://Caradvice.com.au Baddass

    By the way, I meant Mercedes in particular. Their current steering wheel designs are a blobby mess, with more buttons than it is possible to use while driving.

  • Simon

    The best thing Suzuki ever did was put disc brakes up front.
    The earlier models were drums all-round and never inspired any confidence, not to mention the squealing!
    If you need a new car, if it doesn’t need to be big and it must be cheap, you can’t go wrong here.

  • Matt

    The GLX has ESC standard

  • Fernando

    I can’t find RPM gauge on the picture! It is weird. Does anyone know about it?

  • Toxic_Horse

    It says there is no tacho in the article.

  • G

    The GL model (tested) has no tacho or ESP, but it is standard for the GLX model.

  • Toxic_Horse

    I really like this car but i just can’t understand not giving it a tacho.
    These type of cars are the ones that really need one!
    I would love to get one of these for my girlfriend to replace her Matiz, she just refuses to accept that the matiz needs to be replaced .
    I just don’t like her driving around in a tiny car with only one aribag and no abs or anything.

  • Maneesh

    Why dont we get any CHOICE of engines in Australia? The Toyota Yaris in some markets are sold with a 1.0L, 1.3L or 1.5L engine. And the Honda Jazz in India can be had with a 1.2L, 1.3L or 1.5L engine. Here we only get 1.3L or 1.5L!

    Given that these cars are not made in Australia, how hard is it to offer us a choice in engines like they do in other markets???

  • Stevo the Devo

    A few lads with a few beers in em on a Saturday night – flip em over no problems!!! Looks like they just stuck in a motorbike engine. If you want a cheap disposable car – buy a nano.

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au OSU811

    I agree Maneesh, there should be a bigger engine option, surely the jimny 1.3vvt engine could bolt straight in!!

  • absi

    In India, where this car is built, they sell Suzuki Splash with a 1.2L engine, i am sure that would easily fit into this one, seeing that they are both about the same size…

    perhaps they can offer an “Alto Sport” model similar to Swift Sport! hehehe

  • G

    Absi,

    If they sell the Splash with a 1.2L engine in India, and the Alto only with the 1.0L I believe it means you can’t have a 1.2L Alto.

  • http://skyline The Salesman

    This will be a complete and total flop. Australia just does not have right demographic or population for these sub light cars. In the showroom you will spend more than $15k to drive one out the door. That’s about the same price you will pay for a Swift. It needs to be $9,990 Drive Away IMO. And come with a free I pod or laptop.

    • homebush.au@gmail.com

      I got my Alto GLX, as a good deal. Paid 15 grands in total with paint protection, seat treatment and reverse camera. It is Auto. And, when comes to fuel, it just delivers 14.5 kmpl in the very first 400 km, and this is on road in highway, urban and extra urban combined. Initially I was [and still] using a Hyundai Elantra which delivers only 7 kmpl. I am happy with a small family to commute, and saving about 100 dollars a week on petrol. This car is meant to commute and not to be used as a Hummer. You are true for the arguments if you need a powerhouse. But, what if you do not need to move more people to office and back? Why want to pay for that dead load always moving with the vehicle?

  • Jazrod

    i like it! but i don’t want to go ‘backwards’ in power from my current car (Starlet)… hard to believe there’s something slower than it, haha!

    *thumbs up* for Suzuki anyway!

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au OSU811

    the salesman, I think thats a bit harsh!, I think there is a market for this sort of car in oz, but I Believe they should be about $12,990 drive away rrp!!! and no met paint charge, then they would be a well priced, cheap to run car, or $14,990 with a 1.34cyl engine..

  • Tim

    The engine looks like a vaccum cleaner!

  • Yanzo

    went to suzuki a few weeks ago, asked if anyone’s bought this car, they said yeah, all girls

  • Delta

    Maneesh, it all comes down to cost. Adding just one more engine choice and you have another 4 – 8 models to keep in stock and manage. Add in the colour choices and options, there would be too many variants. The dealer would have to put more effort, resource and time to forecast demand, manage stock level. In another word, the more engine choices, the more risk there is. Australia doesn’t have a big population to negate that risk.

    Nearly $500 for the paint job is hefty. I wouldn’t spend more for a car this cheap.

    Isn’t Holden going to re-introduce the Matiz soon?

  • http://skyline The Salesman

    OSU811,

    I should clarify. Their no market for this car at the price they are asking. I should proof read my comment before submitting .
    It is just a little better equipped than the TaTa Nano, so why is it so much more expensive?

  • G

    Salesman, just to understand your point, which I don’t, what else can you get for the same price or cheaper that offer the value that this car does? Barina? Getz? They have no safety features whatsoever and they also use more fuel. And don’t tell me they have bigger engines because you know this is a city car, made for stop start driving so it makes absolutely no difference if you have more power or not, and the fuel economy is far more important.
    By the way, the comparison with the Nano is complete nonsense.

  • realcars

    If it was made in japan then perhaps the price could be justified. U can buy a Getz driveaway for this price at the moment.

  • Carlover

    There are two groups of people currently buying the Altos. First (and the largest) group, are the more elderly ‘empty nest egg’ families, where all kids have left the home, and all they need is a small run about town car, which is cheap to buy, small for ease of parking, super economical to run, have good safety credentials and to be envioromentally friendly as well!
    Second group, are the younger college/university students, (mainly ladies), who wants a ‘chick looking’ cute car, which is cheap to buy and run and will get parent’s approval for the safety aspects of ABS/EBD/EBA Brakes, or stretch the budget to the GLX which even gives TCS/ESP Stability Control. What other cars in that price range gives you all that?
    For those who have not driven one, dont pass judgement or make cynical comments till you have taken one for a drive. See the way it handles going round corners or over train tracks/speed humps, drive on the motorway or accelerating off the lights…You will be pleasantly surprised. I must admit, I was!

  • http://skyline The Salesman

    G,

    It is just too expensive. In this market if you wish to part with $16k you have a plethora of economical cars to choose from. Fuel difference is negligible.
    Cast your mind back to Daewoo Matiz, Daihatsu Charade/Sirion the sub light category has never been successful in Australia.

    R.R.P $12,490.00
    Metallic $400.00
    Sub Total $12,890.00
    Dealer Del $2,195.00
    Stamp Duty $258.00
    Rego $331.00
    C.T.P $340.00
    On Road $16,014.00

  • http://www.booran.com.au Carlover

    If Salesman is quoting $16014 for a Base Mdl Alto GL Manual, then its overpriced!
    At present, Suzuki is advertising them at $14990 Drive Away, on-the-road, no more to pay, for one without Metallic Paint. Realistically, if you are ready to put pen-to-paper at a dealership to buy one, I will be surprised if the salesperson will not sell you one with metallic at that price, without charging you $400 for the paint!
    Compared to its “competitors”, (which are the Getz & Barina), do keep in mind that at RRP prices, the Alto is still the “absolute cheapest car” for sale in Australia. It so happens that the competitors are having a promotion at present and are selling them at “free drive away” prices. That is why they are cheaper at present, but it wont be for long once the promotion is over and they are all back to normal prices….not to mention the fact that the Alto has got 5 doors, compared to only 3 for the base models of the competitors. Also, ABS/EBD/EBA and 6 airbags are standard at that price!

  • Aussie John

    Point of correction: The Alto was only rated three stars for safety by Euro NCAP and not five stars as stated in the article.

    http://www.euroncap.com/results/suzuki/alto/362.aspx

  • G

    Carlover,

    Agree with you 100%.

  • G

    And there’s more. The advertised price is $14,990 driveaway, and this is real price for a brand new model, while the others are selling at promotional prices. Not to mention most of them have been around for a number of years, so they will have worse resale values as soon as their upgrades are released.

  • Zuki Geek

    A friend negotiated one for $13300 drive away!
    Still to expensive I think. This car should be $12k drive-away but the greedy importer Ateco want’s to cash in on cheap Indian labour. A Japanese built Swift can be had for under $17k drive away so why bother with the Alto at its current sub $15k drive away price, but at $12k the Alto would be a winner.

  • http://skyline The Salesman

    Carlover and G

    Kia Rio 5 doors, $12,990.00 drive away.5 year’s warranty. As i said this market is already filled with better value cars.
    I don’t see how Suzuki can justify the price. Especially when you consider the labor costs.

  • jacob

    will there be an alto works version?

  • Tony

    Just picked our GL up on Christmas Eve. Still a little bit doubtful about the purchase, but as Matt B says this little car grows on you. We bought it for fuel economy and to squeeze into our narrow driveway that has a small dog leg to the left so that we can back either car out and it worked a treat. In regard to fuel economy I am going to see how accurate the published and reviewed data is. I did read one review by a guy in Queensland who could not believe that after driving it like an 18 yr old for a day, the rating came in at 3.5/100. I want to see if ours can achieve that.

  • Andrew

    I had many doubts about this car when hearing about it but now I think it can really work. The Auto is virtually a no-no but with the manual gearbox a modern 3-cyl engine, light weight and what looks like a well-laid out and looking interior it should be a nice little car to own. Lets see how it goes I guess.

  • http://N/A Rob

    They’re currently 12499 drive away.

    If you’ve driven one they’re better than expected. Do 150 and are quiet at 100 and maintain it easy with a downshift or two. The car is geared higher than expected. 3.99km per 100k on a drive Adelaide to Darwin.

    I’ve got my eye on a demo (50km’s – yes just 50) for $11750 with metallic paint driveaway. Using for long distance highway work – it will do just fine.

    15000k service intervals too.

    The clincher – all 09 models come with a 5 year 130 000km warranty.

    I’m just about certain I’ll grab one. I’ll give it a good run (getting a tow bar and towing with it too) and post reports up on the web.

    Rob.

  • http://N/A Rob

    Change the above. After much hunting no tow bar made for it. Roof racks and a pod it will have to be.

    • Les

      Halls Tow Bars in Adelaide provided a tow bar for my Alto @ $450.00 fitted

  • alan

    Good deal now on GLX is just $5oo more this month of April, 2010.

    $12990 glx drive away manual

    they seem keen to sell so bargain for even better price

    Goodluck.

  • Rob

    I’ve got about 13000k on the Alto now in 4 months of ownership – no major probs to note.

    Had a driveline noise when turning for a few thousand K, not there anymore.

    Cigarette lighter is a little wobbly and charging the phone can be fiddly.

    Tyres are wearing more on rear which I thought was odd, especially on the outside. Will rotate them.

    Wish I bought the GLX – was only $500 extra. The speakers, tacho and to be able to open the boot without the key would be worth it alone.

    Still can’t find a tow-bar which is annoying.

    Still happy with purchase and for me it’s the best car for what I need (lots of highway, not much space and cheap running costs).

    Going in for service no. 1 soon – hoping it’s cheap.

    • Rob

      19000k’s now, had the 15k service – $130!

      Talk about cheap running costs!

      Thanks to Les for letting me know about the tow-bar. Will get one after checking with Suzuki to ensure it doesn’t void the warranty. I’m in Adelaide too.

  • dan

    damn, it’s an ugly Toyota Yaris-looking car…

  • light487

    This review needs to be updated as basically everything that is giving a thumbs down by the reviewer has been now included as standard in the GL model. Maybe get a new 2011 model to test drive and get the Manual and Auto out for a drive because the Auto will REALLY surprise you.

  • Moshe

    I’m planing on getting the new 2011 Alto. Anyone has it? Is it good for highways and long drives? Please advice meeee

    • light487

      I got the 2011 Alto ESP GL 1.0L Auto.. basically the GL models are now coming standard with everything last year’s GLX came with, minus the 14″ alloy wheels. I managed to get the Indie kit thrown in as well as some floor mats, plus the Fortune Rose Pearl premium paint.. all for $13,500 drive-away (remember, this is the auto).

      Initial drives were just around the city and I have found the D3 gear position to be perfect for these situations. The car, even with 3 adults on board, handles remarkably well without any noticeable difference to when I am in the car by myself.

      This weekend I went down the coast a little, an hour drive each way, and into some twisty-turny, hilly areas around Stanwell Tops (NSW). The car did not struggle much at all in these conditions, with 1 adult passenger on board. On the highway at 110km/h, going UP a hill, is where you see the performance drop but even on the longest hill it only got down to around 95km/h, which isn’t bad at all considering. It gets up to 110km/h, on level ground, very quickly indeed.

      All in all, I am extremely satisfied with my purchase.

  • Les

    At 39,000km Alto going fine, towing a motorbike sized campertailer around Australia, getting along OK – overtaking caravans the trucks – only one problem and that is having difficulty getting tires in Perth. The major tire retailers here don’t have them in stock. Not that there is a lack of a Altos over here – saw two within 10 minutes yesterday. Flicked an email through to Suzuki Australia and got a less than helpful reply back – they referred me back to the local dealer who had earlier referred me to the tire dealer. We are now into our third day waiting for the tires – a little surprised considering tires are a consumable. Suggest you plan and order your tire purchases well ahead

  • Rob

    Good to hear it’s going well, Les. A little jelous of the OZ trip though!

    I got a towbar from Halls too some time ago. Happy with it, it tows a light trailer and motorcycle no worries at 110-120km/h.

    Little car has clocked over 40,000k.

    Tyres don’t last as long as they should, rear ones have been changed already and now the (original) fronts are toast. It seems they cannot change the camber on the rear end. It just wears out the outside edge of the tyre.

    Shall see how much the 45k service costs.

    • Emma

      Rob,
      I’ve been looking into getting a towbar before I buy the Alto, I don’t want it if I can’t have a towbar but can’t seem to get any answers back from the local dealer. What is Halls? — what state are you in? And did it void the warranty by using a non-Suzuki-specific-towbar?? Thanks in anticipation for your attention :) Oh and how is it handling at the lower speeds with a towbar? I test-drove an automatic and it lumbered a bit at the lower speeds…..I imagine that won’t improve with a trailer.

  • homebush.au@gmail.com

    Dear all here,
    If you need to go office, pick and drop your kid at school and do a bit of shopping for groceries – not a truck load – Go for Alto. with about 15 kmpl as I get for the very first time, it could perform better may be about 17 kmpl later. You save on petrol, you save for yourself. I do not think we need monstrous vehicles for urban transport. But all is personal, but I am saving a lot now. Even I save on waiting times by pushing this small creature at the tail ends of the traffic jam to the little space just in front of the yellow light. – 2 minutes idle time is saved, and hence the petrol. And all parts are small.. tires will be cheaper to replace.. light weight means manpower needed to spend on it at service points will be lesser, saving about 30 bucks an hour.. If you buy a new vehicle, another 3 years service warranty.. By the way, would you mind if it saves you money? :)I am pretty happy with it for the purpose I bought. The only bad I felt is the wing mirrors.. Not because they are manual but the sizes are small and feel a bit convex. Tell me your opinions as well..

  • James

    I would go buy myself a Barina Spark, This not little peice of rubbish!

  • Ooizcalling

    What are the service times on this car and what have they cost ?

    • Dlaniger

       Free 1000km check, then 15,000km or 12 monthly. No capped price servicing though.

  • Dlaniger

    Just purchased a GLX Auto $14,200 dap (inc floor mats and mudflaps) for my daughter. We test drove it and she was very happy. For her size was an issue and she felt a Swift or Rio was too big. Coming from a 1984 Daihatsu Charade 3cyl 1.0l auto as her first car this is a major improvement in safety and comfort for her. At over 6ft i sat in the drivers seat where there was plenty of room for me to drive – but only a legless passenger could sit behind me. I sat in the back on the test drive and there was enough legroom as long as the front seat person is of short stature (160cm or less). Tyre noise and engine noise on hard acceleration to freeway speeds. Tacho pod is an afterthought and really doesn’t matter for a girl driver. Would have preferred a temp guage instead of the warning light. We could have bought a cheaper used car but the way people these days thrash their cars we decided on a new car with warranty.
    For our purposes it fits well, small, economical city driving with occasional freeway running.
    The only other negative is 95 RON fuel recommended. Wonder what fuel is recommended in India?

  • Raulfloresdc

    Tengo un Alto GL 800 2009. Lo he usado en carretera y ciudad y responde en todas. En las subidas es lógico que baje la velocidad, hay que entenderlo al pobre por su motor chico. Cero panne hasta el momento. Lo único extraño es un ruído, como que raspa en la parte de abajo al retroceder, los frenos delanteros no son porque los revisé. Si alguien ha solucionado un problema como este que lo publique por favor.

  • Ken Maclean

    Have had my 2012 Suzuki alto glx auto for 9 months now and find it a very reliable little car which has every thing I need as I am now retired,and don’t have to travel lots of kms back and forth to work. I just wish I could find a tow bar company who could design and fit a tow bar for a very small box trailer(easytrailer) brand.,which weighs less than 100kg.
    Very frustrating as I only want it for very light loads,grass, boxes etc.Can anyone of our readers point me in the right direction.
    Ken.

Suzuki Alto Specs

GL : 1.0L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 4 SP AUTOMATIC - PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL - 5D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
SUZUKI
Model
ALTO
Variant
GL
Series
GF
Year
2009
Body Type
5D HATCHBACK
Seats
4
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
1.0L
Cylinders
INLINE 3
Max. Torque
90Nm @  4800rpm
Max. Power
50kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
56.5W/kg
Bore & Stroke
73x79.4mm
Compression Ratio
11.0
Valve Gear
DUAL OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
4 SP AUTOMATIC
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
4.375
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
35
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
5.3L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
885
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1470mm
Length
3500mm
Width
1600mm
Ground Clearance
150mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:200  Unbrake:100
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
9
Front Rim Size
4.5x14
Rear Rim Size
4.5x14
Front Tyres
155/65 R14
Rear Tyres
155/65 R14
Wheel Base
2360
Front Track
1405
Rear Track
1400
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DRUM
Standard Features
Comfort
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
Electronic Brake Force Distribution
Driver
Power Steering
Entertainment
Radio CD with 2 Speakers
Interior
Power Windows Front
Safety
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
8-I-15
Country of Origin
INDIA