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

OUR RATING
6 / 10



by Matt Brogan

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:

By Matt Brogan

Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test

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.

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.

Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test

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.

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.

Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test

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:
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How does it Go:



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SUZUKI ALTO BREAKDOWN

Suzuki Alto Review & Road Test
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Suzuki Alto Specs

GL : GF : 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
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$4,400 - $5,000
Dealer Retail
$5,460 - $6,490
Dealer Trade
$3,200 - $4,000
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
35Litres
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
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Coil Spring
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 Front 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
Centre Eng Bay Scuttle
Country of Origin
India