A brand new car for the price of an expensive scooter.
- 2009 Suzuki Alto GLX; 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol; four-speed automatic; five-door hatch - $16,490*
It’s Australia’s cheapest car and it’s built in India. These two factors alone would send most people to the next car on their list. But, as the saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
In an ambitious move to add to the already competitive small car segment, Suzuki has loaded the Alto with features. Possibly the most impressive feat is the Alto’s four star ANCAP safety rating.
With that, I jumped into the baby blue (Paradise Blue if you’re speaking to the dealer) Alto to see what it was all about.
At first glance the interior looks – cue the gasps – not too bad. While there’s a lot of plastic hanging about the seats are comfortable and the controls easy to use.
When you begin exploring the cabin further, you’ll find an astounding set of features – especially in the top-sped GLX model test driven. Six-speaker stereo with CD player, air conditioning, central locking, fog lamps, power steering, front power windows, iPod input jack and 14-inch alloy wheels all make the grade.
There’s enough room in the cabin for two adults to sit comfortably. The rear seats are a seldom use accessory rather than a functional set of rear seats. At a stretch you could fit a couple of kids in the rear row for short travels.
The boot falls into the same boat. With the seats upright you would be hard pressed to find objects which fit into the small cavity cordoned off for the boot. Drop the seats on the other hand and the usable space increases three-fold, pushing storage capacity from 110 litres to 345 litres.
Starting at $12,490 (plus on-road costs) for the manual Alto GL, the automatic GLX being test driven retails for $16,490 (plus on-road costs). You're not reading wrong, that's twelve and a half thousand dollars for a brand new car, it really does make you wonder how they are making any money off these things.
The cute exterior design is inoffensive and functional. Bug eyed headlights perform well at night, while the rounded rear glass makes for fantastic rearward visibility.
An array of standard safety features includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), ABS brakes, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and engine immobiliser.
Powering the 910kg Alto is a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine that produces 50kW and 90Nm of torque. The GLX tested was fitted with an optional four-speed automatic transmission.
Around town, the Alto drives well. There’s enough power on tap to keep up with traffic and parking is an absolute breeze. The gearbox is harsh at times, jarring through gears when it’s put under the pump.
It’s only when you venture out of town that you realise the Alto is built strictly as a city car.
Keeping up with traffic is a hard ask at the best of times, often requiring a boot of throttle and plenty of urge. Hills at highway speeds are initially tackled in third gear but often require a drop into second gear to maintain pace. Second gear at 100km/h is unpleasantly loud with the engine revving at 6000rpm.
A couple of other qualms included the lack of boot release, meaning the key is required to open the boot. Manual mirror adjustment is a bit tedious without a passenger and lastly the car noticeably shakes at idle.
At face value, the Suzuki Alto is just another small car. When you jump in and poke around, it’s not long before you realise how amazing the Alto is as a cost proposition.
If highway driving is a must, make sure you check out the Hyundai Getz, which is currently in runout and is also exceptional value for money.
As a city car it can’t be beaten. It has all the creature comforts of cars double its price and is a piece of cake to park. Although it’s far from impressive out on the open road, the Alto will perform most of its duties in and around the ‘burbs. You simply won’t find better value for this kind of money.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go: