Good things come in small packages so the saying goes and neatly packaged, fuel efficient, low running cost small cars are increasing in popularity, sales up by 84% in the 09 new registration plate month of March.
Drive forward yet another new addition to the A or City/Mini-segment of our market. The Suzuki Alto 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol engined five-door hatchback at 3.5-metres long and load space ranging from 129 to 774-litres is one of the largest small cars in that sector.
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But priced from £6,795 with low 1E and 2E insurance group rating, 64.2mpg and road tax costing only £35 a year, running costs are low, space is big - no wonder 1,009 UK customers have snapped up the new Alto in March.
Although younger users are expected to take the majority of sales in the longer term with Suzuki targeting conquest customers in the 18-30 age group and many of them female drivers, Suzuki's loyal older generation customers have been the first to snap up the Alto.
Just right for credit-crunch Britain the latest Alto is the seventh generation to use this model name over 30-years. The latest Alto is built by Suzuki Maruti in a high-tech factory in India which will also build the near identical Pixo for Nissan.
Low running costs and an attractive purchase price are the two prime reasons for cash-strapped or cash-careful customers to choose one new car over another these days. You cannot argue that the Alto with its low insurance costs, low road tax yet five-door relatively roomy body design has to be an attractive proposition.
Build quality looks good, the panel fit and door closures good, plus a proper steel surround durable tailgate, so all look very acceptable. The interior also seems well put together and bear in mind this is a world car built for some markets much tougher than ours.
Alto engine option
The Alto has just the one engine option, a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, petrol unit with a modest 68PS of power and 90Nm of torque from 3,400rpm.
This throaty sounding unit likes, and needs, to be revved hard to get the best from it in acceleration terms but around town or cruising on motorways it is perfectly capable. Overtaking just takes a little longer but that is no different to other cars in this class.
Top speed is 96mph, 0 to 62mph takes 13.5 seconds but the fuel economy of 64.2mpg will appeal most. The five-speed manual gearbox is light, slick and easy to use. Luckily I also had the chance to try the four-speed automatic gearbox as well. This is a proper auto with a torque converter, no cheap, jerky, clutchless manual or power sapping CVT system.
Normally conventional auto boxes are too expensive to put in small cars so the £600 Suzuki is charging is a bargain and for some will be one of the reasons to buy the Alto.
There is the choice of three trim and equipment levels, SZ2, the best selling SZ3 and SZ4.
As standard the Alto SZ2 specification includes, ABS braking, power steering, electrically operated front windows, front and side airbags, remote locking, radio/CD system, Isofix child seat anchorage points and single bench folding rear seat.
The SZ3 specification model, priced at £7,245, has air conditioning with pollen filter.
The SZ4 costing £7,690 manual or £8,560 auto, has the added equipment of alloy wheels, ESP electronic control stability, rev-counter, curtain airbags, 6-speakers and a 50/50 split folding rear seat. My 'choice' model.
There is a full range of colours but Foretune Rose, a sort of metallic pink, and Healing Green are worthy of mention. The new Alto in short is cost effective to buy and run, the 'best on paper' in its sector.
It is designed for a European market, it seats two adults up front and two children (adults at a squeeze) in the rear and the rear seats fold so the Alto is useful for carrying 'stuff' as and when. The ride is compliant, road holding sound, lightweight construction helps with the fuel economy and the retail price helps with the bank balance. There are many more pluses than minuses.
Suzuki Alto MILESTONES
Suzuki Alto 1.0 SZ4 Manual
Engine/transmission: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, Euro 5 petrol, 68PS, 90Nm (66lb ft) at 3,400rpm, 5-speed manual
Performance: 96mph, 0-62mph 13.5 seconds, 64.2mph (57.1mpg on test), CO2 103g/km, VED £35
Insurance group: 2E
Load capacity: 129-774-litres
For: Price, low running costs, low insurance cost, five-doors for maximum flexibility of use, cheeky and cheerful styling
Against: Faces tough competition in its class due to other heavily discounted models