Suzuki, the champion brand of small cars, have seen their UK sales rise by 20.3 per cent so far this year and that increased demand has been driven by their sales incentives such as VAT Free and low cost £99 PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) offer on their Alto SZ city car.
Similar VAT Free and PCP finance offers apply to some other models in their Splash five-door mini MPV and Swift three and five door supermini hatch ranges.
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Such has been the demand for the Alto, the 1.0-litre petrol SZ version is the UK's lowest price new car under the Vat Free offer at £5,995, that the Alto range annual UK sales target for 6,000 units has been increased to 8,000 cars said Alun Parry, Suzuki's head of PR.
He also added that after driving the Alto, seeing what the equipment level is, knowing the CO2 emissions are only 99g/km so the VED road tax is free, and its exempt from the London Congestion charge, 63 per cent of potential customers buy one and that is a very high conversion rate.
So with no time to waste, these offers are due to finish at the end of September, Suzuki held a motoring media get together over the Bank Holiday weekend to show us exactly what a customer gets in the way of a small cars for their money.
Specifications and pricing
Being currently the least expensive new car on sale in the UK the Alto SZ priced at just £5,995 during the VAT Free offer period had to be the car to sample.
Other figures that impress include the new 1.0-litre, three cylinder, variable valve timing petrol engine with 66bhp and 67lb ft of torque, five speed manual gearbox with fuel consumption of 65.7mpg for the Combined Cycle and CO2 emissions now of only 99g/km.
So there is no VED road tax to pay, no London Congestion Charge and if it should be a company car then only 10 per cent of Benefit in Kind tax is due. Insurance costs are low as well at group 4E.
There is even a proper torque converter automatic transmission option available for the top Alto SZ4 version with the same engine. This option costs just £650 but with CO2 at 118g/km the road tax, whilst free in the First Year rate, costs £30 a year after that.
The Alto is built in India by Maruti Suzuki so it is a real-life Indian take-away in financial terms. Available through their Driveplan PCP the 42 monthly payments are just £99 after the initial deposit of £795.
At the end of the agreement there is another £2,314 to pay but most PCP customers just hand the car back and have another new one. Look on it as renting a new car with known monthly outgoings which is good news when family budgets are hard pressed.
The newest comparison to the £5,995 base model Alto SZ is the Volkswagen Take Up five door hatch priced at £8,360. This also has a 1.0-litre, three cylinder petrol engine but with only 59bhp and generally it offers less equipment but it is a little better off for interior space and with a shade more boot capacity.
Equipment and practicality
The Alto SZ has central door locking, electrically operated front windows, the Up doesn't. The Alto also has a folding bench rear seat, manually adjusted door mirrors, anti-lock braking, radio/CD player, childproof rear door locks, luggage area cover, power steering, 14-inch steel wheels with full wheelcaps, temporary spare wheel and lots more.
Really there is no hardship on the standard fit items despite its budget price. The interior trim looks and feels a bit low cost but it seems well put together.
But the low price is not worth paying if it's not good to drive. The Alto five door, four seater hatchback is 3.5-litres in length, 1.6-metres wide and 1.46-metres high and although the seats sit high in the car there is still plenty of headroom.
Rear seat legroom is of course limited so it's really for children only. Visibility, because of the high position seats and low waistline, is very good and the wide opening front doors make it easy to get in and out of. The Alto is meant to be a commuter or runabout car for young or old, easy to park and cheap to run and it does all those things very well.
Driving the Alto
Ride comfort is acceptable but being a tall car with relatively narrow front and rear tracks there is some body roll but it is nothing to put me off having one for the daily trips to the shops or to commute to work.
Occasional longer journeys on motorways are possible but in my experience with all small city cars they can be tiring. Performance it not the Alto's strongest feature in terms of speed but for miserly fuel consumption it's a winner with over 60mpg easily achievable.
My wife rarely comments on test cars I drive, unless they are uncomfortable, but on this occasion there was notable praise from her. This was because of the Alto's budget price, its ease in driving and parking, sharp steering and lively in-town performance from the free-revving, fuel-sipping engine. Praise indeed and well deserved.
At the current price the Alto SZ is too good to miss out on. Even with the Vat re-added from October onwards it will still make a strong ownership case for itself either as a low running costs second car or for the daily commute or pottering along to the shops. No wonder demand for the Alto is so high.
Suzuki Alto SZ 1.0-litre 5-Door
Vat free offer £5,995 or £99 per month until the end of September.
1.0-litre, three-cylinder, variable valve timing petrol, 66bhp, 67lb ft of torque at 3,400rpm, 5-speed manual.
96mph, zero to 62mph 13.5 seconds, 65.7mpg, CO2 99g/km, VED road tax £0, BIK company car tax 10%.
129 to 367-litres.
Purchase price, low monthly cost purchase option, no road taxes, low running and insurance costs, enough specification not to be a basic no frills car, easy to drive, easy to park, auto transmission option.
Small boot with access over a high rear sill, body roll during cornering, cheap feel interior plastic trim, modest acceleration performance.