Suzuki Alto micro car
Price £7,199 - £10,349
- Cheap to buy
- Low running costs
- Easy to drive
- Very small boot
- Cramped interior
- Poor quality plastics
At a glance
"The Suzuki Alto is cheap to buy and cheap to run, but quality is poor as a result."
The Suzuki Alto is a city car like the Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107, Ford Ka and Skoda Citigo. It was developed alongside the almost-identical Nissan Pixo, but it's a bit more expensive, so you’d expect it to be better quality. It does get some things right – it's comfortable, it drives fairly well and it's cheap to run.
But sadly there's a lot wrong with it, too. There's only one engine, which isn’t particularly quick. There's very little adjustment possible to the front seat, which makes finding a good driving position difficult. The boot is tiny, too. And the Alto was only given three stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests – a big problem given that many of its rivals were awarded the full five stars.
The other issue is the fact that the city car class has got a lot more competitive in recent years, with the likes of the Skoda Citigo and Hyudai i10, and the Alto struggles to compete.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Alto is a small and efficient car, so it’s very cheap to run
The Suzuki Alto is pretty fuel efficient. It will do 64.2mpg and emits 99g/km CO2 – so it just slips under the threshold to make it exempt from road tax. It also has a group 1 insurance rating, the lowest there is, which helps to keep premiums low.
Servicing costs should be affordable, too, though these figures hardly stand out in the competitive city car class – because all its rivals are just as good.
Interior & comfort
Soft suspension set-up means the Suzuki Alto is comfortable
The Suzuki Alto has been designed for comfort rather than performance, so the suspension is on the soft side. That makes it good at soaking up potholes and bumps in the road, though the downside of this is that it can make for quite a bouncy ride when the Alto gets up to speed on the motorway.
The engine is quite noisy, too – particularly so at high speeds – and the interior is not very good at blocking out wind and road noise, so it can get quite tiring on longer journeys.
It's small inside, too. There's space enough for the driver and front passenger to get comfortable but the rear seats are cramped. Taller adults will struggle to get in, let alone get comfortable, though it's perfectly fine for short, city journeys.
Practicality & boot space
The Alto is not a practical car thanks to a tiny boot and lack of storage space
The Suzuki Alto's boot is tiny, with just 129 litres of space. By comparison, the Skoda Citigo, Volkswagen up! and SEAT Mii all have boots that are almost double that size, with 251 litres of capacity.
To make matters worse, the loading lip is frustratingly high, which makes loading big items tricky, while the parcel shelf doesn’t rise with the boot lid. There's not much in the way of storage space in the cabin, either.
There's no glove box, just a small shelf, and the door pockets are so thin they're almost unusable. There's not a lot of space in the rear, either, so adults will struggle to squeeze in – where they'll only find two seat belts. Unfortunately, the Alto is a strict four-seater.
Reliability & safety
Three-star safety score is well below the standard of rivals
These days, five-star safety ratings are so common that a car getting just four stars is enough to raise eyebrows. So it's particularly disappointing that the Suzuki Alto only managed three stars. Its low score is down to the fact that SZ2 and SZ3 spec cars only come with two airbags fitted as standard, and you'll have to upgrade to the top-of-the-range SZ4 model to get the six airbags that comes as standard on most other cars. Electronic stability control is only standard on top spec cars, too.
The Alto should be reliable, though. It's a small car with a fairly simple design, so there's not a whole lot that can go wrong, and it seems well put together. Suzuki didn’t perform well in the most recent Driver Power survey, though, coming 29th out of 32 manufacturers.
Engines, drive & performance
All-round visibility is good and the turning circle is small
The Suzuki Alto is only available with one engine – a three-cylinder 68bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine. It's smooth and efficient, but it's not particularly powerful so you have to rev it quite hard to get anywhere.
You can have the Alto with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic. The manual offers much better performance, going from 0-62mph in 13.5 seconds, while models with the sluggish automatic see that time cut to 17 seconds. It performs fine around town, where it feels reasonably nippy and fun, but get it on a motorway or try going up a hill and you’ll feel it straining because of its lack of power.
The soft suspension smoothes out rough roads well, but it does mean the car tends to lean a bit when cornering. Still, the Alto has a tight turning circle which makes parking and navigating tight city streets a breeze.
Price, value for money & options
The car is cheap but it doesn’t come with much equipment
The Alto is one of the cheapest city cars on sale, but it doesn’t necessarily offer particularly good value for money. Entry-level models come with next to no equipment, while SZ3 models get air-con, but no alloy wheels or split-folding rear seats – you have to buy the top-spec SZ4 model to get them. But even the SZ4 doesn’t get things like Bluetooth or USB connection – and it's expensive enough to rival models like the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo, SEAT Mii and Hyundai i10, all of which are better cars.
Plus, if all you want is a cheap car and you don’t care about the equipment on offer, you’d be better off with the Dacia Sandero, which is cheaper, far bigger and much more practical.
What the others say
The boot is tiny and difficult to access. You have to buy the most-expensive version to get driver's seat height adjustment and the cabin plastics are poor.
The Alto is a small car that’s designed to cut costs to the bone. It’s cheap to buy and even cheaper to run. Those on a tight budget will appreciate its exceptional fuel economy, low insurance costs (it's in group one) and cheap road tax. The Alto also feels robustly built, while the interior boasts a reasonable level of equipment. What it does lack, however, is the 'fun factor' that you get with so many other small cars.
Inside, the instruments are functional and easy to use. The upmarket SZ4 we drove had a neat dash-mounted rev counter, but even in this model the wraparound grey trim looks dull and the plastics feel cheap.
This is very much a city car, then, and as such it functions well. It’s easy to park, slips through the traffic and, despite its pint-sized structure, it seats two large adults in comfort in the front and can squeeze two more in the back (with plenty of headroom, but little space to stretch their legs).