Suzuki has long been renowned for designing small cars and SUVs. The Alto is a small five-door hatchback that’s built in India by Maruti Suzuki. We’ve toured that factory and while it looks rather aged by today’s standards build quality is up there with the best in class.
Altos hold their value well so if you do find one at a very low price it may have problems – or you have been really lucky to find a desperate seller. If it’s the latter there’s a good chance they haven’t spent money on routing servicing. Check the service books to see.
Suzuki Alto does not look, feel, or drive, like a car in the ‘light’ segment. Having four passenger doors is a bonus you don’t get in many cars at this end of the market.
The turning circle is a tight nine metres making it simple to park and to make good time through tight traffic.
Obviously it’s aimed at city and suburban driving, but Alto is able to handle country trips without any real fuss. You’re best to avoid dirt roads as it’s not designed for these.
Specifications are on the basic side to keep prices down, but you do get air conditioning and a good array of active and passive safety features. The lowest priced Alto, the GL is a real stripper, Alto GLX is significantly better.
The front seats are comfortable, the rear area has dual seating, with tight leg and headroom but good shoulder room for a pair of fair-sized blokes. Three big blokes? Forget it…
In cars of this size compromises are inevitable and the little Suzuki has a small (110-litre) boot and not a lot of sizeable storage spaces in the cabin. The rear seats are 50:50 split units to increase the cargo area up to 754 litres.
At the heart of the little Suzuki Alto is a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre engine. It has a purposeful note that intrudes nicely into the cabin. There’s something about small capacity engines’ willingness to work that appeals to those who enjoy driving.
Transmission options are five-speed manual and four-speed automatic. The auto is best left to those spending a lot of time in heavy traffic because it does affect performance.
Suzuki has been operating in Australia for decades and has a strong dealer network. Though the dealers are principally in metro areas there are quite a few in the country as well due to the popularity of Suzuki 4WDs in the bush.
Servicing and spare parts prices are generally reasonable and we haven’t heard any real complaints about the availability of spares.
Insurance companies generally rate the Suzuki Alto in the lower part of their scales and we haven’t found and major difference in premiums between insurers.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
City cars live in a harsh environment. Make sure servicing, ideally by a Suzuki dealer, has been done according to time, not distance.
There were three recalls on the Alto. Early models fuel pump seating on the fuel tank. Later models, stop lamp and shift solenoid, and heater motor. Suzuki dealers can check these have been done, or contact Suzuki with VIN for confirmation.
Look for minor dings and scratches on the body, or signs they have been repaired.
Check the condition of the wheels and tyres, the front-left one is usually the first to suffer because of thumping the kerb while parking.
Look for damage within the boot due to heavy duty loading and careless packing.
Make sure gearchanges on the manuals are light and easy, if not the ‘box may be damaged, or it could be a clutch problem.
Expect to pay from $2000 to $4000 for a 2009-2011 Suzuki Alto GL; $3000 to $6000 for a 2011 GLX; $500 to $6500 for a 2015 GL; and $4000 to $7000 for a 2014-2015 GLX.
CAR BUYING TIP
Start shopping around for a used car several weeks before you intend to buy as this will give you a good idea of pricing and the vehicle’s condition.
RECALLS: To browse recalls on all vehicles go to the ACCC at: www.productsafety.gov.au/products/transport/cars/