Suzuki Alto Review

The Alto is a small and affordable city car sold by Suzuki until 2015

£3,670
Average price
Loading...
1
Out of 5

Pros

  • Cheap to run and buy
  • Easy to drive
  • Good reliability reputation

Cons

  • Cheap interior
  • Poor safety record
  • Small interior even by class standards
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

Suzuki has a long history of producing small and affordable cars designed for those wanting low-cost motoring, and one of the best examples of this is the Alto. It’s a car that’s actually been around since 1979, though here we’re focusing on the latest version, first launched in 2009. 

Different from the Suzuki Alto manufactured and sold in Japan, this international model was produced in India, and is a sibling car to the Nissan Pixo. Measuring just 3.5m in length, it featured an efficient 1.0-litre petrol engine that made it the lowest-emitting five-door petrol car at its launch. 

Latest model

Suzuki didn’t make any major changes to the Alto during the time it was on sale, but a range of new trim levels was launched over time. 

The first came in 2010 with the SZ-L, which is recognisable from its new wheel caps, black fog light surrounds and SZ-L badging, while inside it got bespoke carpets and silver-coloured accents throughout. 

Further editions included the 2012 Play model, which came in Oyster Blue with silver exterior accents. The Alto would continue to be sold until early 2015 in the UK, at which point it was discontinued and replaced by the more modern Celerio. 

Value for money

Value for money was the front of focus with the Alto, with this car being the cheapest new car on the market for a time, with a starting price of £5,995. Standard equipment is pretty limited on the entry-level versions, which don’t even get a height-adjustable driver’s seat or remote door locking. For that reason, it’s worth upgrading to a higher-spec car, with the SZ3 being our pick of the line-up, as it addresses both of those missing features, while also adding air conditioning into the mix. 

In terms of prices for used Altos, they start from around £1,500 for an early car with around 100,000 miles on the clock, which is quite a lot for a vehicle of this type. If you can stretch to £2,000, this will buy something with a more reasonable 70,000 miles under its belt. You’ll pay up to around £7,000 for the best-of-the-best examples, with rare automatic cars being the ones that command the highest prices. 

Looks and image

The Alto won’t be winning any design awards, but it’s by no means a bad-looking car. Its large headlights are neat, as is the body-coloured grille, but generally, it looks a bit dated, particularly next to newer rivals like the Volkswagen Up! and Hyundai i10. You’ll also need to buy an SZ4 car if you want alloy wheels, with these also getting body-coloured door handles and mirrors to add to the style. 

Perhaps the Alto’s main weak point, however, is the interior. Granted this is a low-cost car, but its interior is particularly poor. The dashboard design looks and feels old-fashioned, while hard and scratchy plastics are used throughout. You also only get a rev counter if you choose the top-spec model. 

The Alto is at its best in and around town, where it’s easy to drive and its light steering and small turning circle make it very easy to park. But if a lot of your driving is away from the city and at higher speeds, this Suzuki isn’t as impressive, with plenty of road noise and a sluggish engine taking the shine off it. 

Space and practicality

City cars are the smallest cars on sale, so the Alto is never going to be a very practical choice. Though all versions come with the useful five-door layout, there are only seatbelts and its 129-litre boot is half the size of rivals from Hyundai and Kia. 

It also doesn’t fare very well for safety, receiving just a three-star rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2009. If you’re buying or thinking of a car for a newer driver, we’d look to put our money elsewhere. 

Engines

Throughout the Alto’s time on sale, it was offered with just a single engine option – a 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine, which was offered with either a five-speed manual or uncommon four-speed automatic. 

With the manual, the Alto is able to accelerate from 0-60mph in 13.3 seconds, but the automatic is considerably slower – taking an average of 16.8 seconds to get up to the national speed limit. Top speeds vary between 93mph and 96mph, depending on the version. 

Running costs

If you’re looking for a car that’s cheap to run, there’s a lot going for the Alto. Suzuki claims it can return up to 65.7mpg (55.4mpg for the automatic), while low CO2 emissions mean many Altos attract free car tax or a maximum of £20 for manual cars. You’ll pay up to £145 in annual car tax for the automatic, due to its higher emissions. 

An insurance group of four (out of 50) also means the Alto will be an appealing choice for new drivers.

Things to look out for

Suzuki has a pretty good reliability reputation, and the Alto is particularly commendable in this area. As with any used car, ensure it’s been well maintained, with a service history and invoices to back this up. Look out for a worn clutch on manual cars as many have had a hard life in cities, while look out for any signs of water in the cabin – some cars have a fault with the rear washer fluid that lets water into the car. 

Rivals 

The city car class has plenty of appeal to buyers, with some of the best options in this class including the Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto and Volkswagen Up! (which is twinned with the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo). The Ford Ka+, Fiat 500 and Toyota Aygo are all worth a look too. 

Depreciation

As the Alto had such a low list price when new, its depreciation has been very steady over the years, with the best examples not costing too much less than they would have done when new. As long as you look after the car, you shouldn’t need to worry much about heavy depreciation with this Suzuki. 

Trims explained

Three main trim levels were offered on the Alto, with equipment highlights and pricing as follows.

SZ –

Standard equipment wasn’t the most generous with the Alto, with key features including anti-lock brakes, driver and front passenger airbags and central door locking. You also get electric front windows, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, a 12V socket and 14-inch steel wheels with caps.

From £1,500 (used)

SZ3 –

Upgrade to the SZ3 and you get more useful features like air conditioning, a pollen filter, remote locking and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

From £1,750 (used)

SZ4 –

At the top of the range is the SZ4, which is distinguished by its 14-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and body coloured exterior door handles and mirrors. You also get an electronic stability program and side and front airbags, along with split-folding rear seats and

From £2,000 (used)

Summary

  1. Small Suzuki city car
  2. Very cheap to buy and run
  3. Automatic model available…
  4. But performance from it is very slow
  5. Easy to drive around town…
  6. If flawed at higher speeds
  7. Higher-spec cars get a decent level of equipment
  8. Very reliable
  9. Safety record is a bit poor
  10. A decent city car for those on a budget, but better rivals are available

Related news

View Suzuki news archive
View all Motors.co.uk reviews