The Alto is powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which has a modest 67bhp. It’s reasonably perky in town and can just about hold its own on the motorway. However, if you lose pace behind slow traffic, it'll take quite a while to build speed back up again. The Alto is also available with a four-speed automatic gearbox.
The Alto makes life simple in town, because the dinky dimensions and tight turning circle give you hassle-free manoeuvring. The steering could be lighter at parking speeds, though. It struggles more when the road opens out, because there's a lot of body lean in bends and you do get jostled around quite a lot by the ride.
Keep within the city limits and the Alto is pretty quiet. You barely hear a peep from the suspension, and you don't need to give the engine a stack of revs. You'll have to flog the engine a lot more if you head onto faster roads, though, and that's when the thrummy three-cylinder engine starts to get intrusive. Wind and road noise can be heard at cruising speeds, too.
The Alto is competitively priced and running costs shouldn't break the bank. Average fuel consumption is given at more than 65mpg, and emissions are low enough to mean the car’s exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge. Insurance premiums are among the lowest around, too, but the Alto doesn’t hold its value particularly well.
The cabin feels reasonably solid. However, it's not very appealing because there are exposed screw heads and lots of hard, shiny plastics. The rear windows pop out instead of winding down, which also hints at cost-cutting. Suzuki has a good reliability record and the Alto is covered by a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.
Every Alto has two airbags, ISOFIX child-seat mountings and anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution. However, curtain airbags and stability control are fitted as standard only to the range-topping model. A fully integrated stereo and a visible vehicle identification number make life tougher for thieves.
The Alto's dashboard won't win any prizes for style, but it's pretty user-friendly thanks to simple rotary heater dials and chunky stereo buttons. All-round vision also impresses, and with seat height adjustment on all but the entry-level model, you should be able to get comfy at the wheel. There’s no reach adjustment for the steering, though.
Four people can fit in the Alto as long as they're not too tall. However, they'll struggle to stow their luggage on board because the boot is tiny and it has a big load lip. The split-folding rear seats let you extend the boot, but the load area you get is sloped.
The entry-level SZ trim is particularly spartan, but does come with electric windows and a CD player. The SZ3 model adds remote central locking and air-conditioning, while top-spec SZ4 cars get alloy wheels, front fog lamps and a rev counter.
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The SZ3 is competitively priced, and combines decent kit levels with cheap running costs. If you’re considering an Alto, this is the version we’d recommend.