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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For You can buy one with pocket change and it’s reliable

Against Unfortunately, it's inadequate in every other area – it's noisy, cramped and boring

Verdict It's cheap but not very cheerful

Go for… 1.0-litre five-door

Avoid… 1.1-litre three-door

Suzuki Alto Hatchback
  • 1. The steering, suspension and brakes need a mid-life overhaul
  • 2. Coolant levels must be kept topped up, because the engine can suffer badly if they aren't
  • 3. Rust can be a problem on older cars - look for bubbling under the paintwork
  • 4. The cabin is tight in the rear
  • 5. 1.0-litre engine is very economical, but 1.1-litre unit is even better
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Suzuki Alto Hatchback full review with expert trade views

If you want a car for as little money as possible, and you're prepared to pluck one straight from the bargain bin at your local dealer, the Suzuki Alto might just be worth a look. If you want anything more from your transport, then there's no good reason to choose one.

For your tiny investment you'll get a city car that'll get you from A to B along city streets. However, it'll perform this function with no flair whatsoever.

The drive is just about acceptable in town, but venturing outside the city limits will quickly show that the Alto's dynamic ability is way off the pace in every other area. It's not fun, it's not comfortable and equipment is stingy. And, to cap it all, the cabin is tight in the rear, it looks boring and it feels cheaply made.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Great short-distance commuter car. Reliable and a cheap second-hand buy

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The Alto is one of those cars that doesn't major on choice. At any one time there's only been one engine and one trim level.

At launch, the Alto came with a four-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine with a modest 53bhp. The solitary GL trim level was similarly basic, and provided a rear wiper, an immobiliser and front head restraints. The only choice you had was between the three-door or the five-door version.

In 2003 Suzuki narrowed the choice even further by binning the three-door car altogether. The old engine was also shelved, replaced by a new 62bhp 1.1-litre. While it gave the Alto a bit more strength, it still couldn't cope with anything other than urban roads. GL trim now provided power steering, electric front windows and central locking.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Needs to be a five-door, pre-’03 1.0GL is the value buy

James Ruppert
Used car guru

A bargain is only a bargain if the car suits your purposes, so think carefully about how you'll use your car to make sure you're not buying into a false economy.

At least you'll pay a pittance to fuel your car. The 1.0-litre engine will return an average of 49.6mpg, and the later 1.1 does even better: an average yield of 57.6mpg, which is impressive for a petrol-powered car.

If you're after cheap insurance bills, you'll be much better off going for the 1.0-litre, which qualifies for a group 3 classification. The 1.1, which isn't much more powerful, commands a high group 5 premium.

Servicing costs will also prove quite costly, not least because the 1.0-litre needs routine maintenance every 6000 miles. The 1.1 is lightly better, with 9000-mile intervals.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Great short-distance commuter car. Reliable and a cheap second-hand buy

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Like most Japanese manufacturers, Suzuki has a solid track record when it comes to reliability. However, the Alto was around long before this reputation for solidity was achieved, which means you’ll need to buy carefully.

The steering, suspension and brakes need a mid-life overhaul, so check the service history to see what work has been done. Make sure coolant levels are kept topped up because the engine can suffer badly if they aren't. Rust can take hold easily as well, especially on older cars, so look for bubbling under the paintwork.

Also, check whether recall work has been carried out. There was a seatbelt problem on cars built in September 1999, and cars built in February 2004 might have a problem with the handbrake button. If buying a car built between 2002 and 2004, ensure that the brake pipes have been checked.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Needs to be a five-door, pre-’03 1.0GL is the value buy

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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