2012 Suzuki Alto review

* 2012 Suzuki Alto reviewed * CO2 emissions cut to 99g/km * On sale now, from 6995...

2012 Suzuki Alto review

This is the 2012 Suzuki Alto, which has been updated with a new engine and trim.

There are no external changes, but Suzuki has applied fuel-saving and emission-reducing technology to its 1.0-litre petrol engine.

Thanks to the introduction of variable valve timing, average economy has improved from 64.2mpg to 65.7mpg. More significantly, though, CO2 emissions have been cut from 103g/km to 99g/km making it road tax-free and exempt from Londons congestion charge.

The 2012 Alto gets a new exterior colour Glistening Grey metallic which is a 380 option. There's a new colour for the interior trim, too.

Whats the 2012 Suzuki Alto like to drive?
The Alto's tiny dimensions make it easy to drive around town, with excellent visibility, a tight turning circle, and a perfectly capable engine. However, the clutch is a little springy and the pedals are set high in the footwell, which can combine to make longer journeys uncomfortable.

Out of town, the Altos other weaknesses are exaggerated, too. The thrummy three-cylinder engine needs to be worked hard, and it drones constantly at speed. Things are made worse by a hard ride and lots of road- and wind- noise.

The Alto's cornering prowess doesnt inspire confidence, either. The steering is fine at lower speeds albeit a little heavy but feels vague through the bends. The suspension allows too much body roll, and the seats offer little support.

Whats the 2012 Suzuki Alto like inside?
Inside, the Alto is light and airy, but the hard plastics highlight the car's budget status. The dashboard is functional; all of the controls are within easy reach and the dials are clear, but the materials are hard and unappealing.

Despite its tiny dimensions, the Alto is reasonably practical - four passengers will fit at a squeeze. The boot space is shallow, however, and the high lip makes loading luggage difficult.

The Alto is reasonably well equipped. All versions get electric windows, and all but the entry-level car come with a height-adjustable drivers seat and remote central locking.

We tested the range-topping SZ4, which comes with 14-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, stability control and front foglights as standard.

Should I buy one?
At 6995, entry-level SZ trim makes the Alto one of the cheapest new cars around, but standard equipment is basic. You need to pay another 1000 for SZ2 trim, which adds features such as side airbags and a height-adjustable driver's seat.

Running costs are incredibly low when you take into account the zero-rated road tax, exemption from the London Congestion Charge, and low insurance premiums.

The problem, however, is that the Alto has never led the way for budget city cars, and it now feels crude by today's standards. Choose a model with decent kit and the Alto is no cheaper than our 2012 Car of the Year, the Volkswagen Up, which is a far better proposition all round.

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What Car? says

Dan Alcock

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