Suzuki Alto driven

* Supercheap supermini * Low running costs * Similar Nissan Pixo driven next month...

Suzuki Alto driven

Suzuki's family of superminis already includes the sporty Swift and sensible Splash. So does that make its all-new Alto the pretty one?

Well, we can't see it luring style-conscious buyers away from cars such as the Fiat 500, but the Alto looks cute and its pricing is certainly attractive.

The range kicks off at 6795, and you'll pay just 35 per year in road tax. Most versions qualify for group 1 insurance, too.

Fuel economy is another strength, with the 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine averaging a whopping 64.2mpg. This is partly down to long gearing that hurts flexibility, but the Alto still feels nippy around town and it can hold its own on faster roads if you work the five-speed gearbox. A four-speed automatic 'box is also available as an option.

The three-cylinder engine does sound like it should be powering a Hotpoint rather than a hatchback whenever you put your foot down. However, it's quiet once youre cruising at a steady speed, so you wont have to crank the stereo up to 10 on the motorway.

The Alto also offers decent grip for a car with such skinny front tyres, while its narrow body and tight turning circle make it extremely nimble in town.

It's not all good news, though: the steering is heavier than it should be at parking speeds, and the ride jostles you around a bit.

The driving position won't suit everyone, either. The wheel doesn't adjust for reach and Suzuki only includes seat height adjustment on the most expensive model.

There's enough space for four in the cabin, but it's not very appealing there are exposed screw heads, and everything is made from hard, shiny plastics. The boot is small, too.

Entry-level SZ2 cars comes with remote central locking, electric front windows, a CD player and four airbags, while an extra £450 buys you the SZ3, which includes air-conditioning.

The range-topping SZ4 adds curtain 'bags, stability control and alloy wheels, and it's that bit more practical thanks to the split rear seats that fold 50/50 instead of in one piece. The Alto's low-rent interior is harder to forgive at this end of the market, though.

Cheaper versions are far more competitive, although the Alto will also have to see off its half-sister, the Nissan Pixo. The two cars are built in the same factory and are almost identical, so price and spec levels will be crucial.

We'll let you know which is the better buy when we drive the Pixo next month.

Suzuki AltoPrice £6795-£8560
On sale: Now
You'll like Low running costs; nimble in town
You won't Small boot; poor cabin plastics