NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

IT’S al­most cheap enough to put on a credit card. So noted a forth­right fe­male friend when I men­tioned the Alto costs only $11,790 for the starter GL model.

She did cringe when I pulled up to head out on the town though, ex­pect­ing some­thing larger.

But as she set­tled in, el­bow to el­bow, the lit­tle Suzie won her over with its bright red paint scheme and bug-eyed head­lights. As it whipped through the in­ner-city traf­fic she was even more star­tled by the qual­ity of its ride, com­po­sure and zip.

Most peo­ple who have driven or been fer­ried around in Suzuki’s lit­tle car warm to it. It’s win­ning over friends ev­ery­where.

There are two rea­sons why — fuel econ­omy and ease of park­ing.

The five-speed man­ual Alto sips fuel at the rate of 4.8 litres of petrol ev­ery 100km, al­low­ing a rea­son­able range from its 35-litre tank be­fore you have to duck into a servo.

It’s the ideal city car. The diminu­tive 1.0-litre three-cylin­der is sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble around town and the five-speed is a breeze.

Be­ing a three-cylin­der it does throb like a heart­beat at idle, but this quirky char­ac­ter­is­tic only adds to its charm.

It comes into its own in crowded su­per­mar­ket carparks.

You can ma­noeu­vre the Alto into the tini­est spa­ces, duck in to grab the gro­ceries and be on your way while some driv­ers are still re­vers­ing their jug­ger­naut off-road­ers into place.

The $12,490 GLX man­ual we drove has a few tasty must-haves such as elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol but also nice al­loys, fog­lights, tachome­ter, four-speaker stereo and heigh­tad­justable driver’s seat. The only thing we re­ally missed in the spec sheet was elec­tri­cally ad­justable ex­te­rior mir­rors. How­ever, ad­just­ing the pas­sen­ger’s mir­ror is rea­son­ably easy be­cause the car’s so com­pact.

The GLX has all the good­ies, but even the base GL does not skimp.

It has six airbags, anti-skid brakes, air­con­di­tion­ing, CD stereo with MP3 in­put and re­mote cen­tral lock­ing.

What re­ally sur­prises peo­ple about the Alto is its big-car-like ride. The sus­pen­sion is firm but rides the bumps well and the steer­ing is di­rect and well weighted. The front seats too, which are based on those in the big­ger Swift, are com­fort­able.

Small chil­dren will fit in the back, but it’s tight for adults. The boot is rel­a­tively small.

Since it went on sale 10 months ago Suzuki Aus­tralia has been strug­gling to keep up with de­mand.

We can un­der­stand why. Likes: Park­ing is a breeze Dis­likes: No elec­tric ex­te­rior mir­rors

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