Alto states

The lit­tle Suzuki sig­nalled a big change of mo­tor­ing mind­set

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH gra­ham.smith@cars­guide.com.au

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The quest to re­duce fuel con­sump­tion was al­ways go­ing to throw up a car like the Suzuki Alto, a tiny hatch with a mi­nus­cule engine that could pro­vide an an­swer for any­one look­ing to slash their fuel bills.

As much as many tried to laugh it off, the In­dian-built midget was no joke; it was a se­ri­ous lit­tle car that re­ally did ask the ques­tion of those se­ri­ous about cut­ting their run­ning costs.

When launched it was pre­sented as the first of a new gen­er­a­tion of mi­cro mod­els that were ex­pected to land here from the likes of China, Korea and In­dia. That hasn’t yet even­tu­ated, leav­ing Suzuki alone to seed the mar­ket.

The Alto mea­sured a mere 3.5 me­tres long and 1.6 me­tres wide and weighed just 850kg but that didn’t mean it was com­pro­mised when it came to safety. Us­ing high-strength steels and a power of elec­tron­ics, Suzuki achieved a cred­itable four-star safety rat­ing from ANCAP.

At launch, the base model GL didn’t have elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol. To get that you had to go up-spec to the GLX. That was rec­ti­fied in 2010 when ESP was added to the en­try model.

Power came from a 1.0-litre three-cylin­der engine that gen­er­ated 50kW at 6000rpm and 90Nm at 3400rpm.

That meant it had to be revved to get the most out of it, which was some­thing new to own­ers who were used to larger en­gines with enough torque to pull from lower revs. The fuel econ­omy— 4.8L/100 km with the man­ual box— was ad­mirable but it lost a lit­tle of its gloss when it was re­alised that it re­quired the more ex­pen­sive pre­mium un­leaded. The trans­mis­sions op­tions were a five-speed man­ual, which de­liv­ered more fru­gal fuel con­sump­tion, and a four-speed auto.

De­spite its small size the Alto had rea­son­ably com­fort­able ac­com­mo­da­tion, at least for some. Front pas­sen­gers had good head and leg room, those in the back were a lit­tle cramped and the boot was small.

The equip­ment level was quite good given its mod­est price. The GL had air­con­di­tion­ing, CD sound, MP3 con­nec­tiv­ity, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing and power front win­dows. The GLX had all of that plus al­loy wheels, fog­lights, six speak­ers and tachome­ter. Most of those who com­plain have stepped out of a larger car with a big­ger engine that doesn’t need to be revved the way the Alto’s does to ex­tract its zip. Most peo­ple also go for the auto trans­mis­sion, which dulls per­for­mance.

There have been a cou­ple of re­calls of the GF Alto. The first was in 2009 and re­lated to a wiring prob­lem that could cause the stop­light to cease func­tion­ing. The sec­ond, in 2010, re­lated to a po­ten­tial fuel leak dur­ing re­fu­elling.

The trade gives the Alto a big tick of ap­proval but it comes with a warn­ing about ser­vic­ing. It’s vi­tal that the oil is changed as rec­om­mended; skip­ping oil changes is a recipe for an ex­pen­sive engine melt­down.

Cheaper cars tend to be the most ne­glected when it comes to main­te­nance, so check the ser­vice record to make sure ev­ery­thing is up to scratch.

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