Okay round town but can struggle at higher speeds
Cabin quality is poor compared to rivals; dashboard is easy to use, though
Cheapest version is short on kit
Suzuki has a strong reliability record
Four adults can fit in, but boot is tiny
Entry-level trim is too spartan but others are decent enough
The Suzuki Alto is most at home round town, where its 67bhp 1.0-litre engine is plenty perky enough, and its dinky dimensions combined with a tight turning circle make it easy to weave through busy streets. It's quiet at low speeds, too. It's a shame the steering isn't lighter when parking, though. The Alto can just about cope on the motorway, though it takes a while to build up speed and the engine gets pretty noisy when you rev it to make progress. Wind and road noise are noticeable at cruising speeds, too. Driving on twisty B-roads isn't particularly enjoyable as the Alto tends to jostle about and leans noticeably on bends.
The interior is rather perfunctory, and while it feels solid enough the hard, shiny plastics are rather unappealing and there are lots of exposed screw heads. The rear windows pop out instead of winding down, which adds to the car's basic feel. On the plus side, the dashboard is very easy to use and visibility is good all round. Bear in mind that the entry-level trim has no adjustment for the driver's seat height, and there's no reach adjustment for the steering wheel on any Alto model. There's room in the Alto for four adults, as long as they're not too tall, but they'll struggle to fit all their luggage in the boot as it's tiny; there's a big lip to the boot opening, too, which is awkward if you're trying to load something heavy. The split-folding rear seat backs fold down so you can extend the load area, but this creates a big step in the available space so it's not particularly practical. The entry-level SZ trim comes with electric front windows and a CD player, if little else; SZ3 cars add remote central locking and air-con, while top-spec Z4 models get alloy wheels, front fog lamps and - wait for it - a rev counter. Every Alto has Isofix points on the two rear seats.
Suzuki has a good reliability record and the Alto is covered by a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. There's also not a huge amount to go wrong in the Alto, as there's so little kit on offer. That also includes airbags - there are front airbags on all models but only the top-spec Z4 trim comes with curtain airbags (which also cover the rear windows) and stability control.
The Alto is cheap to buy and run, with an official fuel economy of 65.7mpg and low insurance costs, too, but bear in mind it suffers from weak residual values so you won't get an awful lot for it when you come to sell on. It's also short on safety - or indeed any - kit unless you go for the top-spec model. Still, the Alto is fine for an affordable urban runaround - just don't expect much more from it.