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First look: Alto emerges as sub-Swift Suzuki hope

Cute Suzi: New Alto will appear at Paris alongside two SX4 FCVs.

New Suzuki Alto revealed ahead of Paris world debut, and it could be headed our way

11 Aug 2008

SUZUKI has revealed an all-new global micro-car that could be sold in Australia as a new entry-level model to be positioned below the popular Swift from next year.

The redesigned Alto has emerged two months ahead of its official global debut at the Paris motor show on October 2 and is under consideration for local release in 2009.

Previewed by the A-Star concept vehicle at January's New Delhi motor show, the seventh-generation Alto will be built for emerging markets at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant in India, where it was designed and where the current Alto remains a top-seller.

However, a global version of Suzuki’s smallest five-door hatchback will also be built in Japan for established markets around the world, possibly including North America for the first time – and it is this model that is currently under investigation for Australia.

As previously reported, Suzuki Australia is also considering the Hungarian-built Splash, which shares its platform with the Alto and Swift and is now on sale in left-hand drive guise in Western Europe.

The two-car race to become a new sub-light model for Suzuki in Australia will be won by 2009, when either the Splash or the Alto will go on sale here.

Which ever model is released here will become a key plank in Suzuki Australia’s drive to sell 40,000 vehicles annually by 2010, and to be among the nation’s five top-selling car brands.

“We want a sub-light model and we want it next year,” said Suzuki Australia communications manager Andrew Ellis.

“We are currently tossing up between the Splash and the Alto. We will take one of the two models in 2009,” he said.

GoAuto understands Suzuki may make an announcement following the Alto’s Paris show reveal, with price likely to be the deciding factor.

Any potential sub-light Suzuki would need to be priced below $14,000 to differentiate it from the Swift, which is Suzuki’s current entry-level model here – priced from $15,990.

In Europe, the Splash comes with ABS and EBD as standard, while stability control and six airbags are options.

Suzuki says the new Alto is also perfectly suited to European tastes and is claimed to offer higher levels of quality, comfort and safety.

It is expected to echo the mechanical layout of Europe’s Splash, which was co-developed with General Motors, measures 3700mm long (making it slightly longer than Proton’s $13,990 1.2-litre Savvy) and is available overseas with 48kW 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 63kW 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engines, plus a 55kW 1.3-litre DDiS turbo-diesel.

The Alto name is not new to Australia, with the light-sized five-door hatch sold here for three years until April 1999. Powered by a 1.0-litre four-cylinder mated to a five-speed manual transmission, it was last priced at $12,490.

Prior to that, the Alto nameplate was also applied to a small commercial van from Suzuki. Available with 550 and 800cc three-cylinder engines, the Australia’s Alto LCV was sold between 1985 and 1989, when a new two-speed automatic version pushed its price beyond $10,000.

Alongside the Alto in Paris, Suzuki will showcase two fuel cell (FCV) versions of its small SX4 model, one equipped with a GM-supplied high-performance fuel cell stack, a Suzuki-developed 70MPa hydrogen tank and a light, compact capacitor.

The second SX4 FCV is a “crosscage” design featuring a simple, compact, and lightweight air-cooled fuel-cell power system from British specialist company Intelligent Energy, plus a high-performance lithium-ion secondary battery.

Suzuki Australia sold 21,575 vehicles (up 36.6 per cent) to lie just outside the list of top ten vehicle brands in 2007, and is currently 9.2 per cent up in the first seven months of 2008 with 13,842 sales – mainly on the back of strong sales of its 2WD and AWD SX4.

It will launch a facelifted version of its compact Grand Vitara SUV late this month, while the production version of the Kizashi concept – revealed at last year’s Frankfurt motor show as Suzuki’s first mid-sized sedan – is also expected here in 2009.

Read more:

First look: Suzuki shows its next Alto

First look: Kizashi is Suzuki’s new medium

Suzuki Australia is on Splash watch

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