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First drive: Suzuki flies Alto from $12,490

Spicy Indian: Suzuki's Alto city car is the first member of the exclusive sub-$13,000 club.

Australia’s new-car entry price takes tumble as Suzuki releases new Alto city-car


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20 Jul 2009

SUZUKI has lowered Australia’s new-vehicle admission price to $12,490 – around the same price as a second-hand 2005 VZ Commodore Executive automatic – with this week’s release of its five-door Alto hatchback.

Even less expensive than widely expected, the Indian-built runabout’s recommended retail price is $1500 more affordable than the Korean-built three-door Hyundai Getz 1.4 S and Proton’s Malaysian-made five-door Savvy 1.2, both of which are priced at the current new-car low watermark of $13,990.

The four-seat Alto is also positioned $4300 downstream of Suzuki’s previous price leader, the five-door Swift 1.5 ($16,790), and $4400 lower than Australia’s top-selling five-door light-car, the $16,890 1.3 YR version of Toyota’s Yaris – the nation’s fifth most popular new car overall.

As the first in a wave of inexpensive new sub-light cars to become available in Australia, the Alto is expected to be joined late this year by a sub-$13,000 four-door based on Proton’s Saga sedan, which will replace the Savvy hatch.

China’s Great Wall Motors also hopes to release its first passenger car here this year in Australia – in the shape of a city-car known in its home market as the Florid – and Hyundai is also considering the local release of its Indian-built i10 micro-hatch.

Germany’s Smart ForTwo 1.0-litre Coupe (priced from $19,990) remains Australia’s smallest car, but at 3500mm long, 1600mm wide and 1470mm high (riding on a 2360mm wheelbase), the Alto is smaller than Italy’s Fiat 500 ‘bambino’, which is even closer to being twice the price at $22,990 – for the base 1.2-litre Pop.

As we’ve well documented, the Alto employs a 1.0-litre three-cylinder four-stroke petrol engine that meets Euro IV emissions requirements and returns official ADR 88/02 fuel consumption of 4.8 litres per 100km as a five-speed manual and 5.5L/100km for the four-speed auto, leading Suzuki to claim it offers the fuel economy of a hybrid for around one third of the price.

Toyota’s new Prius hybrid (CVT) joins the diesel Mini Cooper D (manual) in setting a new official fuel consumption record of 3.9L/100km, but the petrol-electric pioneer remains Australia’s ‘cleanest’ new vehicle with an official exhaust emissions rating of 89 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

The Alto’s figures are 113g/km for the manual and 130g/km for the auto.

Its 996cc K10B-series fuel-injected triple employs 12 valves and multi-point fuel-injection to produce a paltry 50kW of power at 6000rpm and 90Nm of torque from 3400rpm on regular unleaded petrol. The long-stroke engine has a bore and stroke of 73.0 and 79.4mm respectively and its compression ratio is relatively high at 11.0:1.

Carrying a 35-litre fuel tank and a kerb weight ranging from just 880kg for the base GL manual to 920kg for the GLX auto (with a gross vehicle weight of 1250kg), Suzuki says the front-drive Alto can accelerate to 100km/h in 14 seconds (17 seconds for the auto), making it considerably less brisk than the Prius (0-100km/h: 10.4 seconds). Top speed is listed at 155km/h for the manual and 150km/h for the auto, while the braked towing capacity is 200kg (100kg unbraked).

Other vital Alto statistics include a tight 9.0-metre turning circle from the electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system, 1004mm of front legroom, 998mm of front headroom and 1299mm of front shoulder room, with rear occupants scoring a respective 872mm, 926mm and 1258mm. Cargo capacity extends from 110 litres to 754 litres with the 50/50-split rear seatback folded.

The Alto rolls on 14x4.5-inch wheels with 155/65-section tyres and a full-size steel spare wheel/tyre is fitted. Suspension is via MacPherson struts up front and a three-link sold rear axle, with coil springs at four corners. Ventilated front brake discs are backed by rear drums brakes.

All Altos come as standard with six airbags – including twin front, (seat-mounted) front-side and full-length side curtain airbags – plus an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA), integrated front head restraints and four three-point seatbelts.

Suzuki’s smallest model (the Alto is just 255mm shorter and 90mm narrower than the Swift) was awarded a four-star occupant protection rating by Australia’s independent crash test safety body, ANCAP.

Available now in two specifications, the entry-level Alto GL’s standard equipment list extends to air-conditioning with pollen filter, a two-speaker CD/AM/FM sound system with MP3 auxiliary input, remote central locking, power front windows, fuel consumption meter, digital clock and a height-adjustable three-spoke steering wheel.

An automatic transmission costs an extra $2000, as does the premium GLX version ($14,490), which adds ESP electronic stability/traction control, alloy wheels, front foglights, a six-speaker sound system, driver’s seat height adjustment, a tachometer and body-coloured door handles and mirrors.

The GF-series Alto is available in seven exterior paint colours – three of them exclusive to the Alto. Fortune Rose, Paradise Blue and Desert Brown join Superior White, Silky Silver, Midnight Black and Bright Red in the Suzuki colour palette.

Launched in Japan in May 1979, the original Alto was a landmark mini-car powered by a two-stroke 500cc engine. Total global sales of more than 10 million examples made it one of Suzuki’s most popular nameplates, before it was replaced by the Wagon R, which became the top-selling vehicle in Japan and one of that nation’s pioneering mini-cars.

2009 Suzuki Alto pricing:
Alto GL $12,490
Alto GL (a) $14,490
Alto GLX $14,490
Alto GLX (a) $16,490

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