As the cost of motoring soars, it’s reassuring to know there are still cars that still offer incredible value for money that don’t cost the earth to run.
One such is the plucky Suzuki Alto – a modest but in many ways admirable five-door urban supermini that cuts its coat according to its cloth.
Alto is Suzuki’s smallest and most unassuming model. It has a pleasingly modern appearance with a characterful face, dramatic, chunky headlamps, and to be honest, no-one is going to get too excited about driving it, even though there are surprises in store there.
Instead, the Alto’s voice tells a story of statistics that truly stack up in terms of everyday driving.
Like the fact that it achieves a desirable 65.7mpg overall, slides under the magical 100g/km of CO2 figure for emissions, thus avoiding road tax and the London congestion charge, and that a modest insurance group rating of 4E won’t result in a horror bill every 12 months.
Alto is also easy to understand – it comes in three spec grades of SZ, SZ3 and SZ4, the top model adding ESP, side and curtain shield airbags, plus smart 14-inch alloy wheels and foglamps.
For only £7,999 the top model boasts a a decent array of gear that includes tilt adjustable steering column, air con and rev counter.
And although it may be considered an A to B town car, the little Suzuki isn’t embarrassed out on the open road, excels in urban conditions and provides a few driving surprises along the way, with quite respectable handling, good steering feel and tenacious cornering.
The three-cylinder 1.0-litre 12v engine is a little gruff but pegs away valiantly, with a lithe and easy five-speed manual gearbox.
That’s not to say that everything is rosy and there are some obvious cost-cutting measures that need to be weighed up.
The new interior is still undeniably drab, in shades of grey that contrast sharply with the excitement of a certain book of that name; budget plastics are cold and hard to the touch, although undoubtedly sturdy; and seat fabrics feel nylony and not terribly cosy. There’s the retro manually toggled door mirrors to come to terms with; the rear hatch lifts rather awkwardly on the key; and rear windows only hinge open rather than slide down fully.
Inside, a rather bulky dash has been totally simplified – no bad thing in itself with so many baffling high-tech cars around – with clear main dials and a quirky rev counter perched top right of the dashboard. It looks strange up there but is actually quite handily positioned.
The dash is dominated by some stylised giant air vents that work very well, plus a chunky CD-tuner of below par sound quality.
Front seats actually wrap around you comfortably although lack some side support.
Space wise, the cockpit feels narrow and rear legroom is poor but the small rear seats fold almost flat to create a useful amount of maximum storage space.
A small rear aperture doesn’t help when trying to load large items on board.
But Alto’s straightforward function – or functionality as they call it nowadays – can be a welcome blessing.
There is nothing not to understand in Suzuki’s bargain basement buddy and there are many drivers both young and old who will utter a sigh of relief over running costs.
Alto doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t and its Honest Joe approach is rather endearing in an age of flash image, posing and bluster.
At a glance:Suzuki Alto SZ4 5-dr hatch, £?????
Powered by 1.0-litre 12v petrol engine producing 68PS @ 6,000rpm and max torque of 66lb/ft @ 3,400rpm.
Economy: urban mpg 54.3, extra urban 74.3, combined 65.7.
Max speed 96mph; 0-62mph in 13.5 secs.
Emissions: CO2 99g/km.
VED cost (12 months) 0.
Key features: Top model SZ4 features ESP, side and curtain shield airbags, 14-inch alloy wheels and front foglamps.Five-speed gearbox with option of four-speed transmission.