There’s just one engine, a three-cylinder 1.0-litre with 68bhp. It’s designed for fuel economy rather than speed, so although its 13.5 seconds 0-62mph time isn’t lightning-quick, it does return a very impressive 65.7mpg as a manual.
It’s a little slow to get going, and noisy with it, but nippy at town speeds and up to around 40mph. The engine can struggle a little at times, so a downchange is often needed on hills to maintain momentum.
Short motorway trips aren’t out of the question, despite the car’s small engine, though it's not without feeling strained. A four-speed automatic is also available but the 0-62mph time drops to 17.0 seconds.
Manual or auto
If you need to drive a car with an automatic gearbox, the Alto is one of a band of city cars offered with a self-shifting transmission. It’s not the smoothest auto ’box and dents economy and emissions, dropping from the manual’s 65.7mpg and 99g/km to 55.4mpg and 118g/km. For this reason, the manual is the better choice in town and on the motorway where it helps make the Alto feel a little more relaxed than the auto.
Without question, Suzuki Alto performance is better all round with the manual gearbox, while the sole choice of 1.0-litre petrol engine is a decent performer for a city-biased car.
The Alto is at its best around town where it's nippy, agile and adept at zipping through traffic. The super-light steering comes into its own, making it easy to park and perform three-point turns. Out of town, the Alto performs competently. It's not especially fun to drive, but it does get the job done. Body roll is minimal and the ride is impressive for such a small car, dealing with rough surfaces and potholes well.
However, on the motorway, the Suzuki can be buffeted by winds, while the light steering means it can feel skittish.