Suzuki has eschewed the real budget end of the market with the Suzuki Alto, leaving that to Nissan with the Pixo. But the Alto SZ3 gets air-con as standard for not a lot of money. Both of the Altos have side airbags for the front occupants – while the SZ4 adds curtain airbags as well as alloy wheels.

Residual values are predicted to be strong, which is no surprise given how the Alto neatly matches the parsimonious mood of the moment. Insurance is super-cheap, and of course it has the potential to be very economical. We averaged 49.8mpg, which is some way from the ‘official’ figure of 64.2mpg but  still respectable. Drive carefully and 70mpg (as we nearly recorded on our gentle touring route) is within reach. Unfortunately the carbon dioxide emission figure, good though it is for a petrol-powered car, isn’t quite low enough for free road tax.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Insurance is super-cheap, and of course it has the potential to be very economical

A four-speed automatic gearbox is offered as an alternative to the five-speed manual on the SX4, but it sabotages the CO2 figure. The penalty in acceleration is even worse, with the claimed 0-62mph time rising to a sleepy 17sec. Then there’s the price hike – taking the combined total worryingly close to mainstream supermini fare. The Alto is a car that's best served in its rawest state.

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Low weight can often lead to poor deadening of sound, but the Alto is tranquil at speed for a small car. Engine resonances and road roar are kept at bay and wind rush is low. All the better, then, to hear rather more creaks and chatters from the trim than there ought to be.

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