Alto packed with personality
PERHAPS it was cunning challenge to turn the tables? Perhaps it was just luck of the draw?
Whatever the reasoning, Suzuki set yours truly a challenging task when sampling the 2012 version of the bargain-basement Alto.
Getting behind the wheel of the pint-sizer with a pink "lipstick" metallic colour scheme was a true test of my masculinity.
But proving its substance is more than skin deep, the Alto proved its worth with an honest performance when posed with the rigours of family life.
The latest derivatives of the Alto have upgraded engines with variable valve timing - to most buyers in this realm that will mean little, but it does slightly improve efficiency.
It remains a thrifty little offering which is cheap to run, operate and is easy on the environment.
The Alto is in the top 10 of the Federal Government's green vehicle guide and this upgraded three-cylinder engine serves to add extra credence to an already strong argument.
With hard plastics across the dash, doors and console, it's plain to see the Alto is built to a stringent price point. The styling is inoffensive, and is practical without many bells and whistles.
With limited features it ensures the buttons/dials are basic and easy to understand with no need to find the manual for operational explanations.
You get dual holders up front which can accommodate bottles and cups, while there are good spaces for tech savvy youngsters to put phones and other bits and pieces in the console.
While flat around your rear end, the seats are supportive in the right spots with some good cushioning in the lumbar.
Head and elbow space is pretty good up front, but legroom in the rear is limited and dependent on how far the front occupants push their seats back.
Cabin ambience is surprisingly good at various speeds and it's only when you work the little three-pot engine hard does noise become prevalent.
On the road
Don't expect a fire-cracker and you won't be disappointed. The 0-100kmh sprint time in the realm of 17 seconds is testament that the Alto is not destine to compete on the quarter mile.
This is a reliable city slicker which is nimble and honest. It has a great turning circle that makes it simple to park and is spritely once you get up and running.
The Alto is surprisingly adept on the highway. While you go without cruise control, it hums along at highway speeds at about 3000rpm.
Steep hills can test the compact hatch and you'll have your foot to the floor on some occasions trying to maintain momentum.
Steering is light, and you can't expect to throw it around like a sports car with thin rubber and limited power. Sensible driving is its forte and it delivers without issue in varying conditions.
What do you get?
For just over 12 grand drive-away (manual box), the specification list isn't bad.
Remote entry, air-con, CD stereo with six speakers, fog lamps and electric front windows are among the highlights.
Best of all is the safety list, with six airbags, stability control and anti-lock brakes, enough for a four-star safety rating.
Others pint-sizers worth investigating are the Holden Barina Spark CD with manual transmission ($12,490), Nissan Micra ST auto ($14,990) and the manual Cheryl J1 ($10,990).
Both rear seats fold to leave a reasonable space for awkward cargo. You can fit four adults, as long as the two in the back aren't too big or burly. It also has two child seat anchorage points which are easy to access.
The little Suzuki does have some personality. While pink would probably not be my first choice, there is a range to suit most tastes.
It doesn't take long for the Suzuki Alto to grow on you with its cheery outlook.
The Alto makes sense for many young, and budget-conscious old, drivers with anti-lock brakes and stability control among the armoury.
While performance is no show-stopper, neither is it a deal-breaker. Great fuel economy and a good resale history are also on the side of this likeable hatchback.
And real men can wear pink…or as I prefer, salmon.
Model: Suzuki Alto GLX
Details: Four-door compact front-wheel drive
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 50kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 90Nm @ 3400rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic (as tested)
Consumption: 5.3 litres/100km (auto, combined average)
Performance: 0-100kmh in 17 seconds; top speed 150kmh
Bottom line: From $12,490 (manual) drive-away; $13,990 (auto) drive-away