Suzuki Alto X

Suzuki Alto Review: “The first kei car in a long while that adults can confidently drive” by Takumi Yoshida

The Suzuki Alto continues to show its fighting spirit, from its first generation to its latest eighth generation model, which was launched on its 36th anniversary. One of the selling points of the new Suzuki Alto powered by a gasoline engine is that it achieves the highest fuel economy of 37km/liter; this is a result of the newly-developed platform, various improvements to its powertrain, and use of the latest technology. However, its attractiveness doesn’t just end there.

First, the body styling of the new Alto is good. These days, kei cars have higher roofs to ensure vertical cabin space. For this reason, tall wagons have become mainstream. Honda pioneered that thought in the early 1970s with the Step Van, and for Suzuki, the first generation Wagon R quickly became popular.

For a time, the Alto took a backseat to those popular tall wagons. The new Alto, however, is different. The new Alto has been given a simple but powerful body design reminiscent of iconic European compact hatchbacks like the older first generation Fiat Panda or the newer Volkswagen Up!. There’s a theory that the exterior was made by a certain Japanese designer who formerly workerd for a European automaker. However, it is unclear whether that is true or not.

The body styling of the new Alto is not the only thing that has been revamped. The platform that became its foundation is also newly developed. The curb weight of the new Alto is 60kg lighter than its predecessor as a result of some body panels being resinified, aside from the weight being thoroughly reduced, torsial rigidity has also been improved by 30%. Furthermore, Suzuki made an effort to improve its ride performance by extending the wheelbase and using a newly-designed suspension.

The luxury model X, the car I test drove, is in FF layout with a CVT; it boasts a fuel economy of 37km/liter. The moderate height of the driver’s seat felt comfortable when I sat on it. The first thing I noticed was that the naturally aspirated three-cylinder 659cc engine delivers sufficient and practical power performance at 52ps. The robust acceleration was more than what I had expected of a kei car weighing 650kg. I was able to effortlessly drive through the fast lanes of the highway. Since the car was a luxury model, it had excellent sound insulation that I didn’t notice any noise while cruising.

Conversely, there are three things that I’m worried about. First, the 15-inch tires that come standard to the X felt shaky when driven through rough roads. Second, the steering’s center stability is a little lacking; hence, you might not really feel that you’re running in a straight path. Lastly, this might be because of the ene-charge, but it felt a little odd when braking. The location where I test drove the car did not have any winding roads so I was unable to test cornering. However, it seems that cornering will feel natural with the X.

The car that I test drove was of the most luxurious grade, so it came standard with ESP, radar brake support, and full auto air-conditioning. Hence, the price of 1.134 million yen (including tax) seemed to be not that expensive. On the other hand, the price of the L grade, which has the same powertrain as the X but with fewer equipment, starts at less than 900,000 yen.

The eighth generation Alto really gives the impression that the presence of the first generation Alto has come back. It has superb running performance and excellent packaging. The rear seats’ legroom is also really wide. Because of its simple and muscular appeal, I would like to say that this is the much awaited kei car that adult men (and adult women) can confidently drive!

â–  Five Star Rating
Packaging: ★★★★★
Interior/ Interior Comfort: ★★★★★
Power Source: ★★★★
Foot Work: ★★★☆
Recommendation: ★★★★★

Takumi Yoshida | Automotive Journalist
He graduated from Aoyama Gakuin University in 1971 and was immediately employed by Nigensha as a copy editor for the automobile magazine “Car Graphic.” He amicably left the company in 1985 and began working as a freelance automotive journalist. He has been a member of the Japan Car of the Year committee since 1989. He published many books including “My Austin-Healey Sprite (Kanime) Became My Girlfriend” (Nigensha), “Real Men Buy Sports Cars Discreetly”, “Porsche 911 Respect” and “Real Men Buy Sports Sedan Smilingly” (Futabasha).

(Translated by Katherine N. Bantiles)