Suzuki Alto Works Chief Engineer Masahiko Mizushima

2015 Tokyo Motor Show: “Simply put, the Alto Works is clearly fast!” …An interview with the developers

At the venue of the motor show, Suzuki has finally debuted the anticipated follow-up to the Alto Turbo RS, the Works. I listened to the stories of Chief Engineer Masahiko Mizushima and the in-charge of the power train Masayuki Yamamoto, to find out whether or not the new generation Works has got what it takes to live up to expectations.

—-: When the Alto Turbo RS was introduced, I thought that there were a lot of people who were asking if the Works wouldn’t make an appearance?

Mizushima: There were many indeed, it cannot be denied…(Laughs). However, during the development of the Turbo RS, there was no talk about preparing the Works for production.

—-: It was not included in the production schedule from the beginning?

Mizushima: Yes, that is correct. We launched the Alto in December last year, and we added the Turbo RS in March; however, we did not have a plan to develop the Works at all during that time. Nevertheless, just when we made the transmission into AGS in the Turbo RS, the voices that were demanding a manual transmission started to increase. We were able to release it immediately just by adding the transmission; however, the voice that was saying “In any case, if you are going to come out with a manual version, I want you to come out with the Works specification” was strong.

We also took into account the riding feel and we also went with a softened chassis since the Turbo RS was certainly configured as a high-grade standard car. So, if we are going to go with the people who have ridden the old Works, then it is but fitting for it to be said strongly that “This is not satisfactory.”

—-: In other words, the manufacturer was encouraged by the demand and they listened to that voice, right?

Mizushima: That’s correct. However, we were thinking that we must create something that has an excellent response while driving, and not just an extension of the Turbo RS since we are going to push through with it. Of course, we also had to review the chassis and tuned the engine so that it can also produce a firm torque. The transmission was also done in cross-ratio and the manual shift short stroke was also revised. The seats were also changed to the Recaro brand in order to respond even to hard runs.

—-: Have its contents considerably become different from that of the Turbo RS?

Mizushima: The foundation has not changed significantly. However, the design around the meter, the bumper exterior, and the like are different. The brakes are the same but the calipers are applied with a red coating. We tried emphasizing the car’s sportiness with this.

Yamamoto: What’s different is the special characteristic of the engine. However, we supported it with ECU tuning rather than putting in something different. The bottom also produces a slightly raised curve when the peak is simultaneously extended to the top. I think it can exhibit an exceptionally sufficient force with the overtaking acceleration of the 4th or 5th gear.

Talking about the old Works, it did not produce power if you did not crank it up to 5000-7000rpm; however, it also had a bottom torque that was deep which gave it an easy drive. This is the result if you build the Works with the latest technology! I think its engine becomes a typical one.

—-: Will the transmission only be in manual?

Yamamoto: It comes with the AGS as well since we also want to expand the user base. Nevertheless, we don’t know whether or not that will be received well though since it is a shift change that is a bit hard to handle. The gear ratio was changed similarly to the manual just in case.

—-: It seems likely that the drive is something that is worthy of expectations, right?

Yamamoto: I think that you will understand the virtues of this car only after you have taken it for a drive rather than from looking at it. I am the one who was in charge of the power train, and I can definitely say that it’s pretty fast. I think that everyone will certainly be surprised once they get to drive it.

—–: The price of the vehicle becomes a concern once that situation comes to pass.

Mizushima: It does become more expensive than the Turbo RS; however, we want to come up with ways so that it will not rise that much. The price increases to around 200,000 yen just by the Recaro seats themselves; however, we will keep it down as much as possible even if we install them, as we want to configure it in such a way that will not topple the image of the Alto.

Yamamoto: The Turbo RS was released in March this year, because we will not be able to come out with a completely different product for about half a year after that. Another meaning of price suppression is in controlling the use of exclusive accessories as much as possible, we have dealt with it through the use of the common accessories that can be shared within the Alto series.

—-: Will the lineup be composed only of 2WD?

Mizushima: We have also prepared a 4WD. It is because there are also people who would want to pursue driving even in snowy countries. We are thinking that the gun metal coloring that was exhibited will be the main color scheme. We are also in the process of coming up with new coloring schemes involving several colors.

—-: I am already looking forward to it very much and I want to know: around when you are planning to launch it?

Mizushima: I want to launch it early next year. Please watch out for it.

(Translated by: Michael Sabaldan)