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Suzuki Alto 1.0 VVT SZ

The Suzuki Alto city car is great fun to drive, but limited refinement at high speeds is a concern

Last place seems a little harsh for the Suzuki, because it’s fun to drive, solidly built and gets a decent haul of kit. It’s also almost as cheap to buy as the Dacia, but will cost less to run. Yet it’s simply too small inside in this company, and can be a tiring companion on long journeys

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Suzuki has a strong tradition for making sparkling small cars. The brilliant Swift is one of our favourite superminis, while the spacious Splash is a consistently strong seller.

Yet the diminutive Alto has often been overlooked in favour of more fashionable models like the Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1. In an effort to revive its fortunes, Suzuki is running a VAT-free deal that slashes the price to a Dacia-rivalling £5,999, while CO2 emissions have been cut to just 99g/km.

Unfortunately, the Alto looks every bit as bargain basement as its price suggests. You do get body-coloured bumpers and full wheel trims, but the squared-off styling is a little dated, while the pop-out rear windows are a clear sign of cost cutting.

It’s a similar story inside, where you’ll find lots of low-rent plastics. However, while the materials look and feel a little cheap, the interior is solidly screwed together. Better still, the switchgear operates precisely, and you get much more equipment than in the Sandero, including electric front windows, central locking and a CD player.

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And while there’s no height adjustment for the driver’s seat or steering wheel, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. Passengers in the back are less fortunate, because the Alto has the least legroom here – although the standard five-door layout means access to the rear bench is more straightforward than in the Skoda.

At least there’s a decent amount of storage, thanks to the large glovebox, deep centre console cubby and long door bins. But the 129- litre boot is the smallest here, while the high load lip makes dropping in heavy items tricky.

On the road, the combination of the eager 67bhp three-cylinder engine and 885kg kerbweight helped the Suzuki dispatch the 0-60mph sprint in a brisk 12.2 seconds. And it feels much livelier than the Dacia and Kia, meaning you’ll have no problem keeping up with faster traffic.

The entertainment continues on twisting back roads, where the sharp steering, slick gearshift and peppy engine encourage you to relish every corner. Head into town, and the Alto’s light controls, great visibility and compact dimensions take the hard work out of crowded streets and tight parking spaces.

But it’s not all good news. The buzzy engine and intrusive wind noise make motorway journeys a chore, while the ride is a bit firm. The Suzuki also trails its rivals for safety. It features only two airbags, while ESP isn’t even an option – and that could cost it here.

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