SUZUKI IS PRIMED to pioneer the sub-light-car sector in Australia with today's local release of its new global Alto city car.
With introductory pricing starting at $12,490 (plus on-roads) for the base model GL manual, the Alto is set to become the cheapest four-door car on sale in Australia.
In introducing the Alto to the motoring press, Suzuki Australia's General Manager, Tony Devers, made the point that it was not about being the cheapest, the Alto is about offering the "best value".
It is hard to argue when even the base model offers standard ABS (Anti-Lock Brakes), EBD ( Electronic-Brake Distribution), BA (Brake Assist) and a six-airbag package.
?At the heart of the concept is Suzuki?s belief that people should be able to choose economical, eco-friendly motoring without sacrificing style, comfort, practicality, safety or performance,? Tony Devers said.
Manufactured in Suzuki?s Manesar plant in India, the Alto was designed by Suzuki engineers and tuned for production based on an extensive test drive program around the world.
The Alto is powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine that produces 50kW and 90Nm. Not big figures, but then neither are those for fuel consumption or CO2 emissions. (Suzuki is putting us behind the wheel tomorrow and assures us that it drives surprisingly well; we'll let you know.)
In manual form the Alto sips fuel at the rate of 4.8 l/100 (5.5 l/100 for the auto) and produces a scant 113 g/km CO2 emissions (130 g/km for the auto).
The Alto's engine is Euro4 and 5 compliant, which necessitates the use of 95 RON unleaded fuel, although Suzuki says the additional cost at the pump is offset by the Alto's impressive efficiency.
The Alto is available in two specifications ? GL and GLX, both offered with a standard five-speed manual gear box or an optional four-speed automatic.
Standard features on the GL include air conditioning, CD stereo system with MP3 auxiliary input, remote central locking, ABS brakes, front power windows and six airbags, including head protecting side curtain airbags.
The GLX specification adds alloy wheels, front fog lamps, a six-speaker sound system, tachometer and ESP? stability control.
Unfortunately, ESP (Electronic Stability Control) is not available in the base spec GL Alto as an option, buyers wanting that sort of piece-of-mind will need to look at the top-spec GLX, available from $14,490 for the manual (plus onroads), that includes ESP as standard.
Hi-tensile steel has been used in the Alto's construction to ensure a lightweight but suitably strong monocoque; one that in base specification has been awarded a 4-Star AUS NCAP rating.
Suzuki is conservatively looking to sell 3000 Altos in Australia in 2010. The biggest impediment to sales though is likely to be supply, with the Alto selling so stongly in other major markets, including Europe and India, that obtaining Australian stock has proven challenging.
Interestingly, 45 year-old-plus couples and empty-nesters looking for a second car are expected to be the primary market for the Alto.
They will be closely followed by the 18-23 year-old age group. With low incomes, and likely to be financially assisted by their parents, the Alto should prove attractive to this segment on price and efficiency.
?Alto offers consumers the right choice. It is the answer for people who want a quality, low-running cost vehicle offering great performance, high levels of safety and outstanding fuel economy,? Mr Devers said.
Concern for the environment is likely to be a factor behind the decision to purchase for buyers from both camps; on this, the Alto can offer a clearer conscience than most.
Sitting in the Alto, it appears to offer slightly less interior room than the Swift, but it will still easily seat four adults. Initial impressions would indicate that it is built to a similar level of quality as the rest of Suzuki's line-up.
We'll be hitting the road tomorrow for a day with the diminutive Alto around the streets of Melbourne. Look out for our review in August.
Alto GL (Manual) - $12,490 (plus onroad costs)
Alto GL (Automatic) - $14,490 (plus onroad costs)
Alto GLX (Manual) - $14,490 (plus onroad costs)
Alto GLX (Automatic) - $16,490 (plus onroad costs)